By Causenta Wellness
I am constantly stressed out! Does that mean I will develop cancer?
For many people, life is just busy. You sit in traffic on the way to work, then rush to kids’ activities, head home to cook dinner, then put the kids to bed, leaving you with about half an hour to relax before you’re either back on your email or falling asleep on the couch from pure exhaustion. Then, the next day is wash, rinse, repeat. Talk about stress!
Add to that, the constant pull of our mobile devices. Maybe you feel the need to be the first person on your team to respond or to be available at 10 p.m. for a conference call with an international client. Maybe you’re wanting to create the perfect Pinterest-inspired dinner party for friends or raise $100,000 for your child’s school in under a month. Life is full of stressors.
So, does that cause cancer? No, not on its own. Emotional stress is not pleasant and can lead to anxiety and depression, but is not the same as oxidative stress, which when paired with other risk factors is thought to have a direct correlation to disease development. These risk factors include obesity; diets that are high in fat, sugar, and processed foods; smoking; exposure to radiation, pollution, pesticides, and industrial chemicals; alcohol consumption; and certain medications.
Emotional or “regular stress” can play a bigger role in your long-term health and may have a correlation to disease development, but not enough is known at this point. However, recent studies published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that explore the relationship between oxidative stress and cancer show that oxidative stress is linked to developing cancer.
What is oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress is defined as “an imbalance between production of free radicals and reactive metabolites, so-called oxidants or reactive oxygen species (ROS), and their elimination by protective mechanisms, referred to as antioxidants.” That is a lot of medical jargon, so we’ll break it down for you:
- Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, leading to illness and aging.
- Reactive metabolites are an electrophilic species that bond to proteins and DNA. A buildup of these substances in the body can negatively affect the function of these proteins and DNA, potentially causing toxicity.
- Reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a type of free radical that contains oxygen and easily reacts with other molecules in a cell. A high amount of ROS in cells can damage DNA, RNA, and other proteins making the cell die.
The imbalance of and damage to all of these small parts, which make up a cell, when compacted over time can lead to a breakdown of the body. Basically, oxidative stress describes functionality at the cellular level and is a separate thing from what we typically think of as stress, though studies are being conducted to determine if emotional stress or anxiety may also play a part in oxidative stress.
Are oxidative stress and inflammation related?
The answer is a resounding, yes. When cells are damaged, they get inflamed, so the body tries to repair them naturally through the immune process. When the white blood cells (leukocytes) arrive at the scene, a natural burst of oxygen occurs. This can increase the release and accumulation of ROS at the damaged cell, which can continue the cycle of imbalance.
And, what do oxidative stress and inflammation have to do with cancer?
Over time, this cycle between oxidative stress and inflammation battling in the cells causes chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation and cancer have been linked as far back as 5,000 years ago and in formal medical reports since the 19th century when Rudolf Virchow first noted that “inflammatory cells are present within tumors and that tumors arise at sites of chronic inflammation.”
So, this process is similar to a very long domino effect in the body’s cells. Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants, which can cause cell damage and inflammation. When the body attempts to heal these irritated sites, more oxygen is released causing additional buildup of oxidative stress; this leads to chronic inflammation.
We know that many cancer cells induce an inflammatory response, but the body’s cells do not know the difference between these malignant cells and regular cells. So, they go to the site of inflammation and try to do their jobs, but what ends up happening is that the oxygen burst produced helps the cancer cells reproduce and grow a tumor.
Understanding the connection between these cellular functions and various antioxidant and oxidant enzymes can help researchers and doctors understand more about how to treat various types of cancer, especially with immunotherapies or when trying to make certain types of chemotherapy more effective with less side effects.
What can I do to promote my health and prevent oxidative stress from harming me long-term?
Some oxidative stress, which is naturally occurring after you exercise, is fine. In fact, your body needs a balance of free radicals and antioxidants to remain healthy. It’s when you have a prolonged imbalance that symptoms can arise resulting in diseases like cancer, diabetes, and other conditions.
While you are unlikely to feel any symptoms, there are things you can do to try and prevent a buildup of oxidative stress, which is what leads to the long-term damage of your cells. These preventive measures are things that Dr. Tom Incledon, Founder & CEO of Causenta, has been recommending to patients for decades as part of the basics for living your healthiest life. They include:
- Eating a balanced diet that is rich in colorful fruits and vegetables and fresh foods that have a low glycemic index
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Exercising on a regular basis
- Avoiding environmental toxins
- Not smoking
- Reducing emotional and physical stress
As with some other conditions, oxidative stress is a signal that your body is not functioning at 100 percent. If you make better lifestyle choices, your body will work better on the cellular level and oxidative stress is more likely to remain in the normal range.
If you are interested in learning more about creating a customized wellness plan that can help you limit the effects of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation with one of Causenta’s caring team members today.
If you are currently undergoing treatment for cancer and want to understand more about how oxidative stress and inflammation may be affecting your path to remission, contact us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation. We look forward to helping you get back to feeling your best and beating cancer.