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What Causes Disease? Part 1

Disease etiology commonly remains a mystery.

Almost everyone I have ever known who was diagnosed with cancer or any other serious chronic medical condition wondered: “Why me?” Most people think they may have done something to cause the disease. To make matters worse, well-meaning friends often ask questions that imply that the disease could have been caused by a particular diet, activity, exposure—or worst of all, by negative thinking. Although mystery is a popular form of fiction, in our real lives we are very uncomfortable with mystery. We tend to think that if we could just solve the mystery of why we developed the disease, we should be able to find the cure. It rarely works out that way. Unfortunately, etiology (cause) is commonly idiopathic (unknown), and so the mystery remains.
In the hope of dispelling some myths about why we get sick, let’s start by getting clear on the actual causes of disease. The root cause of disease is physiological stress. It can be triggered by physical trauma; infection with viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites; some prescription drugs; exposure to environmental or endogenously produced toxins; or temperature extremes. Other potential physiological stress factors include genetic predisposition to disease, epigenetic events, unhealthy behavior, and an endless number of idiopathic pathophysiological processes. Often, disease is the result of an unfortunate confluence of more than one of these physiological stressors.
One thing all medical conditions have in common is that the healing process is influenced by our state of mind. State of mind is a constant variable that helps explain why exposure to any particular physiological stressor does not necessarily always confer disease. In fact, reducing emotional distress can mollify the effects of most forms of physiological stress.
Although emotional distress is just one type of physiological stressor and just one of the variables that influences whether we succumb to disease, it is the kind of stressor we have the power to mitigate through environmental mastery practices.
However, it is not the whole story. In future posts, I will also explain how the mind’s effect on health goes far beyond the issue of emotional distress.

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