The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #145 - Dr. Shamini Jain
Dr. Shamini Jain is a psychologist, scientist, and social entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI), a collaborative accelerator that connects scientists, health practitioners, educators, and artists to help lead humanity to heal ourselves. Her pioneering research in meditation, biofield healing and psychoneuroimmunology has been featured in TIME, U.S. News and World Report and CNN.
Dr. Jain obtained her BA in Neuroscience and Behavior at Columbia University, and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and Psychoneuroimmunology at the UC San Diego/San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. She conducted her clinical internship at the La Jolla VA hospital, and her post-doctoral fellowship at UCLA’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control Research.
Dr. Jain is a member of the Evolutionary Leaders Circle. She serves as a board member and advisor for several nonprofit and social benefit companies, including Modern Spirit, Wacuri, and Leap Forward. She is also adjunct faculty at UC San Diego, and a member of UC San Diego’s Center for Integrative Medicine.
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12:00 - Shamini's personal story
13:30 - brain changes over time
14:35 - reiki & energy Healing
17:10 - Similarities and differences across religions
19:20 - healing practices & meditation
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25:30 - what's first; top down or bottom up for healing
28:00 - dynamic communication between mind and body
29:00 - how much experience do we need to get the benefit in healing practices?
32:00 - breath work
34:40 - the study of biofields
36:30 - animal studies
39:00 - how does this work?
41:30 - the quantum perspective
43:30 - ayurveda and traditional chinese medicine
46:50 - the placebo effect
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The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #38 - Connie Zack
The Science Of Sauna: Heat Shock Proteins, Heart Health, Chronic Pain, Detox, Weight Loss, Immunity, Traditional Vs. Infrared, And More!
52:40 - placebo H.e.a.l.
54:20 - nocebo effect
1:01:00 - distance healing
1:03:45 - Healing touch
Melanie Avalon: Hi friends welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited about the conversation that I'm about to have. What led up to this conversation? I think it's probably the publicist who represents actually a lot of other guests that I've had on the show introduced me to this author's work and a book called Healing Ourselves: Biofield Science and the Future of Health. I saw the title and I was like "That looks really interesting. Probably something I'd really like." I asked for a copy to just quickly look through and oh my goodness it did not take long. It was like "This is amazing." I can't wait to read this, I can't wait to interview the author, so I did, and it turned out to be everything I could ever want. I've been dying to dive deeper into the science of things like energy healing and especially things like the placebo effect and what role does all of that play in a lot of methods to healing that we have today. So, I am so so excited about today's conversation.
I'm here with the author. She is Dr. Shamini Jain. She's a psychologist, scientist, and social entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative. That is actually a collaborative accelerator that connects scientists, health practitioners, educators, and artists to help lead humanity to heal ourselves. She does have a BA in Neuroscience and Behavior from Columbia and a PhD in Clinical Psychology and I'm sure we will talk about this psychoneuroimmunology at the UC San Diego, San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program and Clinical Psychology. So, so so much that we-- Oh and as I learned in her book are you still in the band?
Dr. Shamini Jain: I move but I'm still pretty active singer. Yes.
Melanie Avalon: And that is Nuns N Moses correct?
Dr. Shamini Jain: That was one of the many more bands, yes.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, so there're different ones. That's fantastic. [laughs] When I got to that in the book I was like "Oh, this is amazing." We probably will talk about that as well. The role of creativity in our lives and how that affects everything. But in any case that was a lengthy intro, but Dr. Jain thank you so, so much for being here.
Dr. Shamini Jain: Thanks Melanie. It's fun to be here with you.
Melanie Avalon: To start things off you talk about this a lot in the book but can you tell listeners a little bit about your personal story, what led you to this whole world of biofield science? I'm so excited to hear about the research that you've done and tell listeners all about that, but what led you to that path?
Dr. Shamini Jain: Well, you know you mentioned the singing really truly first it was feeling the power of sound for myself. But also growing up as a person with East Indian heritage in background in the deep, well not the deep south but the coastal south here in South Carolina I started realizing that there were people that were brought up very differently than me that had different religious and spiritual orientations than me. And that was all great actually. We got along, they would want to learn about our spiritual traditions and I would actually go to church with them and things like that. I was pretty comfortable with the idea that there are differing points of view on how we view things like Spirit and God and consciousness. But then when I went to school, I realized that we couldn't talk about any of those things and interestingly even though I saw the impact that people's spiritual lives had on their mental wellbeing and their health, I realized we weren't really studying those things. In fact, if you talked about things like science and spirituality in the same sentence in academic settings you were just seen as a total flake really. I found that interesting.
When I went to Columbia University for my undergrad it was the early 90s. Our understanding about the brain was literally just coming online and it was when we were exploring things like "What part of the brain lights up when I do this or that?" And we were doing all these brain imaging studies and everyone was really excited. But they were also telling us things like "Your brain doesn't change after age seven." I remember hearing that and thinking "How could they possibly think that and know that?" First of all, there's hardly any data suggesting that that's true. Second, it doesn't make sense because if you observe nature, you realize that everything has a growth pattern over time and that growth just doesn't stop at that early age. I begin to wonder "What else is it that we don't know about health, healing, and how the body works and even how the body mind is connected?" That led me to start moving away from just traditional cognitive neuroscience which is what I did in my undergraduate work. I did a lot of work with EEG and what's called ERP or event related potentials looking at those for memory and things like that. And then I thought "Well what about just looking at the brain-body connection and the mind-body connection? How do our emotions affect our health?" That was still relatively new with that time believe it or not.
But it was when I had my first Reiki session and for those who haven't heard of Reiki it's one of these what are often called energy therapies. In our world, we call them biofield therapies and we can break down what we mean by biofield in a few minutes. But I had this Reiki session and I actually felt the vibration in my body. It was this energetic vibration that I had never felt before like that. I noticed how the movement and energy in my body and even places where energy wasn't moving where it felt stuck or painful like the sensation of it was linked to the thoughts that I had and emotions that I had. When I went within to explore what those were like I would feel the energy move. It was absolutely fascinating because I was a young budding scientist at that time. I had my undergraduate degree looking at graduate schools and I thought "Wow I wonder if anyone is studying this," because it seems pretty profound and I could see where it could be really effective for patients. That started me on my journey as what I would call really a very skeptical scientist into the so-called woo-woo practices and what we learned over the last several decades about the so-called woo-woo practices like energy healing is that they're actually evidence based. They're very helpful for patients for example with pain issues, fatigue issues, patients with cancer. As you know I detail a lot of the research cutting edge peer-reviewed published research in my book. That's really showing us how not only can our minds heal us and our emotions heal us but our energy plays a huge role in our healing as well.
Melanie Avalon: I love all of this so much. I don't think I really [unintelligible [00:06:44] were in the South. I was born in Georgia, I grew up in Tennessee, and I'm in Atlanta right now as well.
Dr. Shamini Jain: Oh, wow, I'm in Greenville, South Carolina, not far from you.
Melanie Avalon: We're nice. We're neighbors. I was raised in a Christian environment and it was very not open to different perspectives and different religions. One of the most I think enlightening things has happened to me since then is realizing how important it is to see all of these different practices and how they relate and actually one thing I loved in your book was you were talking about the perception of consciousness and how that manifests in different religions and things like the big C and the little C and this idea of in an Old Testament like oneness and God and I just find it so interesting that there is this similar concept because I was raised that this is the one way and all these other things are wrong. But when you look at all the similarities there's so much more similarities than differences, I think.
Dr. Shamini Jain: are and I agree that definitely when I would go to-- just be honest when I would go to church with my Baptist Christian friends, I would hear the preacher look at me and say "If you don't believe in Jesus and be a Baptist not even just a Christian. you're going to hell." As you can imagine as a young kid I was like "Whoa that's intense. Maybe I shouldn't be coming to church." [laughs] But when I talked with my friends about it and we actually talked through our beliefs we realized how similar they were. Organized religion teaches us one thing but then when people actually have conversations and say "Well how is it that you know God and what does God mean to you and what does Soul mean to you?" Then you start really realizing that indeed our experiences of what we call oneness, Consciousness with a big C, however we describe it are way more similar than different.
And then on the health side what I think is really exciting is no matter what we call it, no matter the nuances of our experience there's something about touching into that larger aspect of what I often call going beyond the conditioned mind, going beyond our conditioning. That is healing. Down to our physical healing we see that these experiences which we can have through different kinds of practices, mind-body healing practices. Not just those that are outside of Western culture, but within Western culture as well as Eastern culture, South American culture, African culture all of these bring us back to a broader understanding of who we truly are. There's something about linking with that largeness of who we actually are beyond our conditioned minds that can foster healing down to ourselves. I think that's just so exciting.
Melanie Avalon: I love it so much and I do want to clarify. When I laugh I'm not laughing at anybody. I want to be super inclusive of everybody, but when I was laughing about the Baptist, I just thought that was really funny. Actually, another thing from growing up was these concepts of healing energy and different practices for healing because they are in the Christian religion for sure and throughout the Bible, but in other religions we saw it as demonic or not a good thing. It was like looked at-- And meditation is like "Oh don't do meditation."
Dr. Shamini Jain: Now there is all this othering that happening back in the day, I call that old 20th century thinking. [laughs] Because it really is and the data really supports this. As you know I review a lot of the mind-body and mind-body spirit practices in my book. What's interesting about that from a scientific point of view is what we're learning is whether you're practicing something like yoga, different forms of meditation, which include of course mindfulness which has gotten really popular but also concentrative meditation techniques including things like centering prayer, mantra, meditation and more. When we look at those practices and we also look at things like tai chi and qi gong we're seeing some very common effects and that's what's really cool. They're pretty easy ways to explain and understand on the physiological level what's going on with those practices. Some of it has to do with breathing and working with what we call the biggest cranial nerve in our body, the vagus. Probably all your listeners have heard about the vagus and so-called hacking your vagus nerve. Well, these practices have been hacking our vagus nerve [laughs] for millennia. So, we learned from these practices how to work with the mind and body and bring them together.
When we bring the mind and body together with the Spirit, we set ourselves up for powerful healing and the outcomes what we're seeing in terms of regular practice of any of these kinds of practices. What's cool is you can pick and choose. You don't have to just pick one practice from one culture. You do the one that's resonant with you that is in your culture or that you just feel drawn to and practice it. Some of the things that we see in the literature are that by practicing this it's likely that you might reduce your anxiety, you might reduce pain, you might enhance your sleep, ability to sleep, you might alter your physiology in ways that include shifting your hormones or certain aspects of your immune system towards what we call a more salutogenic or health-promoting pathway in your body. I talk about this in the book. There're ways to look at it from the autonomic nervous system point of view which is the balance. Of course, I'm sure all your listeners know the sympathetic nervous system that fight or flight and the parasympathetic nervous system of the rest and digest system where these practices help bring us in harmony, help bring those aspects of our nervous system in harmony. It's a dance right? It's not we want to just get rid of our sympathetic nervous system. We need that right. That's part of our health and it helps us in immunity, it helps us with lots of things, readiness, movement. But when that's overactive as it often is in our culture because we're stressed, we're focused, and we're mentalizing a lot. There are a lot of reasons why we can have an overactive sympathetic nervous system and a dampened or not optimal parasympathetic nervous system. But when we do these practices, we learn how to bring the parasympathetic aspect of our nervous system back online, so that it's working in concert with the rest of our body and really helping guide our health.
Melanie Avalon: And what's really interesting about it because you were talking about the vagus nerve different healing practices or approach to health are often separated into top-down or bottom-up approaches. I was just thinking about it more because one might say that top-down approach would be changing our thoughts and getting to wellness through that way having that affect our body. But if we're activating-- It seems more it's very circular. Like if we're activating our vagus nerve through our mentality it's automatically top-bottom-up. It all goes together. What's first?
Dr. Shamini Jain: Absolutely. I'm so glad you brought this up because it's really important. I have a really cool graphic in my book that speaks to this very thing Melanie. You might have seen it. We had been used to the so-called top-down thinking. Actually, if you zoom out for a minute you realize we've been inundated with top-down thinking and all the structures not just science and medicine, but in the structures, the CEO is on top, it tells everyone what to do. So, who's the CEO? The CEO is the brain. The brain tells everyone what to do, the brain is sending all these signals to the body. We've been conditioned to think that way in science and medicine. But when we start looking at the data we realize "Oh no it's a bidirectional communication system." When we look at the vagus as I describe the vagus is the hard-working managing director because it's communicating with the brain and the body. It innervates most of the major organs in our body and we've learned now that actually things like breathing which we could consider a "bottom-up process," actually activate the vagus nerve through inflammatory cytokine signaling and other cytokine signaling.
For those who haven't heard the word "cytokine," it's just an immune transmitter. We have brain transmitters, we have immune transmitters, probably all of us have heard of inflammatory cytokines these days with the pandemic. But they are anti-inflammatory cytokines. Any way we don't want to go further down the rabbit hole. But cytokines themselves can be inflammatory or anti-inflammatory depending on their environment. What does this mean? It means that when we're engaging in these kinds of practices, where we're bringing the mind and body together, you're absolutely right, it's what we would call an interactive process where we're working both top-down and bottom-up and these things are informing each other. Why? Because let's just take for example tai chi. What happens in tai chi or yoga, movement-based practice? Certainly, we're having focused concentration, we're moving muscles, we're moving our bodies, we're activating these circuits in our brain that are responsible for motor function and responsible for focused concentration.
But we're also breathing in particular ways. We're having guided breath in yoga, certainly pranayama is a huge part of the yogic practice even beyond physical asanas or postures. The breathing also plays a huge role. Just on the physiological level, we're not even talking about the energy aspects of this yet. Just on the physiological level, we have all this dynamic communication going on that serving us when we bring the mind and body together. And this is what all the ancient traditions, Western, Eastern, indigenous traditions knew. There's something about bringing the mind, body, and spirit together that allows us to come into the present moment and really center ourselves into a beneficial physiology for our health.
Melanie Avalon: Going deeper into that because I'm just thinking about those two different camps that have been so segregated. What amount of prior knowledge is required to I guess activate even though we don't want to put them into two different sides, but activate either side of this. What I mean by that is so like breathing for example. Yes, I guess you could teach a child to breathe and they don't really need to know why it's supposed to be helping and then it might help them. But presumably and you can speak to this possibly, but I don't know if approaching it with the mindset that it's going to help you makes it more effective. On the flipside, something like taking a pill you don't have to have any prior knowledge about that pill necessarily for it to do what it's going to do. But then there's also the placebo effect on top of that. So that's meandering and circling all around. But how much prior knowledge does a person need to experience the healing effects of anything if it's conventional medicine or these other healing practices?
Dr. Shamini Jain: I love your question because I think what you articulated in it is that, healing is multifaceted and multilayered. The context of how we approach any healing therapy, whether it's a drug or whether it's acupuncture, energy healing, tai chi, whatever. The way we approach it actually can shape and inform the effects. That is what we've been calling placebo. As you know, I have a very lively chapter in my book. Placebo equals heal, where I say, we actually have the way we frame placebo all wrong, because we see so-called placebo effects in every therapeutic encounter in medicine, whether it's surgery, whether it's drugs, whether it's acupuncture, whether it's energy healing. Even in Parkinson's, we see placebo effects down to neural firing levels in the brain for Parkinson's patients. So, it's very real. It's not about, whether the drug or the therapy works. It's about how we're approaching our attitude, our expectations and other aspects that are going to help shape the effectiveness of whatever that therapeutic agent is. Okay, so, that's first. There's context and we can dive more into that. All of the ways that we can harness what we know about the placebo effect for our own healing, there are ways to do that.
But then your other question of like, do you have to have prior knowledge? Well, as far as breathing goes, for example, no, you are automatically driving your nervous system by your breathing now. All we're doing is bringing conscious awareness to that. If you're breathing fast, you're influencing your physiology in one way. If you're breathing slow, deep, shallow, the way you breathe simply affects your health. That's just basic science. You can train yourself pretty simply to just breathe a certain amount of breaths per minute and that's been shown to impact the firing of your vagus nerve. If you breathe, and I think it's about six breaths a minute, something like that, six or 10 breaths a minute, you're going to enhance the high frequency aspect of your heart rate variability. You can measure this. There're several biofeedback type devices, we're good friends with our colleagues at HeartMath, who have their own devices and ways of looking at this and teaching people how to work with their breathing and heart rate variability and heart-based practices in this way. But you can literally see it in real time. Your breath will affect your vagus nerve and you don't need any prior knowledge or have to buy into any particular type of philosophy to just see that work.
But when you start diving into the layers of healing that are available to us from these spiritual practices and I will call them spiritual practices, because as you know in my book, I talked about it. Meditation and yoga, tai chi, qi gong, these were developed not just for symptom reduction, which does happen. The evidence says, we see reductions in anxiety, we see improvements in mental health, we see reductions in pain. Yes, we do see reductions in symptoms. But that's not why these practices were developed. They were actually developed again to bring us back to that larger C, Consciousness, oneness that we were talking about earlier in the hour. Because when we do that, we start seeing the ripples of flourishing in all aspects of our human experience, not just our physiology, but our relationships, our relationships with ourselves, our relationships with others, our spiritual wellbeing, our mental health. There is something about working with these practices, and learning about the depths and the breadths of what they teach that helps us to more deeply touch that state of oneness, which many would argue is, who we truly are. We're beyond our conditioned mind and these practices help us get there.
Melanie Avalon: For studies on this, how much of this manifest in animal trials?
Dr. Shamini Jain: We don't have a lot of studies that are teaching mice how to do tai chi.
Melanie Avalon: I know. I was thinking little meditating mice. [laughs]
Dr. Shamini Jain: But mice are probably more in a meditative state, until we put them in a cage, and start poking and prodding them in all these ways. But your question is really important and it really speaks to energy, this aspect of energy which we haven't really touched on yet. As you know, Melanie, a lot of what I've dedicated my career to is studying this area that we call the biofield. What is that? It's really a perspective that's informed by science. What it is the study of energy and information as it relates to our health. We can use fancier terms like the study of energy and information, examining fields that can be electromagnetic, but aren't necessarily electromagnetic, the guide, the homeodynamic functioning of a living organism. Those are all big fancy words. But essentially, we're looking at energy and information across different levels of scale. We can look at the biofield of a cell and measure it, and we can actually manipulate the biofield of the cell. There're some really cool work going on in regenerative medicine where we can manipulate voltage gradients of cell membranes, and grow new tissue. That work is being done by Mike Levin and colleagues at Tufts University and many other places at this point. That's one way of studying the biofield.
We can look at the biofield of our connections with humans in the Earth. That's what grounding studies are doing, where we're looking at bioenergetic connections between humans and the Earth, and whether that connection helps foster health. We could look at things like energy healing like, Reiki, healing touch, therapeutic touch, laying on of hands, pranic healing. There're so many traditions and here they're working what they might call chi, prana, universal energy, which has been difficult to measure directly. We have ways that we're looking at this. There are groups right now that are looking at all the different ways. We might be able to measure the biofield of a person looking at electrical emanations, magnetic emanations, biophoton emanations, so that work is ongoing right now. Where we're beginning to see can we map out some of these electromagnetic emanations off of people and are they different when we feel different emotions, are they different in the healing response? But you asked about animal studies. The reason why cell and animal studies are compelling when we're looking at biofield science is because people can say, "Oh, yeah, well, if it's just people, how do you want to tangle the placebo effect, how do you know that it isn't due to something else?" Well, presumably, most Western scientists don't think that there is a placebo effect in cells and animals, what we call placebo.
What we're seeing in carefully conducted controlled trials, which are published in peer-review published good credible journals at this point from groups like MD Anderson Cancer Center is that, the human biofield, the emission of human energy from a trained and seasoned healer can actually influence in mouse models of cancer, tumor growth, tumor metastasis, or basically the spread of tumor throughout the body. They're looking at this deeply on the cellular level. They have found at this point patterns in replication studies of shifts in inflammatory cytokines related to tumor growth and tumor spread, they have found in these studies, differential effects of certain cell subsets that are also associated with these cancer processes, tumor growth and tumor spread, all the way down to protein kinase signaling levels that are related to cancer.
Again, I detail a lot of this in my book as you know, my book is heavily referenced. I think I have over maybe 700 peer-reviewed published references in that book total. So, everything that I'm saying is backed up by rock solid science. What is exciting is, I would say, it's still a very emerging field. We're just beginning to see these studies, because historically groups like the National Institutes of Health and others haven't really funded this work, because it seems so out there. How could energy, which is seemingly nonphysical? How could that affect our cells? Well, it is. The data is pretty clear at this point not just from these studies, but other studies that energy in these ways, the biofield itself is having an effect all the way down to ourselves in profound ways that influence how cancer moves in the body. This is huge. We have to devote more resources to this kind of work, because you can imagine what the payoffs could be for humanity. It's amazing.
Melanie Avalon: Quick question about just biofields in general. I think you mentioned this in the book. Like I said, it doesn't really relate to healing, but is birds migrating, is that some sort of field? Is it a biofield?
Dr. Shamini Jain: Yeah. This is a great question because one of the things that we're trying to explore is, how does this work? We're seeing these effects of these biofield therapies, these energy healing therapies on patients. I, myself as you know have done randomized placebo-controlled trials looking at energy healing in cancer survivors and examining the effects on fatigue and physiology, like, cortisol variability. We see effects there, other studies as well, all the way on physiological levels. We're seeing these effects in cell models, in animal models. How is it working? Could it be that we have adapted in some way evolutionarily speaking to sense electric and magnetic fields in ways we just haven't been looking at, we just haven't been looking in this. But when we look at animals, we see that they do respond electromagnetically. We know that birds and other animals do have this geomagnetic sense, where they're sensing geomagnetic fluctuations of the Earth and that's what drives their behavior. That's well studied.
There was a recent study about a year or two ago at Caltech looking at how we can manipulate magnetic fields around the human body and it will influence our EEG. Humans are responsive to electromagnetic fields, too. I throw out some speculations of how this might work. The truth is, the real truth scientifically is that, we don't know. We can only speculate. I have a bunch of pieces of a puzzle that I've put together in my book to help us try to understand, how are we sensing these fields, how is that triggering, signaling in the body that might drive a healing response? How is it that healers can sense the field around the body? There's got to be cells in the skin that are actually sensitive to that. And we have some clues that cells like Merkel cells, for example, in the skin might be those detectors, might be. We really don't know, because we haven't done the research.
Melanie Avalon: I love the bird migration example, because it's something you can literally see. Like you can see the birds flying in their perfect lineup, but that's always just blown my mind.
Dr. Shamini Jain: Yeah, and I mean, not to go totally crazy here, but as we start looking at things like bird migration and other aspects of biology, we're starting to realize that actually applying quantum models to understanding things like, what is going on in the cells and in the cell signaling with birds and magneto reception? Looking at that from a quantum perspective versus a mechanical classic perspective, may actually be more useful in explaining their behavior. That's a whole other rabbit hole to go down. But I will admit and I said this in my book as well, whenever people would start invoking quantum physics as a way to explain energy healing, I would start rolling my eyes. Because I was like, "Okay, yeah, of course. Oh, quantum physics explains everything, right?" But I was trained in clinical psychology, psychoneuroimmunology. We didn't really study quantum physics. The information that that was being put forth in quantum physics didn't really trickle down to how we were examining biology. That's actually changing now. We're applying quantum models to understanding macroscopic systems including in biology, things like photosynthesis, bird migration, which we've talked about, other living systems. Quantum physics isn't just for looking at microscopic systems anymore. We're actually applying this to the macro.
Again, we have a long way to go. But you can see the examples of how we're applying quantum thinking to computing right now. Eventually, these pieces are going to come together. From where I'm sitting, again, coming, again from an East Indian background, from a background that was different from the Western model, especially, the Western scientific model here, I find it really neat. Because to me, it's just like we're bringing all of these pieces of wisdom together. The ancient indigenous traditions had a way of explaining energy, energy healing, connection with spirit, and they're powerful effects on health on the whole person, mental, emotional, spiritual, physical health. Now, we're exploring in science, in Western empirical science, all the ways that we could explore these theories and system science. We're now not just looking at one molecule, but we're looking at the whole person.
Omics research, for example, just give you one quick example of how we're bringing these streams of wisdom together. As many folks listening might know, things like Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, a lot of what they did is they looked at what we called phenotype. The expression of proteins, and metabolites, and things like that in the body. That's why they do pulse and tongue diagnosis. They might not have said. "I'm looking at your phenotype," but that's what they're doing. Based on phenotype, they created these constitutions, which they described as constitutions relating to elements. That might seem far out to the Western mind. But what's interesting is, there's been work, and this was actually published in a special issue in nature several years ago. There are researchers in the Netherlands that have looked at metabolomic profiles and actually map those on to constitutional subtypes in rheumatoid arthritis. I mean, that's cool, anyway. But why is that important? They actually found that when they brought together the metabolomics in these constitutional subtypes, it helped explain why certain medications might work for certain people with rheumatoid arthritis, but not others. There was a lot of wisdom in the indigenous approach to exploring the health of a person. While I had a professor at University of Arizona tell me that things like Ayurveda were primitive medicine. They're not at all. They just weren't understood by the Western mind. And now, we can bring these tools together to start examining the whole person, which is really the point.
Melanie Avalon: It's so interesting to hear that you initially were skeptical of the quantum physics approach. I guess, I always thought that the spiritual aspect of everything was very real and I also thought the scientific aspects of everything was very real. So, my easy answer was, I was like, "Gosh, it's quantum physics." I thought that was really what was going on, but I just can't understand any of it. [giggles]
Dr. Shamini Jain: Well, exactly. It's definitely, probably one of the best explanatory frameworks that we have right now. But yes, I would not claim in any way to be an expert in physics. I think part of that too is just understanding what I know and what I don't know. What I do know is from a clinical perspective, because I am a clinician. These practices are powerful. We may not understand all of the mechanisms how they work, but they're working all the way down to ourselves. And ultimately, what that tells us is how powerful we are as human healing agents, both for ourselves and others. It's really exciting. In all the ways that we may have felt disempowered to feel like, "What I do doesn't matter, what I think doesn't matter, how I feel doesn't matter, my energy doesn't matter," all of that is completely false. It's completely false. In fact, when we look at things even like placebo, what we realize is that our consciousness and the way that we move about in the world is probably the biggest driver of our health and wellbeing. It's not the therapies.
Melanie Avalon: You spoke about the animal studies and those are often highly regarded by science for this topic, because the animals presumably don't have a placebo effect. What are your thoughts on the idea that it's just the placebo effect? So, what is the placebo effect? Is something actually happening there or what is happening?
Dr. Shamini Jain: Absolutely. As you know, I go through a lot of data actually on the effects of what we call, placebo in different types of patients, including patients with depression, Parkinson's disease, the effects of Sham surgery, all of these things that we know from the evidence actually matter. They have clinical effects. It's not just an anomaly that's interesting. These are real positive and powerful clinical effects that we're seeing in patients, where they're being told, for example, that they're getting a therapy. They're not getting it, but they think they are and they have these powerful healing responses. So that's what most people think about the placebo effect. But as you know, it goes even deeper. There are studies that our colleagues at Harvard University have been publishing now for a while that show that you can have what's called an open-label placebo effect. What does that mean? You have a patient that comes into a study say and you say, you may be randomized to a couple of groups.
In one group, you might get a drug for this particular ailment, let's say, irritable bowel syndrome or I might give you a placebo pill. If I give you a placebo pill, this is what's going to happen. Usually, in those studies, randomized controlled trials, you're not told which group you're in. In the open-label placebo studies, you're actually told what group you're in. You get told, "Oh, you're in the open-label placebo group. I'm going to give you a placebo pill. [laughs] The placebo pill has no active chemical agent in it that should drive your physiology in a certain way. It's not like the drug. But placebo has been found to have a positive effect on symptomatology in this case for IBS, for example. What they found was that, people that took the placebo pill actually showed clinically and statistically significant improvement in their IBS symptoms. Here you're being told you got a placebo and you're still getting better. What's going on?
We can break down placebo into several factors that we've looked at in science. There're actually multiple things going on in what we call a placebo effect. One is pretty obvious. It's expectation. That's usually what most of us think about when we think about placebo effects. It's how much do I think or expect that this treatment, whatever it is., is going to help. That's expectation. Then there's what we call conditioning, which is a little bit more about subconscious learning-- subconscious and conscious learning. An example would be, I'm going to get a massage and in the past, I've gotten massages and I felt really relaxed. What is likely going to happen is, when I get on that massage table again, my body's going to automatically go into a receptive rest and digest state. Because my body-mind knows what to expect with a massage. I'm already conditioned into a relaxation response, because of my prior learning or conditioning, so that's conditioning.
Then there are things like ritual, which we have in every healing encounter. Going to the doctor, checking in, having a nurse check your vitals, having the doctor come in a white coat, that's ritual. That's the ritual of modern allopathic medicine. It has an effect on your physiology. And sometimes, in a negative way, because we heard of things called white coat hypertension, where people sometimes see a doctor in the white coat and their blood pressure goes up. That's actually well documented. That's the effect of one ritual, for example. But rituals are in every form of therapeutic encounters and they have powerful effects on our healing. Relationship is another. Our relationship with not only ourselves, but our providers can have powerful effects on our healing. There are studies that have been done by MDs that showed just the demeanor that is, the level of connection and the communication between a doctor and his or her patient will have an effect all the way down to things like recovery from the common cold. These are just some of the aspects.
And then finally, what we call meaning and context. This is where as clinicians or even as patients, we can use all of these elements for placebo to foster powerful healing in ourselves. As you know, I guide people through what I call them creating your own healing ritual, where you can capitalize on all of the science and say, "Okay, how am I going to set my healing intentions, my rituals, my expectations to work for me?" There's a powerful way that we can do that utilizing the wisdom of mind- body practices in modern science to foster powerful healing effects. But so, really when we break down placebo in this way, I like to call placebo heal, which is holistic elements that activate lifeforce, which I know that lifeforce is a bit poetic. But they're really natural healing elements, because they occur in every form of therapy, whether it's drugs, surgery, psychotherapy, energy healing, all of these things are constantly happening. They're natural healing elements. This idea that it's either placebo or its therapy doesn't make sense. It's a both and not an either/or. We want to maximize all of those conditions to make the therapy work better for people. What it brings us back to again is understanding that it's our own consciousness that's creating the context for powerful healing. It's not just the therapy that we're given.
Melanie Avalon: It's so, so fascinating and you mentioned them, but there were two very practical things that I personally experience that I read about in your book. And then after reading it, I was like, "Oh, this is so true" and it was on both sides of things. One was, the ritual surrounding massage and how once you get on the table, nothing's has even happened yet and you automatically feel just so good. And then I had never considered going to the doctor. All of the ritual surrounding that with the white coats, and the checking in, and the form intake, and it is all very ritualized. It's really opened my eyes to just my experience of the world in these different healing things, if it's conventional or something therapeutic, how it does manifest and the context surrounding it.
Another question about the placebo. On the flipside of the placebo, there's also the nocebo anticipating that something might create an issue and then it does. I guess, I don't even know if it's worth quantifying, but do you know if either one of those would be more powerful than the other? And the reason I'm thinking about it is, the role of fear versus love. The nocebo effect, I know I fall into that a lot. I get so worried that I'm going to do damage to myself with whatever it may be. So, yeah, the nocebo effect.
Dr. Shamini Jain: You can't separate the context of how consciousness impacts physiology. What I mean there is what you're hinting at here, Melanie, the data suggests that nocebo effects may be even more powerful than placebo effects. But then we have to ask ourselves, why? Because again, we are living in a culture and a time, where our fear-based responses as you mentioned are being exacerbated. I think it would be really interesting to go to other cultures that maybe we're outside the mainstream and see whether nocebo effects are actually more powerful. I think it's completely, contextually dependent here, because literally our fear circuits are being activated so much that they're just more active. By the way, the same circuits that influence in nocebo effect are the ones that also are connected with negative effect or the experience of negative emotions over a certain amount of time. Imagine that we're the mouse, right? We're in the hamster. We're in the experiment and we're being conditioned to constantly have a fear response by the media, by other things, by our stressful lives, by the rat race, whatever you want to call it. [laughs] Like, literally, the rat race, right?
Our stress and fear responses are heightened, and then we get sick, and then we go to the doctor. We're already primed to have those circuits activated. That's why I think that the data in these-- Because the data has been done in mainstream settings with mainstream culture. That's probably why we're seeing nocebo effects seeming to be even more powerful in some cases than placebo effects. But here's what else is interesting. We see spontaneous remissions that are very real, which people might attribute to what's called placebo, but really is well beyond what we call placebo. We see that placebo effects happen for Parkinson's patients down to neural firing levels. Again, we are in charge. What we can do to minimize nocebo effects and maximize placebo effects is check our consciousness. "Where am I at? What is feeding me and what am I feeding?" I have a friend, Roland McCrady, who is the director of research at HeartMath, who likes to say, "What am I feeding the field and what is the field feeding me?" It stops with that consciousness check in, where it's like, "Where am I, am I in my body, am I breathing, am I in tune with my emotions, am I processing whatever I need to process?"
Then when we're in this grounded and centered space, which we can do in a personalized healing, ritual like I describe in the book, this is really easy. It's really not hard. It's very simple to check in with your consciousness. Then God forbid you have some medical or some sort of issue that you need to go see someone in conventional care or integrative care, whatever. You're going to go seek help that's a good thing. But you want to make sure you're going in there with the right energy and with positivity on your outcome. It's not about fooling yourself. It's about re-recognizing how powerful you are as your own most powerful biohacker. You don't need a device. [laughs] You don't need to take years and years of certification courses to be your most powerful biohacker. The wisdom is all there in you.
Melanie Avalon: That is incredibly empowering. And actually, another very practical thing that has changed my life since reading your book, speaking to the love side of things on that healing spectrum. The concept of distance healing and sending positive love to other people, because historically, I've always done things like, if I'm communicating on social media or something, I'll say, sending love, and I'll put emojis, and things like that. I meant it, but I don't think I ever really thought it would do anything. But reading your book, I was like, "Oh, I can send love. I can send energy." I don't know, if you have any thoughts about that.
Dr. Shamini Jain: Yeah, you absolutely can. Again, this is where I love to go to the wisdom of the traditions, who taught us how to do that powerfully. Certainly, it's always wonderful to have a positive thought and send someone love in a chat, in the mental with words. That's all beautiful. What we've learned from energy healers and contemplative practitioners, who practice things like Metta meditation or Loving-Kindness meditation is that these things do have effects. I have shared some of that data in my book as you know, loving kindness meditations and their influence on someone else's autonomic nervous system, distant healing effects, these things are powerful. But if we really want to do that, then like anything, it's practice, practice, practice. And the more we practice, the more we're able to bring the mind, and the spirit, and the energy together, then when we send someone love, it can literally help to reach out and touch that person. So, I want to encourage people to know that, yes, sharing positivity in any way is always helpful.
For those, who really want to learn, how can I send love in a powerful way to help really guide and help uplevel the healing process of another. Explore practices. Explore the wisdom of these practices that are time honored for millennia, because they have a process that actually works. Just like you wouldn't be shooting, I can't even say the metaphor well, because I'm not a basketball player. But not everyone is born in Michael Jordan, right? But you can learn how to shoot those hoops and make the scores with practice. It's the same thing. A lot of people ask, "Well can I be a healer?" Absolutely. Everyone has a healer inside them. You are your own best healer, first of all. And second, if you're interested in doing things like sending compassion and love in a powerful way to help elevate the people around you, learn the practices, because they'll it really help ground you and they'll help expand your abilities to touch another human being in that way.
Melanie Avalon: That is so, so wonderful. I do want to be really respectful of your time. I was wondering if you could just tell listeners a little bit briefly about the study. Have you conducted multiple studies? I know you talked about the big one in the book with the healing touch, but I'm just wondering if you could share what you personally found when you study this with people?
Dr. Shamini Jain: Oh, you bet. There're so many studies. I didn't have time to talk about them all, but another one that I'll just briefly mention here, because trauma has been on everyone's mind for a while now, especially, during these pandemic times. We conducted a study actually with active-duty military. This was during the war in Afghanistan a while back. We were working with active-duty combat military at Camp Pendleton. They were coming in and out. They will be getting deployed, coming back, and then getting redeployed. We only had a few weeks to work with them and we gave them three weeks of guided imagery and healing touch, both holistic therapies and compared that, of course, with the weightless control group during those three weeks, who just got their usual treatment. What we found was profound decreases in PTSD symptoms using a gold standard treatment called the PCL, which we use for screening PTSD in hospitals and other clinics. Not only did we see profound decreases in PTSD for these active-duty military, we found profound decreases in depression, improvements in quality of life, and interestingly, reductions in cynicism.
This is really important, because I can tell you as a clinical psychologist, while we were doing the study, I was also conducting what would be considered more mainstream cognitive behavioral type therapies with these same veterans. They weren't active-duty military, but they were veterans. They don't like being diagnosed, being pathologized, going through things like exposure therapy. It's very difficult. There's a huge dropout rate of conventional therapies like exposure therapy for things like trauma, because it's very painful for people to go through it. And they're going through this medicalized system, where they're treated more like a diagnosis than a human. When we look at these holistic therapies, these energy therapies, we really understand that they're working with the whole person and they're working with them spiritually, as well as energetically, and emotionally. When we talk about these therapies to them, we say, "We're treating your stress levels, but we're treating you as a whole person."
First of all, not only did we see that these therapies were super effective, they had really small dropout rates compared to what you'd see in normal behavioral interventions, because people enjoyed them. They were feeling value from them. The cynicism dropped I think because they realized that they were getting better on all of these levels and it increased I think their trust in our ability to offer care for people that are suffering. The reason we do these studies, a lot of people say, "Well, Shamini, we don't need these studies to tell us energy is real. We experience that. I don't need a bunch of fancy randomized control trials to show me the energy healing is real." Well, I agree. You are your best judge. Again, you are your best detector. But if we want to integrate these practices into healthcare, into the VA hospitals, into other hospitals, clinics, emergency rooms, if we want a type of healthcare, where we can walk in and talk to a provider and they will ask us not only about our symptoms, but what's going on in our lives, what are our relationships like, what are we eating, how's our spiritual or existential life, we know from the data that all these things matter for our health. When we do these types of trials and we demonstrate the power of spiritual and energy healing therapies all the way down to physiology, we allow for these therapies to be more integrated into healthcare. Because we want to democratize healing. This is not about going to a spa to get Reiki treatment. Everyone should be able to access these therapies. So, that's why we do the research.
Melanie Avalon: I cannot thank you enough for all that you are doing with it. I just wish this book was required reading for all medical students. It's really, really that wonderful. And listeners, we only barely skim the very top of the surface of everything that's in this book. There's history, there's science, there's the studies, it's really, really eye opening and practical.
Dr. Shamini Jain: There's practice too for those who are interested in that. The third part of the book is called The Healing Keys. I've basically synthesized everything into some really key steps that everyone can take for their own healing, because I and all of my friends at my non-profit, The Consciousness and Healing Initiative, which we didn't have enough time to talk about today. Yeah, we're serious about democratizing healing. So, dive into The Healing Keys, too, if you go into the book. I do want to mention that I teach a lot, I have an upcoming-- I'm actually headed to the Bahamas in a couple of days to teach there, but I'm also teaching at Esalen Institute in Big Sur in March. I'll be teaching The Healing Keys there and I have a number of other workshops planned with some wonderful colleagues in the field. Bruce Lipton, Gregg Braden, and Anita Moorjani, others, where I'm going to be teaching at various beautiful places this year. So, we can really take all of this and put it into practical wisdom for ourselves in community.
Melanie Avalon: Wonderful. Yes, definitely important to emphasize the practical piece to it for listeners and readers. Well, thank you so, so much. This is so perfect, because the last question that I ask on the show every single time and it's just because I appreciate more and more each day, how important mindset is. So, what is something that you're grateful for?
Dr. Shamini Jain: My family. I've been feeling really grateful for my family these days and it's top of mind for me. My parents are still living. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to spend time with them, when they're living and healthy, all the way to my kids, and having those generations connect even if they don't always see eye-to-eye. [laughs] It is a really beautiful thing for me. So, thank you for asking.
Melanie Avalon: Well, thank you so much Dr. Jain. This has been absolutely amazing. Again, listeners, get Healing Ourselves. You will love it. I promise you. What links would you like to put out there? How can people best follow your work?
Dr. Shamini Jain: You bet. Well, actually, if you go to healingourselvesbook.com, that will take you to the page, where you can order my book through various platforms, Amazon and all that for sure, but also, independent bookstores like Goodreads and others. You'll also get a lot of really cool bonuses, if you go to healingourselvesbook.com. That's a great place to learn more about the book, read the endorsements of our friends, and things like that. That will also take you more or less to my website, where you can tool around and find all kinds of goodies. And please do visit our non-profit, The Consciousness and Healing Initiative. We have free webinars every month with leaders in healing. There's just a treasure trove of information to dive into. The easiest way to access the webinars on healing is simply to go to webinarsonhealing.com. That'll take you to our non-profits websites webinars page. And our website which is www.chi.is for Consciousness and Healing Initiative. chi.is, you'll have so much fun. There's so much there to explore and a lot of free resources for you on the science of healing.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. Well, we will put links to all of that in the show notes. And again, the show notes will be at melanieavalon.com/biofields. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Jain. This has been absolutely amazing. I've been looking forward to this conversation since the moment, like I said, just briefly look through your book at the beginning, I was so excited. This has been absolutely amazing. I look forward to your future work, open door here, if you ever have another book, or want to come on for any other work, and hopefully, if you're ever in Atlanta, let me know. I would love to meet you.
Dr. Shamini Jain: Yeah, that would be fun. I'm sure I'll find my way there at some point. And thank you, Melanie, and thanks everyone for listening.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. Well, enjoy the rest of your day and I will talk to you later. Bye.
Dr. Shamini Jain: Bye.