Does Lowering Stress Fight Cancer? How Cortisol Relates to Metastasis

7 minute read

High cortisol levels are something we try and avoid already, but what if you found out that lowering cortisol levels also prevents certain types of cancer? The goal to reduce cortisol suddenly becomes more important.

Recent studies have found that lower cortisol lowers the chances of metastasis following successful pancreatic tumor surgery. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” causes all sorts of health issues, so here is what you need to know about cancer and reducing stress.

How Cortisol Wakes Up Dormant Cancer Cells

Previous research found that pancreatic cancer has a tendency to spread after surgical removal of a tumor. During a two-week period following the surgery, patients have a compromised immune system as a result of the post-operation spike in cortisol and stress.

| Related: How to Lower Your Cortisol Levels in 6 Easy Steps |

While the killer T-cells known to keep cancer cells in check are not at optimal levels, dormant pancreatic cancer cells have the opportunity to travel to the nearby liver or other organs.

Your immune system is actually very adept at killing metastasizing cancer cells. Unfortunately, when lagging as a result of high stress levels, their performance is hindered.

This discovery has led researchers to believe that this two-week window is a great opportunity to focus efforts on reducing cortisol levels, so immune cells can replenish. In doing this, the body can effectively prevent cancer cells from travelling.

When it comes to pancreatic cancer, surgery is not always an option. After successful removal of a pancreatic tumor, there have been several cases in which once-dormant cancer cells wake up and start traveling around the body.

When surgery is an option, people get hope and these rogue cancer cells showing up after the fact can be discerning. Stress seems to be a dominant factor in the progression of cancer.

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Discovering that regulating stress and cortisol has an impact on the activity of these cancer cells is a big step forward. Stress in general puts your body at increased risk for disease and illness, but this risk is increased when your body is already compromised, such as after a surgical procedure. Removing cortisol and stress from the equation can help to prevent cancer metastasis and boost overall health in general.

Cortisol and Your Health

In a life-threatening situation, the stress response can save your life. The release of stress hormones, like cortisol, gear your body up for the fight-or-flight response, which you need when danger is lurking.

| Related: Understanding Stress and Anxiety Disorders |

However, exposure to stress on a regular basis promotes the same physiological response, as your brain is unable to detect the difference between a real and a perceived threat. When you worry, the same amount of cortisol is released, but when it is not needed it can be damaging to your health in many ways, such as

Headaches: Too much cortisol contributes to serious headaches because it hypersensitizes the brain to pain.

Disrupted sleep: When cortisol levels are high all day long, you stay alert at night and are unable to get the restful sleep you need.

Weight gain: Excess cortisol disrupts the body and causes you to gain weight, particularly around the abdomen, and even when you

Impaired immunity: Cortisol deactivates your built-in defense mechanisms, leaving your immune system weakened.

Gut problems: Your gastrointestinal system is extremely sensitive to stress hormones, which is why digestion stops when you need to fight or flee. When there is excess cortisol in your system you are more likely to experience heartburn, acid reflux, nausea, bloating, and abdominal cramping.

Anxious feelings: The activities of cortisol and other stress hormones are known to cause jittery feelings and a sense of picnic, leading you to feel anxious much of the time or even promote to developing an anxiety disorder.

Beyond promoting the movement of dormant cancer cells, the presence of cortisol can cause serious harm to your overall health.

Our bodies are not designed to remain in a constant state of awareness or under constant stress. Over time, damage will be done that increases your risk of serious disease and even death, so it becomes essential to keep stress, and therefore cortisol levels, under control.

Ways to Naturally Reduce Cortisol Levels

You do not have to be battling cancer to benefit from reducing stress and cortisol levels in your life. Knowing the extensive damage too much cortisol can do should persuade you to regulate it as much as possible.

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Thankfully, there are several natural ways you can regulate cortisol levels in your body, so that stress response is not always on high alert.

Get a good night’s sleep: Disrupted sleep causes hormonal balances which contribute to fatigue and excess cortisol production. Set up a sleep schedule and bedtime routine to promote regular and deep sleep every night.

Learn to relax: Relaxation exercises like yoga and deep breathing as well as meditation can help promote relaxation in your life. When done as a regular part of your routine, your body becomes better equipped to handle stress, and cortisol production can be regulated.

Even listening to relaxing music helps to reduce cortisol levels.

Exercise: The key to exercising for stress management is not to do too much. Intense workouts increase cortisol production for a short time after you are finished.

Moderate to light exercise, however, has been shown to regulate cortisol levels and does not produce any excess for you to have to worry about later.

Maintain healthy relationships: Your social life may not seem like it has much to do with stress hormones, but the two are closely integrated. Studies have shown that having a strong support network in times of stress reduces the amount of stress you feel and therefore the cortisol produced.

The Bottom Line

By keeping cortisol levels low and stress to your body at bay, you can protect your health and prevent serious disease. Even if you are battling or recovering from cancer, reduction is cortisol levels will protect you from potentially harmful dormant cancer cells.

Make cortisol a priority, so that your immune system can function as needed to protect you from the real threats out there.

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