How meditation can reduce inflammation and alter gene expression

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meditation(NaturalHealth365) We’ve all felt the ‘fight or flight response’ – that automatic, unpleasant chemical reaction in the body – triggered by stressful situations.   These chemical reactions have a negative influence on our genes and health.  But, the question remains: can meditation, prayer and yoga give us the opposite effect?

The answer is ‘YES!’  Research from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine is showing that repetitive yoga poses, prayer and mantras can actually help to reduce inflammation and the stress-induced gene expression that can lead to chronic disease.

While the fight or flight response is valuable when the body is in imminent physical danger, it can severely tax the body – when it’s chronic and only in response to stressful thoughts (or feelings).  So, if you’re suffering with a chronic health condition: the opposite of the fight or flight response called, “the relaxation response” will be quite valuable for you.

Why meditation is a powerful tool against stress

Meditation, yoga and other spiritually-inspired practices can cause the opposite effect of stress. They reduce inflammation and promote positive, health-sustaining gene expression that supports good health.

Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine researchers out of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital recently conducted research on the effects meditation against stress. For the study, 26 adults were trained in a specific type of meditation with which they had no prior experience.

The meditation involved repeating mantras, deep breathing and training to help with ignoring intrusive thoughts. Initially, the participants were given blood tests just before and 15 minutes after hearing a 20 minute long recording about health education.

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Meditation helps reduce inflammation and promotes positive gene expression

After the meditation training, the subjects repeated the blood test protocol, only they listened to a recording guiding them in their meditation process instead. Additionally, 25 other persons with long-term experience tuning into the relaxation response were also tested.

All of the subjects’ blood test results showed positive changes to their gene expression. In fact, the exact opposite of the environment of the fight or flight response was created in the body.

Genes associated with inflammation were switched off, and those connected with health-sustaining processes like mitochondrial function, insulin secretion, energy metabolism and telomere maintenance were switched on.

The connection between meditation, healthy cellular telomeres length and cancer survival has been documented by Canadian researchers.  And, while the positive health effects of meditation are more pronounced in long-term meditators, newcomers also show significant benefits.

A little meditation goes a long way and gets BETTER over time

The results show that persons who spend time in meditation aren’t simply relaxing; there is far more going on beneath the surface. The benefits of prayer, yoga and meditation have been enjoyed for thousands of years. However, science is now showing that there is a quantifiable positive effect in the body.

The health benefits of meditation include protection against anxiety, depression, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer plus many other conditions caused by chronic (emotional and mental) stress.

Important to know: this study showed the benefits of meditation grow stronger the more it is practiced. However, a little meditation or spiritual contemplation can go a long way; just 10 to 20 minutes – twice per day – has shown significant measurable positive health effects.  (get started today and enjoy!)

Sources for this article include:

ScienceDaily.com
TheAtlantic.com
NaturalHealth365.com
EurekAlert.org
NIH.gov