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Does your MINDSET affect your medications?

Your way of thinking (your mindset) is very powerful.

Not only can it influence how you think, what you feel, and what you do. Your mindset can actually affect your body’s physiological response, including your body’s response to medications!

Emerging research on this topic sheds some light. (1)

While healthcare providers are obligated to inform patients about possible treatment side effects, the very act of communicating them seems to increase their likelihood!

For example, patients receiving treatment for chest pain (unstable angina pectoris) who were informed of possible GI side effects were 6x more likely than patients who had not been informed to stop the treatment due to these side effects. (2)

People often assume that side effects are unfortunate or harmful results of the treatment. Or even a sign that their body is particularly sensitive to medication, or that their own condition is treatment-resistant.

Instead, let’s understand that for many conditions and treatments, certain minor side effects can serve as a sign the treatment is active and working in the body.

Let’s take antibiotics, for example. When antibiotics effectively kill harmful bacteria in the body, they also frequently kill helpful bacteria in the intestine. This can result in unpleasant, but usually not dangerous, side effects, such as diarrhea. These side effects can actually signal that the antibiotics are working.

Not only does your mindset affect side effects, it also affects how medicines work.

A study was done on kids receiving oral immunotherapy for allergy treatment. Those receiving treatment often experience side effects such as itchy mouth, nausea, vomiting. The experiment took a subset of patients and helped them to cultivate a positive mindset about the symptoms; to believe that these ‘side effects’ were a positive signal showing the body was working and getting stronger. The researchers found that the group who received the mindset intervention not only had lower anxiety, but also had better immune markers and better outcomes to treatment. Their medicine actually worked better! (3)

This is truly the mind-body connection at work.


1. Leibowitz KA, Howe LC, Crum AJ. Changing mindsets about side effects. BMJ Open 2021;11:e040134. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-040134

2. Howe LC, Leibowitz KA, Perry MA, Bitler JM, Block W, Kaptchuk TJ, Nadeau KC, Crum AJ. Changing Patient Mindsets about Non-Life-Threatening Symptoms During Oral Immunotherapy: A Randomized Clinical Trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2019 May-Jun;7(5):1550-1559. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2019.01.022. Epub 2019 Jan 23. PMID: 30682576; PMCID: PMC6511320.

3. Myers MG, Cairns JA, Singer J. The consent form as a possible cause of side effects. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1987 Sep;42(3):250-3. doi: 10.1038/clpt.1987.142. PMID: 3621780.

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