Is there a link between stress and cancer?

In this third episode of our podcast Lothar Hirneise and Klaus Pertl are talking about this important and very overlooked question. We hope your will enjoy this podcast and we would love to get your view on this important question.

Episode 3 – Is There a Link Between Stress and Cancer?

Klaus:     Welcome to our podcast. Great that you’re back. We very much appreciate your interest and, we have already gotten some super feedback from the first podcast, so please send us your messages whenever you want. Contact us here, give us your questions, we are very keen to support you. We have more than 20 years of experience in this field. We have spoken to more than 10,000 people with cancer. And in our program, to more than 1,500 people. We have supported them actively on their journey. And today, as always, my good friend Lothar Hirneise is back – and we’re gonna talk today about – go a little bit deeper – into the link between stress and cancer. We’ll talk a little bit about Dr. Fryda, the wonderful woman we both met in Germany. And, we’re gonna talk a little bit about the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system. There’s a strong link between that feeling of stress and the body’s response to that. So Lothar, let’s kick it off with the theory of Dr. Fryda.

Lothar:   Yeah. Maybe I’ll talk a few words about uh, uh this famous and very friendly lady who died quite too early. Dr. Fryda was working in a famous hospital of Dr. Issels in Bavaria (South Germany). He became very popular not only in Germany, because it was the first doctor who had a cancer hospital. And in this hospital he did alternative cancer therapies. And of course, he also had very famous patients from all over the world. Dr. Fryda, wanted to do a work with the University of Vienna, in Austria, about hormones, about different kinds of hormones. And for that, she started to check the adrenaline hormone, in the body of the cancer patients in this hospital. And she was then very surprised when she discovered that cancer patients had a very low level. You know the normal level is around 20. And most of the patients, they had less than two. So, about 10% or less – what, what is the normal level of adrenaline in the body. And she was really surprised because she thought, all these patients in the hospital – most patients have been in the final stage, cancer patients – and she of course thought, that they would have a very, high levels of adrenaline, because we all know, adrenaline is the hormone which we normally having in our system when we have stress. And of course, as a cancer patient, in the final stage, you have stress. So she was totally surprised. This was the first thing. And then she did something – how can I say – very interesting. She asked herself, “what does this mean? And why do these people are having so low, levels of adrenaline?” So you have to understand, there are two hormones, they’re working very close together. This is: insulin and adrenaline. Insulin is bringing sugar into the cell – we all know that – and adrenaline is the main hormone that is  mainly responsible that the sugar goes out of the cell. When you now think about this that your adrenaline level goes down to 10% or less. The first question is, “how is this possible?” Let me firstly say, “how this is notpossible?” It’s notpossible if you have a big, big stress just for a few days or for few weeks. Then of course you still have a lot of adrenaline in the body, and this is not a problem at all. But, the adrenaline level can go down if you have stress over years. How is this possible? For example, you are married with somebody who drinks too much alcohol. And, so you don’t have to have stress every day because he’s not drunken, for example, your husband or your wife every day. But, every day, you are thinking about it. Every day, you are worried, that maybe something happens. So, if you are married with somebody who drinks too much alcohol, you have, every day, stress. And then, over the years, you know, your kidneys, who are normally producing the adrenaline, they are not able to produce the amount of adrenaline that you are using. And this is the reason why then, the adrenaline level goes down. But this is a long, long process. This is not happening over a few days or weeks or months. Normally this is only happening over many years. And this is the challenge now. How to bring it back up. This is also not an easy thing. You can’t inject just adrenaline, because this stays only for a few minutes in your blood. It takes a long, long time. Normally, a lot of month, even years. So, and then, what happens in a cell if the adrenaline level is very low. There is now too much sugar in cells. The sugar stays too long in the cells. And then, this is very bad for our cells, because the cells have only two options now: the first one is to die; or the second option is to get rid of the sugar. And this is exactly what a cancer cell is doing here. The cancer cell finds a way to get rid of the sugar – in this way, that it stops the oxygen going into the mitochondrias, to produce the ATP. Then the cell is able to burn down, normally, it’s 18 times more –and it can even go higher here, but let me say, it, it burns down 20 times more sugar than a healthy cell. And so, this system is then helping the cell to survive. And here comes a very, very important and interesting point: you can see on this example, a cancer cell is not a bad thing at all. A cancer cell is helping you to surviving. And this is maybe, a totally different way of thinking.

Klaus:     I think we have to add, helps to survive, in the short term.

Lothar:   Yes! Yes, that’s right, you know. But this is like we each illness. Let me tell you, what is for me, a so called illness. For me, there are no illnesses. For me, an illness is nothing else than a regulation system of the body or even of the mind. So let me give you one or two examples here. For example, if you have a fever, is this an illness? Of course this is an illness and normally you get something to bring the, the fever down, for example, like antibiotics. But, is fever really a bad thing?  No! Fever is helping to burn down for example, bacteria or virus. Fever is helping, that the cells can communicate very fast. So you see, in the beginning, fever is a very, very good thing which is helping the body. But if you have fever too long, it will kill you.

Klaus:     Yeah.

Lothar:   Or high blood pressure, which is a big, big thing in medicine. Okay, so, is the high blood pressure bad? Of course, everybody would say, “this is a very, very bad thing, because it can cause a stroke or heart attack or something like this”. But think about – in thebeginning, a high blood pressure is bringing the blood better to your small vessels and also better to the organs. And it’s helpingall the cells in your body. So this is not, in the beginning, a bad thing. And the same is for the tumor. Is a tumor a bad thing? No, not in the beginning. Because a tumor – just to give you a few examples – a tumor is burning down sugar. A tumor can collect a lot of poisons in your body. A tumor can collect and kill, for example, parasites or fungus. We all know fungus, if the fungus goes to your brain for example, you can die very fast. So it’s quite better if the fungus is in your breast instead of your brain. And so on, and so on. I could tell you here, a lot of reasons why having a tumor is a good thing. But, then, later, of course, like with fever, like with all the illnesses, the illness is killing you. But once again, in the beginning, all these symptoms or how I call it, all these regulation systems are helping you.

Klaus:     Absolutely. And I think, this is a huge, huge, breakthrough, because again, it takes away the ‘victim consciousness’, and you become more aware that this has a purpose, and you understand, in the short-term, it helps you. That’s the good news. The not so good news is if you don’t do anything about the causes – if you change the causes then, that’s the fantastic news, because now it tells you what you need to do. If you’re not changing the cause, obviously it will continue, and that’s the bad news.

Lothar:   Exactly.

Klaus:     So, I think a very interesting point when it comes to cancer and stress, is the whole understanding of the sympathetic nerve system and the parasympathetic nervous system. And, what I think science has proved is this, that, if the stress responses is activated, it’s usually activated though the sympathetic nervous system, and then the ‘fight and flight’ response takes place. And this means the body is prepared to fight something, and it’s old evolutionary program that’s very important for survival. But it also means from a body-functioning point, that some of the body functions, that is not needed– they are not needed in a stress ‘fight or flight’ response, are shut down. For example, the intestines – the gut. So, that is the seat of the immune system. So what I think the mind-body experts are finding out now, is that, if the sympathetic nervous system is activated, basically, the immune system is shut down more or less. Now, the parasympathetic nervous system is called, “the relaxation”, and interesting enough, the “digestion response”. So, it means we relax and we digest, so the immune system in the gut is activated again. And, it means literally, if you’re stressed, your body cannot relax and digest. And therefore, the immune system is basically not working completely. And I think, this is also an interesting understanding, that the hormones play again a very important role in the system. And if we have too often the sympathetic nervous system activated – and this can be activated by mind-stress in a sense –  then, the immune system is not working properly, and the regulation is not working, but also the repair is not working. What are your views on those nervous systems.

Lothar:   I agree totally. What you said that there’s nothing to add from my side. Maybe one thing, I would like to show you also. This regulation system of the nerve system shows also that we – how can I say it – that we have a lot of old, systems in our body. System we maybe do not need, or we really don’t use it in a perfect way nowadays. So it’s the same with the tumor. This old system that a cancer cell can stop using oxygen, was maybe very important – let me say – ten, twenty, fifty thousand years ago. Like you said, just a few seconds ago, you know the old system, to run away, if something happens. This was very, very important a few thousand years ago. But today, it’s so, so different. Today, we don’t need some of this – let me say – old evolutionary systems. But, we still have them and we have to find a way, how to live with them.

Klaus:     Absolutely.  And I think from our experience, and from the feedback of thousands of people we have spoken over the last twenty years, there is definitely something we cannot ignore, and that is that there is an increase in stress. And there is an increase in lifestyle stress more or less, and it’s not an increase in acute stress, which is ‘now and then’ stress: it is an increase in chronic stress. And therefore, that’s why we address it. Even if it’s not so easy to put a direct relationship between stress and cancer, but there’s definitely a link to the whole issue.

Lothar:   Absolutely. Yeah, well, I agree with that 100%. I also agree – like you said you know- it’s not that we have today more stress than let me say, the people 200 years ago. Not at all. But the way how we feel stress, the way in what we expect from life, I think this changed so much in the last years, that we really can say, people are having more stress, even – how can I say – if there is no need to have this kind of stress. But, people, they feel it. We talked to so many patients in the last twenty years, and I agree totally. Even I think sometimes, “Why is this so bad for this person, or why does this person feel so bad?” It doesn’t matter how I feel. The important thing is: how much stress is the cancer patient having? And quite often, they have a lot of stress.

Klaus:     A very odd and strange thing we also experienced: we sometimes have, so called, “very healthy people” coming to us, in a sense, they are definitely not overweight, they have definitely done yoga and other physical exercises, they have a perfect body mass index, they are not diabetics, they do relax, meditate, and they have cancer. And then, there is that big question, and for them it’s a big question, “why is this happening?” And I think the link, that is here the real issue, it’s definitely something on the stress area. And then when those people take time to reflect, they completely agree. For example, I had a conversation the other day with a lady, and she’s a complete perfectionist. So basically, she’s her worst enemy. And she basically insults herself on a daily basis. Because she never fulfills the expectation that she herself has about something. And it could be little things, you know, how she talked, how she walked, how she went shopping, if she responded in a certain way, if she didn’t achieve a certain task, that she set out herself to do, and she didn’t achieve it, so she has this massive perfectionist drive, which is a complete stressor to the system.

Lothar:   Absolutely. We all know this. Another example, is, if people are not having money, and of course, if you don’t have money, you have stress through not having money. And then later maybe, the same people, they earn money or they get some more money, or, they even become rich. But, do they have less stress? Quite often not. And this is exactly what I said before. It doesn’t matter how we see a thing. The important thing is, how much stress is somebody feeling.

Klaus:     Exactly. And that’s just the word, how much do they feel, perceive. So it’s not an objective thing; it’s a very much a subjective thing. And by the way, just to complete this podcast today, from our perspective, we see basically three ways to dealing with stress. The number one issue is: to understand the source of the stress, and see if you can avoid it, or stop it, or at least reduce it, so that the stressors get reduced. Secondly, learn relaxation, meditation, mindfulness practice, do it on a daily basis, so that your battery gets loaded up with energy. And thirdly, that’s what we just talked about, “let’s look if we can change the interpretation, the thinking, how do we feel about something”. Because, if the bus is late, usually, there is nothing to worry about, there’s a second bus coming. But, we get so upset about this.. that we missed that one bus, and that’s something in our mind, it’s a self-talk, it’s the belief system we have about being late, and that’s something we can change. So those are definitely three ways of dealing with stress. Lothar, thank you very much for today, for the podcast, I think it’s a very important one. I think over the next podcasts, we will probably always come back to the issue of stress. But I hope we could share a little bit about our insight. Thank you very much Lothar, and thank you the listeners for listening in today again. And, until the next podcast, all the best from Klaus

Lothar:   And all the best from Lothar.

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