The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Stress: The Battlefield of Recovery


When you are dealing with any kind of cancer, one of the really big questions is, “What can I do to help myself?” Well, one of the most important things you can do is look at the role stress plays in your life. Especially chronic stress.

There are many definitions of stress. The dictionary simply defines stress as pressure or strain. Hans Selye was the first to use the term “stress” in a biological context, defining it as a “state of prolonged tension from internal or external stressors.” Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. describes stress as the expectancy that bad things are going to happen and the expectation that we may not be able to cope with the fallout.  
 A diagnosis of cancer is a prime stressor, and causes a whole slew of emotions including fear, anxiety, grief, and resentment, all of which cause dramatic changes in the body’s hormones that suppress immune function. How does this occur? A fearful thought like, “Oh God, I think I’m going to die!” activates a primitive circuit known as “fight-or-flight.” When a threat is recognized, heart rate and blood pressure skyrocket, sugar pours into the blood, muscles tense for quick action, and the entire metabolism goes into survival mode.

This is great if you’re on the African savannah and you hear a lion growling outside your tent. However, Nature never intended the fight-or-flight response to last more than a moment or two. So when the brain sends a threat message for which there is no swift resolution, the fight-or-flight response stays stuck; you begin to put needless wear and tear on your body, and your immune system is no longer capable of performing the remedial function that is your most powerful defense against cancer.

Way back in 1964, Dr. George Solomon published a landmark article entitled “Emotions, Immunity and Disease: A Speculative Theoretical Integration.” Ten years later, Solomon’s findings were no longer regarded as speculative. There is no doubt today that living in chronic emotional stress inhibits immune function. According to Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., stress hormones are so effective at curtailing immune system function that doctors provided them to recipients of transplants so that their immune systems wouldn’t reject the foreign tissues.

So what can you do to counteract the inevitable stress of a cancer diagnosis and take an active part in your recovery process? In Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers I talk about “Emotional-Chemical Text Messaging” to the immune system. Because it possesses no analytical filter, the immune system acts on what it is, in effect, “told” by the brain. Although body cells possess intelligence, their only “knowledge” is the information they receive.  So you can either send messages that evoke a positive biochemical response in the immune system, or you can send messages that suppress immune function.

In my next Blog I will tell you how you can “romance” your immune system. In the meantime, as you make your way through the medical minefield, remember Deepak Chopra’s famous words: “Every cell in your body is eavesdropping on your thoughts.”

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