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Why You Shouldn’t Let Liver Disease Get You Down

Since happiness appears capable of preventing liver disease progression, finding joy has never been more important.

Most of us have heard about the connection between health and happiness, but it may be hard to apply that knowledge to yourself if you are saddled with chronic liver disease. This is unfortunate, because those with a disadvantaged liver can especially benefit from a positive attitude. In order to improve your liver’s well-being, experts have several suggestions for getting on the path to happiness – a course that will directly impact your liver’s health.

Health and Happiness
Many holistic health advocates tout the physical benefits of a positive outlook on life – as well as the health dangers of anger and depression. As published in a March 2011 edition of the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, researchers from the University of Illinois analyzed long-term studies evaluating the health status of people stressed by natural events. After reviewing over 150 studies of humans and animals, they found clear and compelling evidence that happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers. To test this idea further, researchers from Japan sought a neurobiological mechanism underlying the positive effects of joy on physiological wellness.

As published in a 2011 printing of Neuro Endocrinology Letters, the researchers measured inflammatory markers in the blood and compared them with self perceived high-happiness and low-happiness participants. Based on their study of 160 healthy volunteers, they found an association between the perception of happiness and systemic inflammation. They concluded that increased happiness appears to suppress the peripheral circulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines – precursors to inflammation throughout the body.

Because inflammation is the spark that aggravates liver tissue and can lead to progressive liver cell injury, the results of the Japanese study are especially poignant for chronic liver disease sufferers.

Unfortunately, depression is commonly encountered in people with impaired liver function. Whether there is a biological cause and effect relationship, or living with a potentially incurable disease is emotionally defeating, there is no doubt that people with chronic liver disease report feelings of depression more frequently than their healthy counterparts. Whatever the reasoning behind this association, the evidence described above proves that happiness should be a top priority for anyone managing a liver ailment.

Long Lasting Joy
Positive emotions can improve health, but Harvard University scholars maintain that those positive emotions may need to be long term to see results. Thus, entertaining positive thoughts for a week or a month is not likely to cure you of chronic liver disease. However, learning to transform the way you perceive your life and cope with stress for the long haul could play a major role in preventing liver disease progression.

In order to help people learn how to be happy indefinitely, experts have described the following strategies:

•    Prioritize Feeling Good – Despite any judgmental, preconceived notions about hedonism, actively seeking pleasurable emotions and sensations improves mood. As long as the avenues taken to feel good are safe, remembering to prioritize how you feel is a mainstay in many psychological health initiatives.

•    Fully Engage In Your Chosen Activity – Research shows that people achieve the highest level of satisfaction when pursuing activities that require complete concentration and immersion.

•    Gratitude – Being grateful for what you have automatically improves how you feel. Through sincere appreciation of that which brings you joy, there is less emphasis on anything to the contrary. Many spiritual leaders teach gratitude to be the ultimate path towards happiness.

Since stress, anger and depression all tend to perpetuate liver inflammation and congestion, those with chronic liver disease have a lot to gain by working towards a lifetime of joy. The evidence clearly indicates that anyone with a chronic illness exacerbated by inflammation (like chronic liver disease) has his or her health to gain by learning how to achieve and maintain a positive outlook on life., Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity, Ed Diener, et al, Retrieved October 2, 2011, Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, March 2011., The happiness-health connection, Retrieved October 2, 2011, Harvard Health Publications, 2011., A Happy Liver will You’re your Holidays Happier Too, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved October 2, 2011, Natural Wellness, 2011., Association between perceived happiness levels and peripheral circulating pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in middle-aged adults in Japan, Matsunaga M, et al, Retrieved October 2, 2011, Neuro Endocrinology Letters, 2011., How to Keep your Liver Healthy & Happy, Retrieved October 2, 2011, Melissa Palmer, MD, 2011., Happiness Improves Health and Lengthens Life, Retrieved October 2, 2011, US News and World Report, LP, 2011.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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