Stress and disease

It’s well known that stress has an effect on our immune systems. Recently, PBS aired a Scientific American Frontiers called “Worried Sick.” You can watch online HERE. The program is too short to go into any great detail, but there are some interesting facts presented. It’s clear that such things as anger and turbulent relationships can be unhealthy.

Of great interest to me has been a recent thread on the MM list. Many of us can recall stressful times preceeding the diagnosis. Was some event responsible for weakening the immune system just enough to give cancer a foothold? In my case, it was job-related stress (years and years of it). Others spoke of physical and emotional trauma, including injury or surgery, the death of a loved one and divorce.

It’s said that with the millions of cell processes going on in the body every day, something inevitably gets out of control in all of us. A healthy immune system tackles the errant process and we are none the wiser. In some of us, the renegade cells avoid destruction by the immune system, and are allowed to carry on with their deadly mission.

Can healthy people stay healthy by learning to deal with stress better? Is it possible to reverse disease by reducing stress? Some experts believe it’s possible. In The New Physics of Healing, Deepak Chopra talks about the ability of some patients to recover from disease using the mind-body connection (in addition to traditional medicine in some cases). He doesn’t know why the various methods used work for some people and not for others, so it’s not simply a matter of having the will to survive and employing some program of meditation, for example, in addition to traditional treatment.

Whether you’re in good health or not, help your immune system by dealing with stress. Take care of yourself. Get help for depression or grief. Express your emotions. Use meditation or other relaxation techniques to reduce the effects of day-to-day stress. Examine your relationships. Some can be repaired, while others should be made a thing of the past.

Did you see the PBS series, “Healing and the Mind?” I haven’t seen it, but am considering getting the companion book.