Medicine makes us distrust our bodies


Modern medicine is great in many ways – I probably wouldn’t be alive and one of my sons certainly wouldn’t be alive without the intervention of medical doctors. But medicine also undermines our trust in our minds, our bodies and their healing properties.


I recently tripped while I was rushing to get a train. My face slammed into the pavement. I now have  a black eye and multi-coloured bruising on the left side of my face. I met some colleagues for coffee and was explaining why my face looked such a mess. After I’d told them, the conversation went like this:

“Gosh, I hope you got yourself checked out!”

“Why would I do that?”

“To see if you’d broken anything.”

“ I think my body knows when it has broken something and would definitely let me know.”

(Just to be clear, if that happened and my body was telling me something was very wrong, I would definitely go to the hospital. I’d also go to the hospital if I was uncertain.)


For many years now I haven’t washed minor wounds or covered them with a dressing. People who observe this usually think I’m being totally reckless and/or stupid. I took this approach after reading some research that said that when we injure ourselves our body produces specialist chemicals at the site of the injury; washing the wound removes these chemicals, which are there to help the body heal as quickly as possible. I have done this in Africa and after falling in a dirty farmyard and after getting bicycle chain grease in a cut after falling off my bike. My experience is that the wounds appear to take longer to heal, but they heal really well, leaving no scarring or discolouration.


This week I saw some research from the University of Leeds, showing that researchers have found that a protein film forms rapidly over a wound as part of the natural clotting process, and it provides protection for at least 12 hours. They believe this bio-film gives the immune system time to marshal its defences to deal with any infection. Here is an example of the body doing its own thing, using the wisdom of millennia of development.


When my sons were small I taught them that their body ran a temperature in order to kill bugs. When they were ill, they would not be dismayed when their temperatures rose, because they knew it meant that their body was working to help them. Of course, if body temperatures in small children get very high, then this is an urgent medical situation. When our child’s temperature is just a little high, don’t immediately reach for the temperature-reducing medication. Let’s teach our children that their bodies have self-healing mechanisms, and that “symptoms” can be their bodies’ soldiers mounting an attack on aliens.


We all need to have more confidence in our own bodies and their ability to heal.