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Prayer and GDD and Health Issues in General: Stress Reduction may be the Important Benefit.

Approximately 10 years or so ago, I read an article in the NEJM on the subject of does prayer help with disease... I am not sure it may have related to improval in cancer survival. The answer was it didn't.

One critical thing I have learned about studies in general is the selection criteria for inclusion in studies is of crucial importance, and often is the determining factor if something works or does not. Often times the larger the group studied helps to make the results more valid, but at the same time the lack of tailoring inclusion has a tendency to show that psychological or nutritional supplementation has no benefit.

My overall assessment of a subject such as a variety of health conditions, certainly immune mediated inflammatory diseases such as GDD, is that the success of stress reduction plays a crucial role if something helps or not. Stress hormones tend to parallel the inflammatory cytokines of conditions like GDD. Being calm, stress cytokines are less, being agitated stress cytokines are elevated. If prayer helps the individual be more calm and feel less stress then I urge people to use prayer as one of their tools as ancillary treatment for GDD. As I also recommend activities like yoga or Tai Chi. If however prayer serves to amplify your stress, makes you focus on how you have been a sinner for example, then I would suggest that it will not benefit you and may contribute to symptoms.

By no means I do not intend to minimize prayer, portraying it as just another activity, especially for those who are spiritual. But if you use prayer, you must focus on the calming aspects of praying, and not on excitatory aspects. So no snake handling.

I am Christian, and do have some strong Christian ancestral credentials, but I see myself as more of a humanist, and value all people and all religions. In particular, if there is a heaven people who do good in their lifetime regardless of their type of religion will go to heaven. If there is a hell, those who have conducted themselves badly in life would go there, and being a certain type of Christian, or paying your way out of it, will not help you. So those who fire individuals who stand up to protect patients will surely go to hell, if hell exists, and it does not matter if you go to church every sunday.

Richard Semelka, MD


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