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Stress, Adrenals and Breast Cancer

 

I often get this question from patients, “Can stress cause breast cancer?”

 

Nothing can affect your adrenal function more than stress. Under prolonged stress or duress your adrenals will produce high levels of cortisol and have a low DHEA output. It is a well known fact that increased levels of cortisone and decreased levels of DHEA are usually present in breast cancer patients. 

 

There are different types of stress that we all experience; emotional, mental, psycho-spiritual, physical, chemical, nutritional, and traumatic. 

 

This article will only deal with three types of stress – emotional, mental and psycho-spiritual.

 

The emotional type of stress that contributes to breast cancer is most likely related to traumatic events like death of a loved one, history of child abuse, and emotional suppression.

 

Mental stress usually can manifest as anxiety, anger, guilt, loneliness, sadness, fear, perfectionism, etc.

 

Psycho-Spiritual stress can be the result of spiritual misalignment and general state of unhappiness. 

 

Any type of stress and subsequent high levels of cortisol cause Estrogen Dominance, which is a hallmark of breast cancer. There are several ways in which stress causes Estrogen Dominance.

 

Insulin resistance - A high level of cortisol causes insulin resistance along with resistance to thyroid hormones. In turn this leads to weight gain and additional estrogen burden. 

 

Aromatase activity – A high level of cortisol increases aromatase activity in fatty tissue that converts androgens to estrogens.

 

Ovarian dysfunction - Stress causes ovarian dysfunction that leads to luteal insufficiency and subsequent estrogen dominance.

 

Low Melatonin levels - Stress and high levels of cortisol have an inverse affect on melatonin production at night. Low melatonin levels result in overproduction of estrogens and activates estrogen receptors in breast cells.

 

So, what can you do to get out of the vicious circle of prolonged stress?

 

Here are some suggestions that you may find helpful:  

 

Start practicing relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, meditation and visualization to help you let go of your mental worries.

 

Start a regular fitness program. Physical activity is one of the best ways to clear tension and build energy. Even regular walking can help you get rid of a lot of stress.

 

Change you perceptions and attitudes. Holding on to frustrations, grudges or being a victim are not in your own best interest. If your existing ideas and views are not serving you, perhaps it is time to examine them and change them.

 

Express your feelings. Let’s face it, unexpressed emotions can and often do lead to pain and illness. Emotions need regular and healthy venting.

 

Develop good relationships. Friends in whom you can confide and find support are indispensable. We all need support from time to time, yet it is just as rewarding to give as well as to receive support.

 

Eat nourishing food that supports your body’s natural immune system.  This in turn will help in the healing process and help you cope with other sources of stress.

 

Finally, Have More Fun. Schedule regular activity that you enjoy whatever it is. Some like listening to music or painting or reading poetry or walking in the park, anything that creates that place of refuge for you. I truly believe that this is the place of true healing for us.

 

I encourage you to pick one of these suggested practices, and try it on this week…

 

Alexander Mostovoy is a clinician, writer, researcher, and public speaker, and is recognized as a leading authority on breast health and cancer prevention. He has lectured extensively across Canada, the United States, South America, and Europe, and has educated and trained physicians in breast cancer prevention and the use of medical thermography. He is the best selling author of the book Breast Cancer Is A Preventable Disease and a co-creator of the Breast Cancer Prevention Global Virtual Conference. He is currently in the post-production stage of a documentary on Breast Cancer called Daisies Do Not Grow In Cement.

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