Most cancers have no “cause”.
How does a 41 year old, exercising, optimal weight, non- smoking, low fat diet eating, health conscience, non-alcohol drinking, no family history, woman get stage 3 breast cancer? For that matter, how does anyone develop serious illnesses with out a direct cause? (i.e. smoking = lung cancer)
I was sent a very intriguing video my my friend Mara, and it has propelled me into a frenzy of investigation. I was aware of the mind body relationship and the use of relaxation techniques to help with stress, but I never realized the clinical evidence that existed.
Dr Gabor Mate, a Hungarian-born medical doctor who resides in Canada, speaks on many subjects linking mental stress to physical illness, and addiction. His book “When the Body Says No–Understanding The Stress-Disease Connection” talks about the fact that for thousands of years, healers have always assumed and believed that the mind and body are one. Stress and negative psychological factors can affect the physical health, or lack thereof, in the body. It is only recently in “Western Medicine” that the mind-body connection has been broken. Study after study demonstrates the physical effects caused by mental stress, but western doctors throw this information in the trash and try to heal just the body while ignoring the mind.
Dr Gabor Mate explains the term “Psychoneuroimmunology” or PNI for short. PNI explains the direct effect that the brain has on the immune system. The brain can actually control how susceptible you are to certain illnesses and your autoimmune responses. It is your brain linked to a complex immune system involving the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands that turns on and off the “T-helper cells” that increase your immunity level and resistance to any illness.
The reaction between stress and cortisol (the hormone secreted by the adrenal gland related to many chronic illnesses) levels have been well documented.
He gives examples that show that repressed anger and “strong sense of duty” as if being trapped in one’s life, actually causes killer T-cells (the cells in our bodies that fight illness and cancer) to become repressed allowing illness, whether it be cancer, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis to take over. Less than 10% of all cases of breast cancer and ALS can be linked to heredity. 90% of the cases are mysteries. We know what happens in the body, but it is unknown why the process starts. Stress, in the form of unexpressed or repressed anger, childhood trauma or neglect, or feeling trapped, could be the unexplained cause.
I could not help translating this to the hundreds of thousands of women out there who, like me developed breast cancer with absolutely no known risk factors. I do believe there are environmental factors in play such as exposure to chemicals in products we are exposed to, but there has to be another piece to the puzzle to explain the rampant rise of this disease in younger and younger victims.
Women with families, in general (I am speaking generally here, with assumed exceptions) are the “pleasers” and caregivers in their family’s lives. They are the ones that make sure the ship is on course and everyone has their life jacket. They make sure everyone has what they need to be happy…often neglecting their own needs. The stress of a working mom is multiplied tenfold with demands from two different directions and very little “down” time.
Women, whether single or not, are often peacemakers, avoiding conflict and trying to make amends sometimes from things she is not even guilty of. We can blame society or one’s upbringing, but the fact remains: the stresses of women are unique.
Men, too, are taught by society to “hold things in” and keep things together without expressing emotions. This repression wreaks havoc on the immune system.
Could this be a piece of the cancer and chronic illness puzzle? Is this one answer as to why the incidence of breast cancer in this country has increased dramatically from 1 in 20 in the 1960’s to 1 in less than 8 recently? It certainly makes sense. It would explain why exercise reduces your risk of cancer as we know that regular exercise increases the body’s immune system while it reduces stress. It would also explain why a strong faith, prayer, and meditation are associate with healthier bodies.
Here are some of the hundreds of documented studies.
Extreme suppression of anger was the most commonly identified characteristic of 160 breast cancer patients who were given a detailed psychological interview and self-administered questionnaire. Repressing anger magnified exposure to physiological stress, thereby increasing the risk of cancer —Journal of Psychosomatic Research
“(Holding a grudge over time) creates a state of chronic anxiety, and chronic anxiety has a predictable impact on a wide range of bodily functions, including the reproductive system, the digestive system, and the immune system,” says Dr Michael Barry, PhD, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “For example, stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenalin, have been shown to reduce the production of natural killer cells — the “foot soldiers” in the fight against cancer.” (“Forgiveness Can Improve Immune Function” by Pam Harrison Medscape News)
When you hold onto the bitterness for years, it stops you from living your life fully. As it turns out, it wears out your immune system and hurts your heart” –Stanford University Center for Research in Disease Prevention. (They even host workshops on forgiveness.)
I have collected 57 extremely well documented so-called cancer miracles. At a certain particular moment in time they decided that the anger and the depression were probably not the best way to go, since they had such little time left. And so they went from that to being loving, caring, no longer angry, no longer depressed, and able to talk to the people they loved. These 57 people had the same pattern. They gave up, totally, their anger, and they gave up, totally, their depression, by specifically a decision to do so. And at that point the tumors started to shrink.–Yale Medical School – Dr. Bernie Seigel, Clinical Professor of Surgery. Dr Bernie Seigel is a wonderful doctor who has written many books on the subject of love and happiness as it relates to illness.
A study was done looking at 5 year survival and relapse incidences of women with breast cancer. It was found that those women who scored high in the “helplessness/hopelessness” category had increased incidence of relapse and death.–The Lancet 1999
A 2012 study at the University of Miami’s Center for Psycho-Oncology Research, has shown that a stress management program tailored to women with breast cancer can alter tumor-promoting processes at the molecular level. “The results suggest that the stress management intervention mitigates the influence of the stress of cancer treatment and promotes recovery over the first year.” Journal of Psychological Biology
There are hundreds more examples of this kind of mind-body connection. So why doesn’t the western medical world recognize this and help patients to understand their role in prevention and cure? My feeling is, because there isn’t a pill for it. There’s no “forgiveness” pill. There is no “unconditional love” pill. There is no “fulfillment” pill. it can’t be bought or sold. It has to be learned and practiced. Something we as busy “westerners” don’t have the time or the desire to accomplish.
Take 60 seconds to explore this in your own life. Whether you are male of female, connected or single…take stock in your emotions and inspect them to see if any are “unhealthy”. If you need a reason to smile go here.
Some signs of repressed anger:
- nigh time teeth grinding
- neck, back and shoulder pain
- heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome
To see more go here
Thanks for your interest!
Here are some books and CD’s if you are interested in knowing more. I do not receive any compensation for listing these, I just think they are good sources.
When The Body Says No-Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection by Gaber Mate MD
Love Medicine and Miracles by Bernie Seigel, MD
Meditations for Enhancing Your Immune System Bernie Seigel MD
Miss Diagnosed: Unraveling Chronic Stress by Erin bell