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Because loving is reciprocal physiologic influence, it entails a deeper and more literal connection than most realize. Limbic regulation affords lovers the ability to modulate each other’s emotions, neurophysiology, hormonal status, immune function, sleep rhythms, and stability. If one leaves on a trip, the other may suffer insomnia, a delayed menstrual cycle, a cold that would have been fought off in the fortified state of togetherness.
To be effective, the immune system needs to be in a state of constant readiness to fight off the many viruses and other invading pathogens we encounter daily. When it’s overloaded and diverted by high toxicity, it gets “tired,” failing to stay on its feet, so to speak, which is possibly why we’re seeing so much suboptimal health such as vague complaints of fatigue, not to mention more serious immune-deficiency diseases.
Viruses use the same receptors as neuropeptides to enter into a cell, and depending on how much of the natural peptide for a particular receptor is around and available to bind, the virus that fits that receptor will have an easier or harder time getting into the cell. Because the molecules of emotion are involved in the process of a virus entering the cell, it seems logical to assume that the state of our emotions will affect whether or not we succumb to viral infection.
Every one of the zones, or systems, of the network—the neural, the hormonal, the gastrointestinal, and the immune—is set up to communicate with one another, via peptides and messenger-specific peptide receptors. Every second, a massive information exchange is occurring in your body. Imagine each of these messenger systems possessing a specific tone, humming a signature tune, rising and falling, waxing and waning, binding and unbinding, and if we could hear this body music with our ears, then the sum of these sounds would be the music that we call the emotions.
The three classically separated areas of neuroscience, endocrinology, and immunology, with their various organs—the brain; the glands; and the spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes—are actually joined to each other in a multidirectional network of communication, linked by information carriers known as neuropeptides.
In other words, the immune cells are making the same chemicals that we conceive of as controlling mood in the brain. So, immune cells not only control the tissue integrity of the body, but they also manufacture information chemicals that can regulate mood or emotion. This is yet another instance of the two-way communication between brain and body.
Neuropeptides, those chemicals secreted by the brain and known to mediate mood and behavior, were clearly signaling the cancer cells via their receptors and causing them to grow and travel, or metastasize, to different parts of the body.
The “dirt” in the lung from cigarette smoking (and presumably from other forms of pollution as well) had caused the immune system to go into hyper-response, in the form of sending in more and more macrophages to try to repair the damage, a situation that could not go on forever without some kind of mutation or “mistake” occurring in the DNA of these cells.
When stress prevents the molecules of emotion from flowing freely where needed, the largely autonomic processes that are regulated by peptide flow, such as breathing, blood flow, immunity, digestion, and elimination, collapse down to a few simple feedback loops and upset the normal healing response. Meditation, by allowing long-buried thoughts and feelings to surface, is a way of getting the peptides flowing again, returning the body, and the emotions, to health.
The immune system was potentially capable of both sending information to the brain via immunopeptides and of receiving information from the brain via neuropeptides (which hooked up with receptors on the immune cell surfaces).