Science shows that mindfulness and meditation turn genes on and off to reduce inflammation. Because excessive inflammation causes disease, a reduction in excessive inflammation potentially translates into health benefits.
A study published in 2014 shows that the anti-inflammatory effect of mindfulness happens quite rapidly. (1) In this study, a group of expert meditators underwent 8 hours of intensive mindfulness. Researchers performed a gene analysis comparing the expert meditators to a control group who underwent 8 hours of quite non-meditative activities. What they found was that an intensive day of mindfulness in expert meditators is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It triggered the same gene pathway as the anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex, but without the side effects.
The body creates inflammation through several genetic pathways. One involves a cell protein called nuclear factor kappa B (NFKB). Multiple studies show that mindfulness meditation reduces inflammation by turning off NFKB. (2,3,4,5)
By using mindfulness and meditation to reduce stressful thoughts, you trigger a relaxation response. This relaxation response has a positive influence on how your genes turn on and off, or how they express. So by learning to manipulate your thoughts, you create a relaxation response, which indirectly affects how your genes express, and reduces inflammation in your body.
Science is proving what the yogis knew thousands of years ago. That the power of directed thoughts and emotions positively influence your physiology by changing the way your genes express resulting in potential health benefits. It's about time:)
1. Kaliman P, Alvarez-lópez MJ, Cosín-tomás M, Rosenkranz MA, Lutz A, Davidson RJ. Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014;40:96-107.
2. Dusek JA, Otu HH, Wohlhueter AL, et al. Genomic counter-stress changes induced by the relaxation response. PLoS ONE. 2008;3(7):e2576.
3. Bhasin MK, Dusek JA, Chang BH, et al. Relaxation response induces temporal transcriptome changes in energy metabolism, insulin secretion and inflammatory pathways. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(5):e62817.
4. Creswell JD, Irwin MR, Burklund LJ, et al. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: a small randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2012;26(7):1095-101.
5. Black DS, Cole SW, Irwin MR, et al. Yogic meditation reverses NF-κB and IRF-related transcriptome dynamics in leukocytes of family dementia caregivers in a randomized controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013;38(3):348-55.