Enough pink - let’s talk about the connection between breast health and repressed emotions

Enough pink - let’s talk about the connection between breast health and repressed emotions

Jena recently hosted an Instagram Live with the amazing Dr. Christian Gonzalez, a naturopathic doctor who specializes in integrative oncology, working to heal patients from cancer by combining gentle, preventative therapies alongside conventional and traditional western medicine approaches. Head here to read a summary of the awesome conversation she had with Dr. G.

What we learnt is that Cancer is not just a physical disease, it’s multifactorial, there are huge psychosomatic, mental, emotional, and spiritual effects of it that very often go overlooked.

In today’s blog post, we are going to go deeper into the connection between breast cancer and repressed emotions within the body as well as exploring the two key emotional states that increase the likelihood of a body experiencing a cancer episode.  

Ok, let’s go. Let’s start with the heartbreaking problem.

Breast cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer in females worldwide and despite there being over 200 types of cancer, breast cancer has now overtaken lung cancer as the leading cancer in the world in 2020.

In 2020, over 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer and there were 685,000 deaths across the world.

Things are not slowing. By 2040, the global cancer burden is predicted to be sitting at around 28.4 million cases - an insanely high 45% increase from last year, 2020.

Breast cancer, like many cancers, is on the rise and is taking far more lives than it should be.

What is cancer? Understanding the traditional approach

The historic approach to viewing cancer, particularly within western medicine, is that it is a cellular failure or glitch in the cells of the body - where some cells start to grow and reproduce on their own and uncontrollably duplicate, on and on and on, until a tumor (which is a group of cells) forms.

The cancerous cells can then invade and destroy tissues around the site of origin, and can move into organs, as well as shifting into the transport systems of the body which can allow it to spread, at speed, to multiple areas of the body.

The traditional and western approach doesn’t often dive into the root cause of what exactly is going on in the body that will be provoking or supporting this uncontrollable divide of cells.

And the more holistic approach?

When we look at cancer in a more holistic approach, we understand that there are root cause drivers that are often causing these cells to replicate and duplicate.

Some practitioners believe that when the body is living in a toxic state, cells may start to divide in a bid to form non-toxic enclaves of cells (think: tumors). In the holistic world, cancer can actually be viewed as the body trying to help you - alerting you to a less than ideal situation on the inside, that your body is trying to help you with.

Of course, there are a huge number of factors involved in cancer formation (including pathogens, chemicals, and toxin exposures, radiation exposure, diet, nutrient deficiencies, etc) but the holistic approach also strongly believes that emotional suppression is a critical part of any cancer cell's journey.

And the connection to emotions?

The connection is real.

Even the often conservative CDC (which is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has stated 85% of all diseases (including cancers) have an emotional element.

Going one step further, it is believed that every type of cancer is associated with a specific area in the brain. Specific areas of the brain will correlate to particular emotions and thoughts, as well as specific areas within the body.

In short, repressing certain emotions and feelings can lead to the development of specific types of cancer.

Back to basics - the connection between emotional health, stress, and cancer

In addition to suppressing specific emotions, it is thought that there are two key emotional states that increase the likelihood of a body experiencing a cancer episode.

The two key emotion states and experiences are:

1 - acute and high-stress traumatic shocks and experiences; and

2 - chronic, long term stress over a longer period of time

With the high-stress incidents, this emotional traumatic shock can essentially ‘blow a fuse’ in the brain, which will interfere with the communication with a specific organ, gland, cell, or tissue. This breakdown in communication can increase the likelihood of cells not behaving as they should. Cue, cancer.

With the longer-term incidents, the ongoing trauma and stress that a person experiences over a longer period of time can cause increased levels of cortisol that can suppress and weaken the immune system, thus weakening the body’s ability to kill the initial cancer cells before they develop - or making the body particularly vulnerable to other factors existing within the body that may also be a root cause of cancer.

In Chinese medicine, it is also thought that cancer can be caused by the physical manifestation in the body of emotional qi (energy) blockages. They believe that an emotional experience that does not get fully expressed, felt or processed, cannot heal and move through the body, so it becomes trapped inside the body’s Meridien systems and organ systems.

Much like a physical injury that needs to be given time, love, and affection to heal, emotional experiences need to be felt and processed too.

As Bessel Van Der Kolk once said, the body keeps the score, the memory of trauma and stressful experiences can become encoded into the physical body.

Let’s talk studies

Recent research from Stanford (linked here) has shown that women who repress their emotions are more likely to disrupt their levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body and experience imbalances and fluctuations in a hormone that should, ideally, remain stable.

In addition to that, earlier studies from Stanford have also suggested that imbalanced and fluctuating cortisol levels can also predict early fatality in women who are already struggling with breast cancer.

What we can take from this is that high cortisol and prolonged stress states may, in future, be linked to the onset of breast cancer.

The National Cancer Institute went one step further with its research into Psychological Stress and Cancer. Their research concluded that the body’s neuroendocrine response (this is the hormones you release into your blood whenever your nervous system is stimulated) can directly alter the way that cells function, particularly the important processes in the cells that actually protect against the formation of cancer or tumors (ie. regulation of cell growth and replication, DNA repair, etc).

Which emotions do I need to be aware of?

Well, in order to be laying the foundations for a fully functioning, self-healing, beautiful body, we should be looking to process all of our emotional experiences and connected emotions - but, in the realm of breast cancer, it is particularly the emotions of anger and fear that are gaining traction as being most damaging.

The National Cancer Institute psychologically analyzed a cohort of breast cancer patients and concluded that ‘extreme suppression of anger’ was the most commonly identified characteristic within the cohort.

This idea was also supported by the Journal of Psychosomatic research that also concluded that ‘Repressing anger actually magnifies the body’s exposure to physiological stress, thereby increasing the risk of cancer’.

How do I deal with emotions and not just repress them?

What this means in practice is we need to be working through the emotions we feel - both positive and negative - as well as in the long, mid and short term.

We need to look both backward and forwards. Backward to the emotions you may already have stored and bedded down into the cells, tissues, fascia, muscle, organs, bones, and systems of the body - as well as feeling into the present, and being aware that the future emotions and experiences that you are going to go through have the power to impact your physical health.

To release previously blocked emotions, we are big fans of looking at both the physical body and the emotional body - using techniques such as:

  • Bodywork - to release the cellular memories from our muscles, tissue & fascia;
  • EFT / Tapping - drawing on the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture, tapping on specific acupressure points to release blocked energy meridians;
  • The Emotion Code - working with a practitioner to directly work with your subconscious in order to identify and release emotional and physical blockages.
  • Move - whether you want to run, jump, shout, scream, laugh, dance more, moving the body is a critical part of the puzzle to help release blockages in the physical body.
  • Breathwork -

Looking to the future, it’s important to:

  • Reduce cortisol across the board - prioritize time for self-care, get out in nature, breath clean air, meditate, focus on gratitude;
  • Continue to move your body and alleviate any future emotions bedding down into your body;
  • Cultivate a loving, caring network of people around you to allow you to express how you feel to those living around you;
  • Build a trusted relationship with a therapist who can hold space for you to feel through any negative experiences that may arise

Ultimately, understanding and managing our emotions is a critical part of the jigsaw puzzle of reducing the likelihood of our body entering a disease state.

The connection between mind, body and stressful experiences can never be under-estimated. And the good news?

Managing these emotions, and approaching your health with love, care, and compassion, for both you, your past, and your future - may just hold the key to a large part of your healing.