Cancer: The emotional disease
Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND
Everyone experiences and processes stressful situations differently. Some people tend to internalize these emotions and make a consistent effort to conceal them from the outside world. Others are very expressive and they make it clear to everyone around them how they are feeling. Not only do people express their feelings differently, everyone tends to store these emotions in different parts of their body.
At first this may seem like an odd and unscientific statement, that people store emotions in different parts of their body. It is true that it is challenging to quantify and study this concept. However, anyone who has experience working with patients on the emotional level knows this to be true. Stop and think about it for a second. When you get very emotional and upset, where do you feel this in your body? Some people tend to get headaches, others feel tension in their throat or abdomen. Others have symptoms physical manifest such as constipation, diarrhea, muscle cramps, extreme fatigue or joint pain. What is remarkable about these symptoms is the consistency that a patient will feel when they get stressed. A person who experiences one symptom when they are stressed will consistently experience this symptom every time they are stressed.
There are different ways to look at this but the common thread is always that emotional health powerfully impacts patients in a very physical way. This connection simply cannot be ignored. When it comes to a serious disease such as cancer, it is easy to focus exclusively on the physical aspects of the disease. Of course the physical aspect of this disease is important but in order to optimize healing physically we must also address the emotional aspects of the disease that are in many cases the root cause of the disease
It is not unusual for patients to feel a connection between past emotional traumas and the formation of their cancer. In recent years the mainstream scientific community has started to seriously research this connection. It turns out that these patients are indeed correct and there are large studies to support this connection. Childhood abuse increases the risk of developing cancer in adulthood1,5.
A recent study in the journal, Cancer, demonstrated that adults who reported physical abuse as children were 47% more likely to develop cancer1. There are many well-documented physiological changes that occur with this type of abuse2,3. More patients need to recognize that there are clear psychological and physical changes that occur from abuse which make it more likely to develop cancer4. This is not an imaginary connection, it is a very real connection that is supported by large-scale studies.
The immune system is constantly patrolling the body looking for any abnormal cells and engages them before it manifests into a clinical disease. During periods of acute stress the immune system is significantly weaker. The immune system will therefore be less likely to recognize these cancerous cells and it will be less effective at preventing the development of cancer.
The stress from childhood abuse continues well after the abuse has stopped. Many patients are permanently scarred emotionally and these emotional stressors will continue to weaken the immune system. Many people develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childhood abuse. Abuse victims often remain silent about their experience and as a result have no outlet to deal with the PTSD. Many of these patients feel that it is in their best interest to never bring it up and move on with their lives as if nothing happened. What they do not know is that these past traumas are affecting them in a very physical way. In some patients, one could argue that the true root cause of their cancer was the abuse that they endured as a child.
Stress and emotions can certainly be a catalyst for the formation of cancer but emotions can also be harnessed to promote the healing process. When an active effort is made to channel this emotional energy, it becomes possible to not only remove the emotional burden holding you back, it is possible to improve the effectiveness of your immune system. At my workshops I show patients how to not only channel this emotional energy, there are two group healings where there is the opportunity to work with this energy as a group.
Some of the most profound healings that I have witnessed resulted from a powerful shift in the patient’s emotional energy. Sometimes a simple acupuncture treatment or a counselling session can bring these deeply rooted emotions to the surface. To optimize the patient’s immune system and promote healing it is critical that the emotional root cause of the problem is addressed. At the end of the day we want to look at every possible factor that is impacting the patient. The emotional components of healing cannot be ignored and they can make a big difference when battling something serious such as cancer.
A Naturopathic Doctor can help you to develop a safe and effective treatment plan to battle cancer on the physical and emotional levels. Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative cancer care. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com
1) Fuller‐Thomson, Esme, and Sarah Brennenstuhl. “Making a link between childhood physical abuse and cancer.” Cancer 115.14 (2009): 3341-3350.
2) Heim, C., et al. “Lower CSF oxytocin concentrations in women with a history of childhood abuse.” Molecular psychiatry 14.10 (2009): 954-958.
3) McGowan, Patrick O., et al. “Epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor in human brain associates with childhood abuse.” Nature neuroscience 12.3 (2009): 342-348.
4) Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen. “The health effects of childhood abuse: four pathways by which abuse can influence health.” Child abuse & neglect 26.6 (2002): 715-729.
5) Brown, David W., et al. “Adverse childhood experiences are associated with the risk of lung cancer: a prospective cohort study.” BMC Public Health 10.1 (2010): 20.