Mind and Body - mindfulness meditation

Holistic Healing in Breast Cancer

The last hundred years of conventional medicine in the Western world has treated the mind and body as separate entities. The advances in technology and pharmaceutics made this more prominent, where the focus became to treat the disease rather than the person as a whole. Fortunately in the the last few decades medicine has seen an influx in alternative therapies that base their theories in treating the mind alongside the body. It makes sense to treat a person and their body as a whole, rather than separate entities which we are clearly not. It just makes sense to think of healing in a holistic way.

Dr. Herbert Benson from the University of Harvard starting studying the mind body connection in 1969. He was a pioneer in the field and discovered that when we are stressed the hypothalamus is stimulated and relates to what is known as the stress response. On the opposite end of the scale, when we relax another part of hypothalamus is stimulated and is counteractive to the stress response. His further research discovered that a number of diseases respond positively to the relaxation response including anxiety, depression, infertility, diabetes, insomnia, asthma, duodenal ulcers, PMS, many others as well as minimizing the side effects of cancer. Just as our body has a fight or flight stress response it also has a true physiological state of ease that allows the body to balance and repair itself after responding to the fight or flight response. He initially stated that there were four key components to achieving the relaxation response; quiet environment, mental device, like a mantra or prayer, passive non-judgemental attitude, and a comfortable position. His book entitled The Relaxation Response published in 1975 was the first of its kind and was not necessarily received well by his peers. By the time Dr. Benson re-wrote his book now called Timeless Healing – The Power and Biology of Healing he was convinced that the majority of health issues are caused or magnified by the chronic effects of the stress response.

Further studies in this field of mind and body came about through the study of epigenetics. The definition being; the environment outside the gene. The Human Genome showed us that the external signals including our thoughts and emotions can influence the protein within the DNA and this determines how that DNA is expressed. The thought years ago that diseases and chronic conditions were hereditary is now being replaced with the knowledge that truly only 2 to 5 % of diseases are caused by faulty genes. Dr. Bruce Lipton did extensive research with pleuripotent stem cells. These are the cells that can become anything that they want when they mature. His controlled studies showed that the outcome of the cells was not their genetics but the environment that they were exposed to. His experiments were done by putting the cells in different petri dishes with different culture mediums or what we think of as the environment. He discovered the environment determined what the cell would become, a muscle cell, fat cell or a bone cell. The genetics of the cells were the same, it was the environment that was different. In our human bodies the petri dish is our blood, or our environment. The composition of our blood is changed by our brain. The brain is what releases the neuropeptides, hormones, and other chemicals that affect us. Therefore we want to be very careful what we are letting our brains release. Will it be dopamine, endorphins or cortisol? Dr. Bruce Lipton’s book The Biology of Belief, explains this in much better detail.

The new emerging field of neuroplasticity shows how we have the capabilities of forming new connections and changing our response to events, in other words rewiring the brain. The age old practice of meditation is now becoming mainstream due to the increased amount of studies showing how it creates neurological states that are stimulating the relaxation response. The study of the placebo and the nocebo affect has been noted in medicine for decades, although it is not being harnessed enough. The power of positive thinking and positive outcomes completely affect one’s brain function and therefore the environment in their body. I heard of a study done where people were given a saline solution and told it was chemotherapy. So many of them totally believed in the placebo, that a whopping 30% of them lost their hair! Seems like a cruel experiment, but it completely demonstrates the power of the mind. The devastating effect of hearing bad results from a medical doctor very often sends a patient into a self-fulfilling prophecy of bad outcomes.

Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote the book Full Catastrophe Living which is based on using mindfulness meditation to face stress pain and illness. His ground-breaking work is giving rise to a whole new field of medicine that is using age old mind body approaches originally derived from yoga and meditation to counterattack stress and stimulate well-being.

Emotional Freedom Technique

Meanwhile the practice of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) was developed in the 90’s by Gary Craig. He had studied Thought Field Therapy with Dr. Roger Callahan who was a psychologist for over 40 years, interested in treating clients with fears and phobias. He developed a method using the bodies “algorithms” or acupuncture points combined with affirmations. The result is a simple method that anyone can learn to use to quickly and effectively reduce stress and fear levels.

Women that are either living with breast cancer or newly diagnosed need as many emotional and physical tools in their arsenal as possible. The practice of both mindfulness meditation and the Emotional Freedom Technique can be helpful in controlling stress and fear and thereby providing a better quality of life.

The goal of this website and my work is to help women with breast cancer overcome their fears and anxieties and to tap into the power of healing with the mind. In 1987 at UCLA Dr. Spiegel did work where he showed that women with metastatic breast cancer lived twice as long as their counterparts if they participated in professionally run support groups. My goal is to provide support. If there is ever a time in a woman’s life where she needs to reach out to women going through the same thing, I believe it is after a breast cancer diagnosis.

There are many alternative supplements, herbs, treatments and food that can help heal the physical body, as well as many mind therapies like affirmations, visualizations, meditations and mantras that help heal the mind. I believe we all have a choice every day and every moment to move toward healing or away from it. My goal is to share ways that women can utilize their inner healing on all levels by incorporating and introducing some of these practices to help gain holistic healing in breast cancer.

Mind and Body - holistic healing