Cancer and Allostatic Load
Stress does not cause cancer. However the suppressing effect of long-term stress on a person’s immune system is a proven scientific fact. The negative impact stress has on immune function and hormonal balance not only render our body more vulnerable to carcinogenics and other disease agents but it also makes it less resilient and therefore it is more difficult for the body to heal.
Having cancer can put the body into allostatic overload and that means it will be more difficult and may take longer for you to regain your health.
What is Allostatic Load?
Allostatic load is the long-term negative physical affects that show up over time when an individual is exposed to chronic stress. Allostatic load represents the physical changes that happen due to the increased neural or neuroendocrine response that results from chronic stress. 1
Stress hormones including epinephrine and cortisol have protective benefits in the short term (think fight or flight response). These hormones are essential for adaptation, maintenance of homeostasis, which is a state of equilibrium between interdependent systems in the body including neuroendocrine, immune system, autonomic nervous system, and central nervous system. However, over long periods of time when called upon often, these systems can get out of whack causing an “allostatic load” that can fast-track disease processes. Allostatic load can be gauged as chemical imbalances in several of the body’s systems: autonomic nervous, central nervous, neuroendocrine, and immune. 1
When the body overproduces the fight or flight hormones – epinephrine and cortisol – on a constant or even irregular basis, these hormones can eventually weaken the body’s immune system to the point where an illness can take over. And not only cancers, there are a slew of illnesses that can occur.
The four conditions that lead to allostatic load are:
1. Repeated frequency of stress responses
2. Failure to deal with these repeated stressors in a positive way
3. Failure to turn off the stress response in a timely manner
4. Inappropriate response that causes the body to overcompensate in other areas i.e. creating too much of a hormone or chemical. 1
Research from the scientific field of Psychoneuroimmunology or PNI suggest that people respond differently to the same stressful event and their reactions depend on how they perceive it. This is actually good news. It is good news because perception is the one factor in the equation of our experience we can change.
Let’s say a loved one has died. Depending on how a person perceives that loss – as sad but part of the circle of life or as a major threat to their wellbeing – that person will either withdraw or become agitated because the body is responding to what’s going on in the brain, not what’s actually happening in the environment. 2 So much of life is about perception.
Ways to Change Perception
In my practice I support my clients with clinical hypnotherapy, which primarily engages their subconscious mind, and addresses the beliefs at the root of their perception.
Hypnotherapy is offered as an adjunct method of support to clients medical care. It does not involve medication and does not interfere with any current medication or cancer treatments you may be taking.
Working to change what we believe is possible for us or what our bodies is capable of, as in recovery, can help you look at experiences in a new light. Teach you how to let go of the stressors that are weighing you down and wreaking havoc on your body. This type of therapy can help you learn how to proceed without fear or anxiety and teaches your brain to be a friend and not a foe.
If you have questions about PNI and how it can help improve your health and wellbeing, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or give me a call at 617.564.0707.