The National Institute of Whole Health (NIWH) | Pioneers of Whole Health Education® and Whole Person Care
February 27, 2016

The Science of Heartbreak

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

science of heartbreakLike most healthcare practitioners, I often hear clients discuss their fear of loving or trusting another person after they have been terribly disappointed or hurt in a romantic relationship.

Being deeply hurt or emotionally wounded through deception, rejection or infidelity cuts to the quick of the human heart. Many of us would like to be able to just “put it behind us” and move on with our lives, but the research of a remarkable scientist now explains why it is so painful and difficult to bounce back quickly from a broken heart. The research also throws light on how difficult and sometimes desperate we can feel during that experience.

Helen Fisher, Ph.D., biological anthropologist, is a research professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University and chief scientific adviser to the Internet dating site (a division of She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human love, sexuality, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love.

Brain Issues

Fisher’s research on heartbreak identifies areas of the brain, the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area, whose involvement in romantic love proves this deep-seated drive to be far more powerful and urgent than we may have previously believed. Fisher says that romantic love is “really a drive that is deeply primordial and primitive.” She explains that romantic love experiences “are way below the emotional center and in fact are not emotions at all, but rather a powerful drive and need that is shared by all human beings.”

Through thousands of imaging studies both in the U.S. and in China, Fisher and her research team has established just how important it is for human beings to be in relationships where they experience reward for their feelings and efforts toward the significant other. There are additional studies that show that the same portion of the brain, the anterior insula, is both the location of physical pain, as well as heartache. In a previous article I discussed a study that showed how Tylenol influences this part of the brain and can reduce the discomfort of heartache as well as a headache.

If you want to understand more about this fascinating subject and how to help yourself overcome the heartache of lost love, visit, where a book list on her research is available. You can also download a free excerpt from the Amazon #1 bestselling, multi-award winning book Changing Behavior, by going to

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February 20, 2016

How Thoughts Become Things

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

thoughts become things

“Mind is the Master Power that molds and makes, and we are mind.
And ever more we take the tool of thought, & shaping what we will, bring forth a thousand joys, or a thousand ills.We think in secret, and it comes to pass, environment, is but our looking glass.” 
   James Allen

At some point we have all heard the adage “Thoughts are things,” which serves as the central tenet of such popular New Age philosophies like the Law of Attraction, featured in best-selling books like The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. And while many skeptics have been quick to dismiss the idea of “As a man thinketh, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7) as nothing more than a pop psychology platitude, the ongoing findings of medical science are telling a different story.

In an article from the January – February 2013 edition of Harvard Magazine, Cara Feinberg profiles the pioneering work of Dr. Ted Kaptchuk, Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. In the article, Feinberg chronicles the exciting findings made by Dr. Kaptchuck and his team in conducting a “clinical drug trial” charting the effects of prescription medication vs. acupuncture in relieving the pain of the trial participants:

“Two weeks into Ted Kaptchuk’s first randomized clinical drug trial, nearly a third of his 270 subjects complained of awful side effects. All the patients had joined the study hoping to alleviate severe arm pain: carpal tunnel, tendinitis, chronic pain in the elbow, shoulder, wrist.

In one part of the study, half the subjects received pain-reducing pills; the others were offered acupuncture treatments. And in both cases, people began to call in, saying they couldn’t get out of bed. The pills were making them sluggish, the needles caused swelling and redness; some patients’ pain ballooned to nightmarish levels.

“The side effects were simply amazing,” Kaptchuk explains; curiously, they were exactly what patients had been warned their treatment might produce (emphasis added).” Even more startling, “…most of the other patients reported real relief, and those who received acupuncture felt even better than those on the anti-pain pill. These were exceptional findings: no one had ever proven that acupuncture worked better than painkillers.

But Kaptchuk’s study didn’t prove it, either – the pills his team had given patients were actually made of cornstarch; the “acupuncture” needles were retractable shams that never pierced the skin. The study wasn’t aimed at comparing two treatments. It was designed to compare two fakes (emphasis added).”

Although Dr. Kaptchuk doesn’t contend that patients can simply “think themselves better” his study – along with many others conducted on the placebo effect – does prove a very important, and critically under looked, fact in health care: “patients’ perceptions matter, and the ways physicians frame perceptions can have significant effects on their patients’ health.”

Beliefs are powerful things and what we tell ourselves and others tell us can make us better or worse. We all have “our narrative” and we tell it over and over again both to ourselves and to others. We believe it, we expect it and we project it. When we change our beliefs and our story, we change the outcomes.

One of the better known studies which demonstrates how changing our narratives can change our outcomes (and our lives) is the 1980’s breast cancer support group study that was written up in the journal Advances. All of the women had breast cancer that had metastasize before the study began.

Their prognosis was poor but they became a group who listened to each other’s stories, supported each other, cared about one another and helped each other manage their symptoms and disease. They also helped each other change their story. It is not surprising that the women in this support group lived on average 18 months longer than breast cancer patients with the same degree of metastasis.

This article has previously appeared on Huffington Post

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December 1, 2015

What Really Nourishes

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

Nutrition is today’s new religion. How we chose to eat provides a sense of control and predictability in a world that is often out of control and not predictable. People find comfort, stability and reassurance in the regimen of adhering to a certain diet and what they believe it will do for their well-being and longevity.

The future of health promotion needs to address that while nutrition is one of the five major necessities of life our relationships (after survival needs are met) are the #1 most critical component to health – and for health promotion. Currently, the way we treat each other at work, in the media, politics, and in our homes, speaks of an underlying pathology; a lack of respectful communication, widespread cultural discontent and alienation.

In 1980, TIME magazine published a survey asking if people were happy or content and felt purposeful in their lives; 80% responded positively. Just over 10 years later, TIME magazine published another survey. This time there was only a 20% positive response.

The timeline of the epidemic of obesity in the U.S. runs parallel with the epidemic of discontent that was ushered in with the “Life Styles of the Rich and Famous” in the mid-to-late 1980’s; followed by an exploding economy fueled by mega-rich real estate, dotcom and investment billions. No one wanted to be left behind in keeping up with the new, very rich “Jones”.

Drive and ambition ripped across all sectors of our society; lifestyles were transformed with 2 paycheck households, over 50% of meals eaten outside the home, leisure time slashed. We felt the pressure to keep up, to belong to this explosion of plenty and in that process lost our collective sense of contentment and purposefulness.

Health promotion in the future will be about addressing the needs and drives of the whole person, not just the fuel that runs their engine. Promoting awareness that we all want and need to be valued and to make a meaningful contribution to others is an important starting point. So much of the disease, obesity, depression, unhappiness and untapped potential can be reversed by being valued and respected; when our cultural focus is less on conflict and competition – and more on respectful behavior and cooperation, health promotion will be the organic outcome of our mindful behavior towards ourselves and others.

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