If you’ve followed this blog for even a short period of time, you know that I am committed to sharing health information that will help prevent, arrest and even cure some of our most insidious chronic diseases. The emerging science and clinical trials focused on the profound impact diet, exercise and your mental state can have on the manifestation of these diseases is too long in coming, but is finally having a major impact. Probably the most overlooked and misunderstood contributors to compromising our immune systems are stress and anxiety. New studies have now shown that, much like diet (Nutrigenomics: A Life-Saving Science), our gene expression is influenced greatly by our emotional states. Both good and bad genes can be turned off and on, depending on whether we exist in a state of appreciation and peace or one of stress and anxiety.
Whereas exercise and diet have been widely touted, written about and generally accepted as a means to improving health, the practice of meditation has historically been relegated to mystical status practiced primarily by outliers. The medical community has recently been more supportive of the role meditation can play as evidenced by researchers out of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in Massachusetts illuminating the mechanisms of meditation’s effects, specifically the relaxation response. According to Dr. Benson, the relaxation response is, “a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension)” and is characterized by:
- Metabolism decreases
- Heart beats slow and muscles relax
- Breathing slows
- Blood pressure decreases
- Levels of nitric oxide increase (this is very good, see “Boost Performance“)
As Dr. Kelly Brogan points out, “Only recently have the tools to assess gene-based changes been available. Genetic study of eight-week and long-term meditators demonstrated evidence of changes to gene expression – specifically antioxidant production, telomerase activity, and oxidative stress – as a result of the relaxation response.” She goes on to say “It appears that the relationship between gene expression optimization and relaxation response is dose-related, so that increasing amounts confer increasing benefit.” Roughly translated, even a little meditation will have positive effects, but the more you induce the relaxation response, the more likely you will be up-regulating the good, chronic disease fighting genes and down-regulating those genes that promote disease.
Obviously, this message is huge and has ramifications that require your daily attention, just as diet and exercise do. The techniques for meditation are extensive and diverse. A quick Google search will produce seemingly limitless options, with varying degrees of effort and time commitment on your part. For those of you who want an easy, effective and passive method, I have a recorded session that I often use that you can put on your smartphone and listen to when you go to bed at night or when you first wake up in the morning. If you would like a copy, just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the audio file free.
Here’s a quick video from Dr. Brogan I believe you’ll find interesting:
(If the video doesn’t load, go here)