Meditation is a great health and mind maintenance technique and essential component of the healthy lifestyle, but is it powerful enough to prevent the development of so evil disease as pancreatic cancer? Theoretically, that should be the case. In practice, strong scientific evidence based on the clinical research is needed.
There are some positive signs however. Based on the publication in Psychosomatic Medicine, individuals who practice Transcendental Meditation (TM) have about 55% less cancer.
The result is gross, but what are the actual mechanisms?
By measuring heart rate, breath rate and other indicators of the level of activity in the body, scientists have found that TM provides the body with a deep level of rest. This intensely deep rest helps the body to cope with any extraordinary demands, being made on it. There can be times during TM meditation when the rest is very deep, breathing stops and a state of "transcendence" is experienced. The word "transcend" means "go beyond". In this case the mind and body "transcend" or go beyond activity and achieve a state of rest, suspension, stillness, silence, peace. Scientists call this state "restful alertness" because the mind is wide awake while the body is experiencing deep rest.
Everyone has heard of the "fight or flight" response when the body's resources are mobilized to deal with an emergency. TM produces a situation in the body that is the exact opposite of the "fight or flight" response, a kind of "rest and repair" response during which the body can heal itself. Many people are like a car with the gas pedal stuck down. Meditation is pulling back on the gas pedal. The body relaxes into its basic idling, resting rhythms. Whatever imbalance exists in the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, release of stress in the nervous system through regular practice of TM should restore flexibility and normal functioning.
"But here's the kicker. Your nervous system has two operating systems - the 'fight or flight' stress response dominated by the sympathetic nervous system and the relaxation response run by the parasympathetic nervous system. Only when your nervous system is in a relaxation response do your body's self-repair mechanisms function!" - Lissa Rankin, M.D.
Transcendental Meditation is popularly considered to be an "antidote" to stress. All the various "causes" of cancer can be seen as forms of stress.
Fighting Stress to Prevent Cancer
Stress is insidious because it affects us 24 hours each day. Stress can be mental, emotional and physical. Chronic stress exhausts the body. During the deep rest of TM stress dissolves. Stress causes the heart to beat too fast, the muscles to be too tense, the entire metabolism to be too fast. Metabolic waste products are acids (lactic acid, uric acid, etc.), which is a reason why dissolving stress may increase the alkalinity of the body. Get rid of your stress and you can begin to enjoy the benefits of laughter.
Chronic tension in muscles must inevitably obstruct the flow of lymph. Comparisons between TM and other relaxation techniques show that TM is far more effective to relax the body than the other techniques studied. The removal of obstructions to the flow of lymph is absolutely necessary, if all parts of the physiology are to be oxygenated, nourished, and cleansed of metabolic wastes.
The deep rest during meditation combined with a more efficient (less stressed) metabolism following meditation will help conserve the body's supply of respiratory enzymes. In addition, cells functioning at a lower metabolic rate will be easier to keep saturated with oxygen. Respiratory enzymes and oxygen saturation are key to cancer prevention.
Natural killer cells detect and destroy cancer cells. People with less stress have more natural killer cells.
Stress causes the body to produce adrenaline, which in turn raises blood sugar as part of the "fight or flight" response. The sugar is meant to provide energy for the muscles, but in our modern world, stress rarely results in muscular exertion so the sugar remains in the blood. High blood sugar feeds cancer.
Cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress. Cancer patients with more cortisol die sooner. Cancer patients with normal cortisol live longer.
Telomerase, Stress, and Cancer
Reduction of stress encourages the growth of telomere, which allows cells to continue dividing. Our cells divide and grow; a telomere – a small DNA cap at the end of each chromosome - protects our DNA from damage. The enzyme Telomerase, repairs the telomeres and ‘keeps DNA young'. Current research reveals stressed people have shorter telomeres. Shorter telomeres appear to predispose us to disease and cancer and lead to shorter lives. Yet astonishingly, it has been discovered meditation appears to stall the process.
Professor Dean Ornish, from the Preventive Medicine Research Institute at the University of California in San Francisco, US, said: "The comprehensive lifestyle changes may significantly reduce the risk of a wide variety of diseases and premature mortality. Our genes, and our telomeres, are a predisposition, but they are not necessarily our fate.”
It is well known that each time a cell divides, its telomeres shorten. In the end they can no longer ensure chromosomal stability and genetic mistakes start to occur. Eventually the cell freezes and stops dividing, a state known as senecense, or destroys itself. The speed at which telomeres shorten varies in individuals and biological ageing is faster in people with rapidly shortening telomeres. Short telomere length in white blood cells is especially associated with age-related diseases, including many types of cancer.
If you Have Cancer
For people with cancer, meditation can help alleviate some of the anxiety they may be feeling about diagnosis and treatment.
Other Stress Reduction Techniques
There are many other stress reduction techniques and approaches, you can use to improve your life and work on the cancer prevention. If you have genetic predisposition, or related health history records, for pancreatic cancer, you should find one, fitting your personal preferences and lifestyle.
For matter of this publication, we will present two other approaches for your review.
1. Breathing Exercises
At the core of life is breath. Laughing and sighing are the body’s natural ways of getting us to breathe deeply.
That is why we often feel calmer or rejuvenated after these experiences. Anxiety and stress can make us take short, shallow breaths. Shallow breathing, which does not allow enough oxygen to enter our bodies, can make us even more anxious. Try this four-step breathing exercise.
It can be done anywhere, anytime:
1. Take in a deep breath from your diaphragm (this is the muscle between your lungs and abdomen).
2. Hold the breath for several seconds—however long is comfortable for you—and then exhale slowly.
3. Repeat steps first and second steps twice.
4. Afterward, relax for a moment and let yourself feel the experience of being calm.
2. Guided Imagery
This stress-reducing technique combines deep breathing and meditation. As you practice deep breathing, imagine a peaceful scene or setting, perhaps from a memory. Once you are relaxed, you can create a “wakeful dream” in which, for example, you envision pain being washed away or your body becoming stronger.
Many people practice guided imagery exercises while listening to recordings of ambient sounds. These are usually music or sounds from nature, such as waterfalls or ocean waves. Sometimes just listening to ambient sounds is enough to relax your mind and briefly transport you emotionally to a place in which you feel safer and more secure. Other mind/body practices are yoga, tai chi, and Qigong.
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