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Tony Vendryes: Your body heals itself

Published:Monday | April 25, 2016 | 12:00 AMDr Tony Vendryes

The human body is amazing. It is indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, as King David declared in the Psalms.  Modern medical science is validating how true his statement was. The longer I practice medicine, the more I appreciate the body’s intrinsic capacity to heal and repair itself. Your body is composed of up to 100 trillion microscopic units called cells. Each cell is intelligent and sophisticated, cooperating with its fellows to maintain the body’s health.

Most cells are not immortal. As they age or get injured they die and are replaced.  For example, liver and skin cells have a three month lifespan, red blood cells live for four months while the cells lining your stomach are quickly replaced every two days.

Every minute millions of cells in your body will die and new ones will take their place. Each year you replace 90 per cent of the cells that make up your body. Your body is continually repairing and fixing itself.

Every organ can heal
For a long time scientists believed that some organs could not repair themselves. Old medical dogma insisted that once brain cells died they could not be replaced. We now know that even brain cells can be replaced.

Heart specialists had also insisted that when the muscle cells in the heart die in a heart attack, they are never replaced by new ones. Not true.  In groundbreaking studies, researchers have shown that heart cells are able to regenerate themselves, overturning the old negative thinking.

This new understanding is extremely important as heart attacks that damage heart cells and strokes that damage brain cells are two of the commonest causes of death and disability in the world. Sadly, it takes a long time after these discoveries before the majority of doctors come to accept them. Old beliefs die hard.

Healing with stem cells
The body repairs itself by the work of special cells called stem cells. A stem cell is a cell produced in the body that has the ability to create all types of new cells. Your body creates these stem cells every day.
Research has shown that exercise, sleep, diet and stress influence the activation of these stem cells. The message is simple: your lifestyle may improve the ability of your body to self-repair and heal.

Belief matters
Belief can kill or cure. Scientists call healing from a belief the placebo effect and injury from a belief the nocebo effect. Doctors have actually dome experiments to demonstrate these ‘belief effects:

Doctors have reported on a popular form of knee surgery for arthritis. In a controlled trial, some patients had the actual surgery while others were made to believe that they were having the surgery, but only had fake surgery. When followed up, patients who had surgery fared no better than the other group.

A similar experiment was done with heart surgery for patients with heart disease from blocked arteries. All the patients had their chest opened under anaesthesia but only some had the surgery done on their hearts. The remaining patients were only opened and closed. There was no difference in the results in both groups of patients.

You and your doctor’s belief about your illness are very important. Negative predictions or even a negative attitude from your caregiver can greatly affect your response to treatment.

Help your body heal
Modern medicine is now racing to find expensive ways to transplant stem cells into persons to another to promote healing of damaged organs. The most popular version of this approach is bone marrow transplant for diseases like leukaemia. The world welcomes all the help modern, high tech medicine offers.

My interest however, is in how to encourage your body to produce more of its own stem cells for your healing. Then, if that fails, we can consider the more dangerous, expensive and invasive options. 

I suggest we focus on a healthy lifestyle involving Cellular Nutrition, Exercise, Detoxification plus healthy Stress Management as a powerful way to do this.

You may email Dr Vendryes at and listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER106FM on Fridays at 8:15 p.m. Details of his books and articles are available from his website