Isaac Eliaz, MD

Commentary by Ronald Peters, MD

Stress activates the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), preparing you for “fight or flight” so you can survive “danger”. This powerful mindbody system helped our ancestors survive by running from predators. However, in modern times we sit on the couch and worry about what could go wrong next month, thereby creating a paradox – the SNS helped our ancestors survive but is now killing us with stress related diseases.  Dr. Eliaz’s book explores the “survival protein” galectin-3, which is activated in response to illness, injury, or stress to help us survive at the tissue level with injury repair and inflammation, but can get stuck at high levels with chronic stress and therefore creating disease with chronic  inflammation. Your body has sophisticated protective mechanisms to keep you alive and functioning when faced with dangerous threats. But this innate survival drive comes with its own costs and can block the body’s natural ability to heal if the stress is long-lasting. You experience your survival drive directly in the sympathetic nervous system, which is called the “fight-or-flight” response. Fight or flight is when your body’s sympathetic nervous system fires the “fight or flight” reaction which releases adrenaline and cortisol to give you a burst of energy to protect yourself or escape from danger. But while fight or flight mode is meant to be protective, it can lead to long-term harm and damage to your health. If you are constantly stressed and your survival responses never turns off, your body is always on high alert and your natural healing abilities can’t naturally function the way they need to. This can cause serious, lasting damage to critical areas of health, including neurological, immune, cardiovascular and others. It can also speed up aging and shorten your life. When you’re facing a serious issue, like a life-threatening illness, your natural survival response can interfere with your ability to heal. Chronic illness can keep the body stuck in fight or flight mode for long periods of time, disrupting your natural health and repair mechanisms. By trying to protect you, your stress-fueled survival response can sometimes be more damaging than the disease itself. The key to healing involves transforming your survival drive to work for you, rather than against you. Once you master your survival biochemistry—utilizing proven strategies—you can activate and unleash your body’s infinite healing capacity.


Survival mode affects you on every level: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It’s literally a panic state. You feel rushed, and you can’t take a deep breath or slow down. Every cell in your body – including those impacted by chronic illness and even cancer cells – fights harder to stay alive. Constant feeling of overwhelm, stress, and fear leads to your body’s biochemical alarm system going overboard and fighting itself, instead of healing. When you are in survival mode, your nervous system amplifies “danger hormones” like adrenaline and cortisol, impacting your ability to relax, sleep, and repair. Survival mode negatively affects your metabolism, gut function, and insulin levels, and can change the way your cells produce energy, leaving you exhausted. Even more damaging, survival mode can impair your immune responses, causing your immune system to either overreact and attack your body, or underreact and leave you defenseless. As part of the survival response, your body calls on its master alarm protein: galectin-3, what I call the “survival protein.” Galectin-3 becomes activated in response to illness, injury, or stress, and triggers a cascade of signaling responses for injury repair, including inflammation and fibrosis/scar tissue formation. When you’re facing an immediate physical threat, these repair processes are crucial. But when your body remains in stress-based survival mode after the threat has passed, galectin-3 stays activated. Galectin-3 continues to sound the alarm, causing serious damage to cells, tissues, and organs. Galectin-3 also forms the backbone of physical barriers in your body like biofilms and scar tissue, that hinder normal functions. When your body stays stuck in survival mode, your natural inflammatory repair processes cross the line to become harmful. The bottom line: Your body’s survival response system, governed by survival protein Galectin-3, is fundamentally at odds with your ability to heal and thrive. Your natural defensive reactions turn against you, causing life-threatening disease processes and speeding up the aging process. But there is a way to overcome it. In my decades of research and clinical work with cancer and complex conditions, I’ve learned that we can transform our survival drive. Your body has an unlimited and infinite capacity to heal, as long as your survival response doesn’t interfere.


When you’re dealing with a chronic or life-threatening disease, it can be hard to focus on the positive, and lean in toward healing energy. It’s the ultimate catch 22. You may feel like you have to race against the clock in order to find a solution. But that sense of hurrying, worry, anxiety, and stress can keep you stuck in survival mode, continuing this vicious cycle with stress hormones and compounds that can worsen your condition, instead of helping you heal. As hard as it may sound, shifting away from survival mode toward true healing requires slowing down, breathing, and relaxing as much as possible. Only feelings of safety and security can turn off survival mode. When you can quiet the stress, it allows your body to switch gears from a reactive defensiveness, into a healing state. This switch triggers a powerful change in your biochemistry, all the way down to the cellular level, and allows you to begin the process of healing chronic illness, inflammation, and disease.


To start, creating space for yourself to heal can help you along your recovery and healing journey. There are several ways you can do this:
  • Creating physical space with exercise, which increases oxygenation and reduces inflammation
  • Allowing space for time, giving you a break between actions and for “letting go”
  • Creating mental space with mindful meditation, which gives you space and clarity between thoughts to reduce fixations.
  • Creating emotional space, by practicing an open heartand mind to transform stress and adversity, and releasing negativity, anger, and resentment to create space for love, compassion, and kindness
Dr. Peters note: My book,  Edgework: Exploring the Psychology of Disease, guides people to discharge the emotions related to any challenging life experience, but not to run a story-line on the issue for months and months.  The purpose of disease is to create healing, not suffering. When you create space in these ways, you make room for healing energy to flow through your body. Everyone has to navigate their own path for healing by figuring out which methods work best for them. Once you’ve found your path, you can use it to navigate your unique road to recovery.


The starting point of any healing journey calls for an environment of compassion, safety, and unconditional love. That’s what your body needs to transition out of survival mode so you can begin your healing journey. Starting with simple meditation practices can help you begin this process. Your journey also calls for a deep dive into your unique story and history. Everyone has distinct biochemical pathways, created by past experiences, through which our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is expressed. Understanding these pathways and patterns can lead us to greater understanding of what we need to truly heal and help us personalize our healing plan for optimal results. Your plan may include a mix of healing modalities, not just conventional medicine, for a holistic approach to wellness. Incorporating diverse therapies and approaches can help to unlock more doors for transformation and healing. A holistic healing program could include things you’re already familiar with, like an anti-inflammatory diet and regular exercise. Your regimen may also involve methods you haven’t tried before, such as craniosacral therapy or open-heart meditation exercises. Each modality adds a different benefit to balance your personal wellness equation. Here are a few examples of what that might look for you:
  • Natural healing compounds that soothe and calm your innate alarm system, while normalizing cellular activity
  • Specific meditataion practicesto create greater emotional and mental space, reduce anxiety, balance inflammation processes, and help halt and reverse biochemical disease processes
  • Comprehensive detoxification support to remove toxic compounds and cellular waste by-products formed by chronic stress and oxidative damage.
These are just a few of the therapeutic strategies I discuss in detail in my new book The Survival Paradox. You’ll discover a multitude of comprehensive guidelines, protocols and inspiration for your own healing process. I wrote The Survival Paradox  to help you unlock your infinite healing potential, overcome chronic disease, and discover your personal path to life-long wellness and longevity.