Mind-body interventions (MBI) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi not simply relax us; they can “invest” the molecular reactions in our DNA that cause ill-health and depression, says a study by the universities of Coventry and Radboud.
The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, reviews more than a decade of studies that analyze how the behavior of our genes that are affected by different MBIs including meditation and yoga.
The experts of the universities conclude that, when considered together, the 18 studies -with 846 participants over 11 years – reveal a pattern in the molecular changes that occur in the body as a result of the MBI and how these changes benefit the mental and physical health.
The researchers focus on how it affects the gene expression, in other words, the way in which genes are activated to produce proteins that influence the biological composition of the body, the brain and the immune system.
When a person is exposed to a stressful event, your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – the system responsible for the response of “fight or flight” – activated, in turn, increases the production of a molecule called nuclear factor-kappa B ( NF-kB) which regulates how we express our genes.
NF-kB translates the stress to activate genes to produce proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation at the cellular level, a reaction that is useful as a reaction of fight or flight is of short duration, but if persistent, leads to an increased risk of cancer, aging and psychiatric disorders such as depression.
However, according to the study, people who practice MBI exhibit the opposite effect – by having a decrease in the production of NF-kB and cytokines, leading to a reversal of the gene expression pattern of pro-inflammatory and a reduction in the risk of inflammatory diseases and related conditions.
However, in the modern society, where stress is becoming more and more psychological and long-term, the gene expression of pro-inflammatory may be persistent and, therefore, more likely to cause psychiatric problems and medical.
“These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect of stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing the way our genes are expressed, improving our well-being.” Said Ivana Buric ‘s Laboratory of Brain, Beliefs and Behavior in the Psychology Center.