Keep anger from ‘eating you up’ with disease

There’s an awful lot of anger in the world these days…

You may feel powerless about what’s behind the anger, but regardless of the cause, if you let it, it can rob you of your good health… or even kill you.

Anger is quite a powerful emotion and has been shown to manifest in “powerful diseases.” But whether anger is expressed or suppressed seems to be a determining factor in how it can impact your body…

Let it go

It’s not always possible to keep from getting angry. You may see a news headline that sends you reeling. Or have a bad experience that pushes your anger button. And suddenly you feel the anger — it’s there before you even realize it.

But what you do with it is where you do have control. If you want to keep it from eating you up with disease, you’ve got to let it out and let it go…

Here’s why…

The California Breast Cancer Research program reviewed a 1989 study in which anger was found to have a profound impact on the survival rates of women in a group therapy program: The survival rate of women who openly expressed their anger was double that of women in the same group who constrained their anger.

According to the review, “if women have a healthy, responsive stress hormone level when they enter the study — they benefit from the group intervention in the following ways. They appear to live longer if over time in the group they increase the duration of moments of genuine positive emotional expression, particularly affection. They also live longer if they express longer moments of direct anger, fear, and sadness.”

If handling our emotions in a healthy way helps produce a better outcome from certain diseases, what could be going on in our bodies to cause that? A study on men with prostate cancer may provide some insight…

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The study conducted at the University of Miami found that the men in this study group who had a greater suppression of anger had fewer natural killer cells — the key immune system cells for fighting cancer. Additionally, the men who were more open about expressing anger had natural killer cells with greater cytotoxicity — meaning they were more effective.

But the key here is learning to express and let your anger in a healthy way. Because, if you have heart disease, overzealous expressions of anger can be deadly…

One study found that Middle-aged men and women, who are prone to anger, are significantly more at risk of dying from coronary heart disease (CHD), regardless of their other risk factors. The Normative Aging study found that individuals who have greater difficulty controlling their anger had a 3-fold increase in CHD than those who had less of an anger management issue.

How does anger affect disease in your body?

You may have read that inflammation is the root cause of chronic disease. Well, it turns out that negative emotions increase inflammation in the body.

One way it manifests itself in relation to our immune system is through a nerve called the vagus — a direct line of communication between the brain and our immune system.

The vagus nerve is capable of lowering heart rate and blood pressure, regulating stress response and sensing and suppressing inflammation.

That means that by learning to handle emotions in a healthy way, we may be able to control the messages the vagus nerve transfers from our brain to our immune system — thereby reducing inflammation and lowering disease risk.

If you bottle up your emotions, learn to let them out. If you have anger management issues, see about getting them under control. In addition to counseling, mindfulness meditation can work wonders on the human body. A study at University of California Los Angeles reported that an 8-week mindfulness meditation program was actually able to slow the progression of HIV.

Exercise and doing something fun are also great ways to help you learn to handle your emotions in a healthier way. According to Thomas Morledge, MD, of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, “Anything that increases your mood is going to have a positive effect on your immune system.”

In addition to handling your emotions in a healthy way, it would benefit you to adopt an inflammation-reducing lifestyle. The easiest way to do that is to…

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Margaret Cantwell

By Margaret Cantwell

Margaret Cantwell began her paleo diet in 2010 in an effort to lose weight. Since then, the diet has been instrumental in helping her overcome a number of other health problems. Thanks to the benefits she has enjoyed from her paleo diet and lifestyle, she dedicates her time as managing editor of Easy Health Digest™, researching and writing about a broad range of health and wellness topics, including diet, exercise, nutrition and supplementation, so that readers can also be empowered to experience their best health possible.