By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

The 17th century was a revolutionary time for medicine and science. In much of Europe, from approximately 1100 to the mid 1600s, the Catholic Church governed the sciences and generally prohibited the dissection of cadavers because it was believed that medicine was witchcraft.

The church also considered the mind, body and spirit as one, and in order to ascend to heaven, the body had to be preserved intact. This thwarted medical and scientific progress.

The French philosopher, mathematician and scientist René Descartes influenced a reversal of dissection restrictions through his writings and teachings. In his treatise, “The Description of the Human Body,” he argued that the body worked like a machine and was separate from the mind and soul. The church was eventually convinced and began allowing the performance of autopsies, paving the way for medical and scientific breakthroughs.

However, this was not all for the best. For the last 300 years, Western doctors have been treating disease with the complete acceptance that body and mind are separate and do not affect each other. This has distorted our understanding of disease causes and treatment, and resulted in pharmaceuticals becoming a very powerful field of medicine.

A 1997 report from the Journal of the American Medical Association listed the causes of heart disease without mention of emotional factors like stress, depression or anxiety.

How can medicine – despite its narrow focus on biological factors and disease control through surgery and drugs – help humans prevent and cure diseases holistically?

A fairly new science called Psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI, studies the effect of the mind on health and resistance to disease. It’s a big word, but when broken down it makes good sense: “psycho”: the mind and emotions; “neuro”: the nervous system; and “immuno”: the immune system.

Medicine and science are advancing, now considering the whole person and how they fit into the world. A decade after its 1997 report, JAMA published in 2007 another article titled, “Acute Emotional Stress and the Heart.”

Stephen Maier, a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado, explained in a 2001 lecture given at the American Psychological Association convention that, “In a real, true sense, stress makes you physically sick.”

PNI will hopefully help create a tipping point for a new medical and scientific revolution – one that will start treating humans as holistic beings rather than addressing fragmented diseases and disorders that exist in a vacuum.

We now know we have a powerful ability to control our minds and health. We can learn to manage our stress and reduce anxiety; alter lifestyle choices that cause preventable disease; and work with holistic physicians. We must move from disease management to disease prevention swiftly. Our future generations depend on it.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, an NASM Certified Personal Trainer, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at jackie@thetahealth.com, or find more information at thetahealth.org.