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Emotional Stress Causes Cancer and Leads to Earlier Deaths

Published on June 21, 2019

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There are quite a few researchers and doctors who feel that cancer starts with stress and emotional shocks. For cells it does not matter where the stress comes from. Intense traumatic events can easily weaken the immune system, making it more susceptible to infections and even cancer. In many cases of serious illness, a core issue is hiding or there is an unresolved conflict that’s been repeating over and over in a person’s life. (Cellular stress results equally from toxins, radiation and nutritional deficiencies.)

Dr. Nalini Chilkov writes, “Cancer risk increases when the immune system is compromised by stress, loss of sleep, depression, inability to eat, poor nutrition. When a woman is traumatized by sexual violence and sexual assault, particularly if it was perpetrated by someone she trusted such as her partner or a family member her immune system will be compromised and her risk of many diseases, including cancer will increase.”

Disease is often caused by a shock experience like rape, war trauma or the sudden death of a loved one. Such shocks not only occurs in the psyche but simultaneously in the brain and on the organ level. Physical symptoms are influenced by psychological factors. Psychosomatic medicine deals with stress and emotional trauma as do psychologists. Stress is a measure of disturbances between different levels of our being. Emotions and mental disturbances impact different areas of the brain, which get communicated to corresponding organs in the body.

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When the body is under stress, it releases hormones — such as adrenaline and cortisol that cause suppression of our immune system. Stress does wide scale damage to our physiology and even reaches down to forcing activation of certain genes and deactivation of others leading to changes that impact the growth of cancer. The stress hormone cortisol can change the body’s genetics and interfere with the ability of tumor-suppressing genes to do their job. Stress feeds the fire of inflammation, tumor growth and metastases.

Thus it is not a surprise to read a study[1] published in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology reports that women who get help with pain and emotional distress have lower levels of anxiety, fatigue and depression. A study published in the Journal of Personality shows that women with breast cancer who do express their anger, fear, sadness, and affection in a group setting live longer than women who suppress these emotions.

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Emotions matter in medicine. One large scale study among approximately 2,000 middle aged male employees of the Western Electric Company reported that those individuals who were more depressed were 2.3 times as likely to die of cancer during the following 17 years than their non-depressed counterparts.

Thus we hear Lothar Hirneise, an unorodox healer telling cancer patients, “Then I tell them that one of two things are going to happen: either you’re going to die soon or you’re going to stay alive. If you’re going to die soon, you’re better off having lots of fun now, right? If you’re not going to die, you’re better off having fun now too because there’s nothing better for your immune system. It sounds crazy, but I have a lot of fun with people that come to me.” And in today’s world of stress this does make some sense.

"Getting a good night’s sleep is fairly simple, if you allow yourself to do it. The big problem for cancer patients is they take too much on themselves and don’t give enough time to help their bodies cope with the illness. They’re worried about burdening their families and fulfilling their usual obligations," says Dr. David Spiegle.

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Before you read the next paragraph would be good to stare at this picture for a moment and take some slow deep breaths. One easy way to relax and reset one’s autonomic nervous-system is to consciously breathe several times a day. The way you breathe — fast or slow, shallow or deep — sends messages to your body that affect your mood, stress level, blood pressure, immune function, it will even change how your heart beats. A good technique to improve your body basic parameters is the Buteyko Breathing Method to ease stress and anxiety. That is to breathe in for the count of 4, hold the breath for count of 7 and breathe out through the mouth for a count of 8. Do that now before going on for the next paragraph communicates the brutal condition way too many people are facing in modern day life.

Micheal Snyder writes about the current state of affairs saying, “According to a shocking new report from the Commonwealth Fund, the suicide rate in the United States is the highest that it has ever been before. Sadly, the same thing can be said about the death rates from drug overdoses and alcohol. All three death rates are at an all-time record high, and yet our society is still fairly stable at the moment. So if we are seeing this many “deaths of despair” right now, what in the world are things going to look like when our society really begins to start crumbling?  Today, Americans have literally thousands of different ways to entertain themselves, and yet we have never been unhappier. One out of every six Americans is taking psychiatric drugs, we are currently dealing with “the worst drug crisis in American history”, and people are killing themselves in record numbers. Nobody likes to be told that they are a failure, but it certainly appears that our nation has been on an extremely self-destructive path for a very long time.”

The Feelings of the Heart

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Before you go on with your reading try to open your heart to feel what Snyder describes. Open your heart until some tears start to flow as you get in touch with your vulnerability that can touch all of these people’s vulnerabilites. Nothing makes us feel more vulnerable than cancer but as Dr. Brené Brown shares below, one can turn that vulnerability into an asset that can help with our cancer treatments.

Over more than a decade of research, author Dr. Brown has found that vulnerability is not a weakness — in fact, it can be our greatest strength. Yet instead of allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable, Brown says many people put up emotional shields to protect themselves. Vulnerability gives us access to our true strength but that does not change the paradigm most people live in, which is the great fear people have about being vulnerable. The fear of vulnerability is arguably one of the most common fears of all. Most people are afraid to be strong, afraid to be vulnerable, and governments, psychopaths and oncologists love this.

Recently I talked to a cancer patient in an online consultation. He had testical cancer and recently had surgery. I had the feeling during his first consultation that in the second I should forget about medicine and listen to him as a psychologist would. So happens I am both a color and communication psychologist and many years ago did online therapy. I asked many questions to get his life story and at the end I asked him if he ever cried. He said no. His heart was closed and thus I recommend my HeartHeath course, which provides mediations with the aim of open up the heart. I happen to define the heart as the vulnerabity of being. (The online HeartHealth course is free.) Special Note: I am writing this book on cancer in a different way from my former books. It is meant to also act like an ongoing consultation, not just a text full of information.

Chronic stress is more prevalent than most people realize, meaning it is one of the dominant reasons many people get cancer. Almost everyone today in modern society thinks too much and feels to little and this is a great stress in and of itself. Opening the heart, opening to one’s vulnerability and the tears of the melting heart is one of the strongest medicines we can apply in our cancer protocol.

Being in the head leads to chronic emotional stress, which  robs the body of vital energy, suppresses immune function, and disrupts hormonal systems. The cumulative result can be devastating: elevated blood pressure, increased blood clotting, compromised digestive function, elevated blood sugar, chronic sleep disturbances, weight gain and especially suppressed immune function all set the stage for cancer and other diseases.

Women with advanced breast cancer who have abnormal daytime levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, are significantly more likely to die sooner than patients with normal levels of the hormone, Stanford University researchers reported back in 2000. The researchers also found that women with these abnormal cortisol levels had fewer immune system cells known as natural killer cells, and this reduced immunity was associated with higher mortality. Dr. David Spiegel, MD, Stanford professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences said, “We found that patients who had abnormal cortisol patterns died significantly sooner.”[2]

Dr. Spiegel says that sleep problems alter the balance of two main hormones that influence cancer cells. One is cortisol, which helps to regulate immune system activity — including the release of certain “natural killer” cells that help the body battle cancer. The other hormone affected by sleep is melatonin. Produced by the brain during sleep, melatonin may have antioxidant properties that help prevent damage to cells.

Spiegel continues, “I think one of the problems these cancer patients may have is that their immune system is over-regulated. Cortisol suppresses immune function and may hamper the immune system’s ability to counter the spread of cancer.”

We Normally Are Not Conscious of How Much Stress We Suffer From

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The vast majority of people constantly live in a state of permanent stress without thinking, without even feeling it directly, so they have no idea what dangers their stress threatens. We are mostly unconscious of our stress but certainly, those aches and pains we feel disturb our consciousness. Often our pains haunt us even into our sleep no matter how many supplements or doctors pills we take but the last thing we usually do is directly relate our physical pains to the stress we are under.

One of the reasons people die or suffer from heart attacks and strokes is the difficulty people have being aware of and dealing with their own internal stress levels. It is why a stroke and heart attacks happen so suddenly and unexpectedly. Its also why hypertension is invisible.

The most common cause of PTSD in women is sexual trauma. Reports estimate that 15%-38% of women experience childhood sexual abuse, 13% to 20% experience adult rape and at least 20% experience battering. Sexual and physical abuse in women, either when they were children or as adults, can result in post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD and other psychological and psychiatric disturbances.

People under a lot of stress have fewer natural killer cells, immune system cells that spontaneously kill abnormal cells in their vicinity, including tumor cells and infected cells. We also know that the killer cells of people under stress are also less active. Studies have shown that the absence of natural killer cells is related to the progression of breast cancer.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Stress

Heart rate variability (HRV) represents the time differences between successive heartbeats (also known as the beat-to-beat interval). Measurements of HRV give us a scientific measurement of our stress. The VedaPulse is perhaps the best machine for this purpose but now some watches and the Oura ring give readouts about how are hearts are beating. Measures of HRV have been strongly correlated not only to stress but morbidity and mortality from diverse diseases.

The list of things I use and recommend for stress is long but on top of the list is breathing retraining, the use of magnesium oil especially for massage and hot bathing, yoga, and the BioMat, which not only feels fantastic, especially when under stress, but because of the deeper penetration of FIR energy people will see a reduction in cortisol levels of up to 78%. It is important to know that studies show that magnesium combined with B6 reported a 44.9% reduction in perceived stress and the magnesium-only group a 42.4% reduction with a more significant impact demonstrated with severe and/or extremely severe stress.

Climb into a warm magnesium bath and feel the tensions slip away from your body and soul. Get a magnesium massage it will simply help you cope. Slow your breathing down and your life as well if that is possible. Of course yoga and meditation are easy things to recommend as are support groups or doing individual therapy with someone tuned into the challenges that cancer patients face. Medical marijuana also helps many people deal with their stress and does not cause cancer like alcohol does.

[1]              J Psychosoc Oncol. 2005;23(2-3):137-57. Examining the influence of coping with pain on depression, anxiety, and fatigue among women with breast cancer.

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Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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