The Role Of Religion In Our Health

By Dr. Monique Hallee, BScHK ND. I was pleased to read in the National Post last month that over half of Canadians are a member of a religion. In today’s 21st century mosaic country, religion can be a touchy subject, but a very influential aspect to our health that is commonly forgotten.

We tend to leave our religion in our places of worship and in our hearts as we live our lives, but how often do we discuss these matters with our doctors? In the practice of naturopathic medicine, religion has an important place, as teachings attempt to address each patient as the three-dimensional “Body – Mind – Spirit”. The reality is that even naturopathic doctors often leave out spirit or religion. Does this mean that “spirit” is not significant? Certainly not!

With religion comes various forms of prayer. Prayer is a powerful tool; I have personally seen individuals improve simply by receiving prayer from another, but also from doing the praying themselves. There have been countless studies that have shown improvement to an individual’s health following their own prayer. Physical changes have occurred to factors such as blood pressure or cancer growth.
Besides quiet prayer, there are also physical movements that have religious connection, such as yoga and qigong, which help to calm the body and mind so that a spiritual “connectedness” can be achieved. While these movements have become popular in the general population, they still seem to have positive health benefits, which may contribute to their popularity. Several yoga poses have been revealed in studies to contribute to a decrease in cortisol. Those who practice early morning yoga before work may actually notice they are able to thinking more clearly since their cortisol is not as high as it was prior to the early morning ritual.

If religion and religious practices are so important, why aren’t health care providers talking about it more? It seems we don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. An American survey asked doctors about religion and found that 93% of doctors said it is important to consider patients’ religious needs, yet, nearly that same number of doctors barely discussed religion with their patients. It is easier to not offend someone if the topic is avoided altogether, but then the patient is not being fully cared for. Another American study showed that 77% of patients believed religious needs should be considered by their physician, yet 80% felt that they did not have good communication with their doctor on the subject.

To help this disconnect between body, mind and spirit, patients should be able to talk to their doctors about religion. As a patient, it is important to be able to assess the spiritual side of your life and see if it is well balanced; if it is not, you may need to take the initiative to bring it up with your doctor. The average doctor has likely spent a lot of time studying physical human anatomy and less about various religions. Unless your physician shares the same religion, you may have to educate him or her a bit, which is a good thing. You can help to expand your doctor’s eyes and improve your connection with both your doctor and your religion.

If you have questions about your own health that you would like answered contact Dr Hallee. If your question is a good article topic, it could be featured in a column!

For further information, see a health care provider for more tips on how to keep you and your family healthy or, if you have a specific question, use the comments box below or email Today Media to have it answered.

Dr Hallee headshotDr Monique Hallee BScHK, ND
Dr Hallee is a naturopathic doctor who has a family practice, with expertise in women’s health. She has been around the world to learn various aspects of health care and is now located in Langley BC at Meditrine Naturopathic Medical Clinic.

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