Change the Genes and the Brain for the Better with Mindfulness

Change the Genes and the Brain for the Better with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Scientists looked at how mindfulness practice affected genetic differences between one group of expert meditators compared with a control group of untrained meditators. “most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs.” – Perla Kaliman

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings to demonstrate that mind-body therapies have highly beneficial effects on the health and well-being of humans. These include meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises. Because of their proven benefits the application of these practices to relieving human suffering has skyrocketed.

 

It is clear that Mind-body therapies affect the physiology. In other words, the mind can alter the body. One way it can do that is by altering the nervous system. Meditation training has been shown to alter the nervous system, increasing the size and connectivity of structures associated with present moment awareness, higher level thinking, and regulation of emotions, while decreasing the size and connectivity of structures associated with mind wandering and self-referential thinking, known as the Default Mode Network (DMN). The brain is capable of changing and adapting in a process called neuroplasticity. As a result, the neural changes produced by meditation training become relatively permanent.

 

The mind can also affect the physiology through altering genetic processes. The genes dictate all of the chemical processes in our bodies including the immune system and the inflammatory response. In turn, the genes can affect our minds. In fact, the genes have been shown to affect an individual’s inherent emotions and level of mindfulness.

 

There has been a considerable amount of research over the last decade on the effects of mind-body therapies on the nervous system and gene expression. In today’s Research News article “The Embodied Mind: A Review on Functional Genomic and Neurological Correlates of Mind-Body Therapies.” See summary below. Muehsam and colleagues review and summarize these studies. They categorized the studies as either top-down, where mind-body therapies alter the physiology by altering attention, intention, and cognitive processes, or bottom-up, where the physical processes involved in mind-body therapies affect the nervous system. Hence, mind-body therapies act by altering the immune systems and the nervous system.

 

One of the primary actions of mind-body therapies is to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress which, in turn, affects wellness and well-being.  Studies indicate that these therapies alter the response of the brain-hormone axis that results in the production of glucocorticoids and alters the balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Both of these effects alter gene expression, cellular aging, immune function, and healthy brain function. In addition, mind-body therapies can alter the immune systems inflammatory processes via action on the vagus nerve. This reduces the damage that can occur due to chronic stress producing chronic inflammation. Thus mind-body therapies act by eliminating or lessening the harmful effects of chronic stressors, thus allowing the body’s innate healing responses to be fully expressed.

 

The second major way mind-body practices impact the individual’s health and well-being is through neuromodulation. Mind-body practices alter the individual’s cognitive/affective state which have been shown to influence activity in brain regions including orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and somatosensory cortex. These practices alter the volume of brain tissue, its activity, and its connectivity with other brain regions and appear to produce relatively permanent changes in the brain via neuroplasticity. In addition, they decrease the size and connectivity of structures associated with mind wandering and self-referential thinking, known as the Default Mode Network (DMN). These changes, in turn, affect attention, learning, and emotion regulation, all of which are important for psychological health.

 

So, the published research literature reflects an increasing understanding of not only the beneficial effects of mind-body practices, but also the physiological processes and mechanisms though which these benefits occur. This produces a clear picture that mind-body practices act through the nervous and immune systems to improve the health and well-being of the practitioners.

 

“Mindfulness:  a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress. It can be integrated into one’s religious or spiritual life, or practiced as a form of secular mental training.  When we take a seat, take a breath, and commit to being mindful, particularly when we gather with others who are doing the same, we have the potential to be changed.” – Christina Congleton

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Muehsam D, Lutgendorf S, Mills PJ, Rickhi B, Chevalier G, Bat N, Chopra D, Gurfein B. The Embodied Mind: A Review on Functional Genomic and Neurological Correlates of Mind-Body Therapies. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 Dec 22. pii: S0149-7634(16)30325-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.12.027. [Epub ahead of print] Review.

 

Highlights

  • Functional genomic and neurological correlates of mind-body practices are reviewed.
  • EEG and Neuroimaging correlates of mind-body therapies and meditation are reviewed.
  • Mechanisms of action by which mind-body practices influence health outcomes are discussed

Abstract

A broad range of mind-body therapies (MBTs) are used by the public today, and a growing body of clinical and basic sciences research has resulted in evidence-based integration of many MBTs into clinical practice. Basic sciences research has identified some of the physiological correlates of MBT practices, leading to a better understanding of the processes by which emotional, cognitive and psychosocial factors can influence health outcomes and well-being. In particular, results from functional genomics and neuroimaging describe some of the processes involved in the mind-body connection and how these can influence health outcomes. Functional genomic and neurophysiological correlates of MBTs are reviewed, detailing studies showing changes in sympathetic nervous system activation of gene transcription factors involved in immune function and inflammation, electroencephalographic and neuroimaging studies on MBT practices, and persistent changes in neural function and morphology associated with these practices. While the broad diversity of study designs and MBTs studied presents a patchwork of results requiring further validation through replication and longitudinal studies, clear themes emerge for MBTs as immunomodulatory, with effects on leukocyte transcription and function related to inflammatory and innate immune responses, and neuromodulatory, with effects on brain function and morphology relevant for attention, learning, and emotion regulation. By detailing the potential mechanisms of action by which MBTs may influence health outcomes, the data generated by these studies have contributed significantly towards a better understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying MBTs.

Strengthen the Immune System with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Stress is immunosuppressive. Research into this pernicious relationship between stress and disease has piqued interest in the ways that contemplative practices might positively influence the immune system. According to a large body of evidence, meditation appears to have profound effects on immune function in health and disease because of its ability to reduce stress.” – David Vago

 

Contemplative practices have been found to improve the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners and to relieve the symptoms of a large number of mental and physical diseases. How these practices might have such widespread benefits is not precisely known. In fact, there may not be one mechanism but many. One important benefit of mindfulness practices appears to be a strengthening of the immune system, the body’s primary defense against disease. Through a series of steps called the immune response, this system attacks organisms and substances that invade body systems and cause disease. It is important that it be properly tuned as too weak of an immune response can allow diseases to develop while too strong of a response can result in autoimmune diseases.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1387898754567380/?type=3&theater

or see summary below. Black and Slavich review the published research literature on the effects of mindfulness meditation on immune system function. They found and summarized twenty randomized controlled studies that administered mindfulness meditation and measured objective biomarkers of immune system activity, usually in the blood. All but three of the studies used a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or similar programs. MBSR includes a combination of meditation, body scan, and yoga practices. They found the published research reported that mindfulness meditation produced a reduction in biomarkers of inflammation including cellular transcription factor NF-κB and liver-derived C-reactive protein, CRP, and increases in cell-mediated immunity, CD4+ T cell count, and increases in telomerase activity indicating decreased biological aging.

 

These are remarkable findings suggesting that mindfulness meditation practice improves immune system function and reduces the processes of cellular aging. The reduction in the inflammatory response is significant as the inflammatory response which works quite well for short-term infections and injuries can, if protracted, itself become a threat to health, producing autoimmune diseases. Indeed, chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. The improvements in cellular immunity suggest that meditation practice improves the ability of the body to fend off disease by destroying cells that have been infected, an important protection against the spread of disease through the body. Finally, the findings that mindfulness meditation practices increase telomerase activity is very exciting. The telomere is attached to the ends of the DNA molecule. As we age the telomere shortens, resulting in difficulty with cells reproducing, producing more defective cells. The enzyme telomerase helps to prevent shortening of the telomere and thereby slow the aging process.  It appears that mindfulness meditation increases telomerase activity and thereby slow the aging process.

 

Hence, accumulating scientific evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation has very positive effects on the immune system which improve health and longevity. It is not known exactly how these practices do this, but it is likely that the ability of mindfulness meditation to reduce the physical and psychological responses to stress is responsible. Chronic stress is known to impair immune system function, so its reduction may be responsible to the improved function of this system. Regardless of the mechanism, it is clear that mindfulness meditation is good for health, improving the systems that help to maintain it.

 

Strengthen the immune system with mindfulness.

 

“We still don’t know the precise mechanism by which control of attention or meditation acts this way on the immune system. It’s likely that a more “distant” and serene outlook, which is common during periods of meditation (and also between meditation sessions) gives rise to a weaker secretion of adrenaline and cortisol, and that this allows the immune cells to remain more active.” – David Servan-Schreiber

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Black, D. S. and Slavich, G. M. (2016), Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1373: 13–24.

 

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation represents a mental training framework for cultivating the state of mindful awareness in daily life. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in how mindfulness meditation improves human health and well-being. Although studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can improve self-reported measures of disease symptomatology, the effect that mindfulness meditation has on biological mechanisms underlying human aging and disease is less clear. To address this issue, we conducted the first comprehensive review of randomized controlled trials examining the effects of mindfulness meditation on immune system parameters, with a specific focus on five outcomes: (1) circulating and stimulated inflammatory proteins, (2) cellular transcription factors and gene expression, (3) immune cell count, (4) immune cell aging, and (5) antibody response. This analysis revealed substantial heterogeneity across studies with respect to patient population, study design, and assay procedures. The findings suggest possible effects of mindfulness meditation on specific markers of inflammation, cell-mediated immunity, and biological aging, but these results are tentative and require further replication. On the basis of this analysis, we describe the limitations of existing work and suggest possible avenues for future research. Mindfulness meditation may be salutogenic for immune system dynamics, but additional work is needed to examine these effects.

Help Cancer Treatment with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Qigong is a viable and essential practice for enhancing everyday life, as well as an effective factor in mainstream health care.“ – Sifu Wong

 

Qigong has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Qigong training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of qigong practice been scrutinized with empirical research. It has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. It appears to strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation and increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream. All of these effects suggest that Qigong may be effective for cancer survivors.

 

Modern medicine has improved markedly in treating cancer. But, the treatments themselves can be difficult on the patient and produce great discomfort and suffering. In addition, if the treatment is successful, the cancer survivor is left with a whole different set of challenges. Fatigue accompanies cancer and its treatment in from half to all cancer patients depending upon the type of cancer and treatment regimen. The fatigue can continue even after completion of successful treatment. The patient feels weak, tired, weary, or exhausted all of the time and sleep does not relieve the tiredness. Symptoms can include prolonged, extreme tiredness following an activity, arms and legs feeling heavy and hard to move, lack of engagement in normal daily activities, trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, or remembering, feeling frustrated, irritable, and upset, putting less energy into personal appearance, and spending more time in bed or sleeping. It is easy to confuse cancer-related fatigue with depression. The cause of cancer-related fatigue is unknown.

 

The best treatment for cancer-related fatigue appears to be encouragement to engage in moderate exercise along with relaxation and body awareness training. The ancient Chinese practice of Qigong has all of these properties. It’s a light exercise that produces relaxation and body awareness. So, it would seem reasonable to expect that Qigong practice would be effective in treating cancer patients.

 

In today’s Research News article “Qigong in cancer care: a systematic review and construct analysis of effective Qigong therapy.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1225696334120957/?type=3&theater

or see below

Klein and colleagues review the published research literature on the application of Qigong for the treatment of cancer patients. They report that a significant number of controlled studies report that Qigong has positive effects on the cancer-specific quality of life, improving the overall well-being of the patients. In this regard, it is effective for reducing fatigue, which by itself will improve quality of life. Importantly for fighting cancer, Qigong improves immune function, reduces the inflammatory response, and the stress levels of individuals with cancer, as referenced by decreased cortisol levels. These latter findings suggest that Qigong can not only improve the quality of life but also help in fighting the cancer itself.

 

These findings are very exciting. They suggest that Qigong practice may be a tremendous help in treating cancer and for the patients coping with the consequences of cancer and its treatment. Qigong is a light exercise as well as a mindfulness practice. Because of its gentle nature it is appropriate for individuals weakened by disease or for the elderly. The exercise component may be essential for improving the individual’s ability to fight cancer. The mindfulness component is also important as mindfulness practices, in general, have been found to be effective in improving health and fighting disease. So, the combination of gentle exercise along with mindfulness training suggests that Qigong is a potent mixture to assist cancer patients.

 

So, help cancer treatment with qigong.

 

“Qigong is clearly not for those who would like to take a pill and wait for the next instruction from the oncologist. But for anyone who has found their diagnosis has led them to a deeper enquiry into the subtler energetic levels of health and healing, this practice has a proven track record and can provide excellent results for those with the discipline for daily practice.” – Donatus Roobeek

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Study Summary

Klein PJ, Schneider R, Rhoads CJ. Qigong in cancer care: a systematic review and construct analysis of effective Qigong therapy. Support Care Cancer. 2016 Apr 5. [Epub ahead of print] Review.

PMID: 27044279

 

Abstract

Purpose: This review (a) assesses the strength of evidence addressing Qigong therapy in supportive cancer care and (b) provides insights for definition of effective Qigong therapy in supportive cancer care.

Methods: This mixed-methods study includes (a) a systematic review of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) following PRISMA guidelines and (b) a constant-comparative qualitative analysis of effective intervention protocols.

Results: Eleven published randomized clinical trials were reviewed. A total of 831 individuals were studied. Geographic settings include the USA, Australia, China, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. Qigong therapy was found to have positive effects on the cancer-specific QOL, fatigue, immune function, and cortisol levels of individuals with cancer. Qigong therapy protocols varied supporting a plurality of styles. Qualitative analyses identified common programming constructs. Content constructs included exercise (gentle, integrated, repetitious, flowing, weight-bearing movements), breath regulation, mindfulness and meditation, energy cultivation including self-massage, and emphasis on relaxation. Logistic constructs included delivery by qualified instructors, home practice, and accommodation for impaired activity tolerance.

Conclusions: There is global interest and a growing body of research providing evidence of therapeutic effect of Qigong therapy in supportive cancer care. While Qigong therapy protocols vary in style, construct commonalities do exist. Knowledge of the common constructs among effective programs revealed in this research may be used to guide future research intervention protocol and community programming design and development.

 

Improve Psychological and Physical Effects of HIV with Yoga

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga is not just about the physical side, it’s also about the mind-body connection. I think having that awareness and accepting their condition can help them when they go out into the world, and lift up their self-esteem. Life is fast – yoga can help them be calm and still.” – Surang Sengsamran

 

HIV is a virus that gradually attacks the immune system. It destroys a type of white blood cell called a T-helper cell (CD4 Cell). This isn’t a problem unto itself, but the immune system is our body’s natural defense against illness. Hence, HIV infection makes it harder to combat other infections and diseases. If HIV is untreated, these secondary infections produce chronic illness and eventually death. It is important, then, in treating HIV infection to strengthen the immune system and increase the levels of CD4 in the blood to fight off disease.

 

More than 35 million people worldwide and 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection. In 1996, the advent of the protease inhibitor and the so-called cocktail changed the prognosis for HIV. Since this development a 20 year-old infected with HIV can now expect to live on average to age 69. Hence, living with HIV is a long-term reality for a very large group of people.

 

People living with HIV infection experience a wide array of physical and psychological symptoms which decrease their perceived quality of life. The symptoms include muscle aches, anxiety, depression, weakness, fear/worries, difficulty with concentration, concerns regarding the need to interact with a complex healthcare system, stigma, and the challenge to come to terms with a new identity as someone living with HIV. Hence, patients with HIV infection, even when controlled with drugs, have a reduction in their quality of life.  There is thus a need to find methods to improve the quality of life in people who are living with HIV infection.

 

Mindfulness has been shown to strengthen the immune system. It also improve psychological and physical well-being in people suffering from a wide range of disorders including depression and anxiety. It has also been shown that mindfulness is associated with psychological well-being and lower depression in patients with HIV infection. Integrated Yoga is a contemplative practice that includes postures, breathing practices, relaxation techniques, and meditation. It has been shown to increase mindfulness, and reduce anxiety and depression. So, it would stand to reason that Integrated Yoga would be beneficial for people who are living with HIV infection.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Integrated Yoga (IY) on psychological states and CD4 counts of HIV-1 infected patients: A randomized controlled pilot study”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1183625434994714/?type=3&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728960/

Naoroibam and colleagues randomly assigned patients with HIV infection to either a one-hour per day, six-days per week Integrated Yoga practice for one-month or to a treatment as usual condition. Compared to before treatment and the control group, they found that the Integrated Yoga practice produced a significant reduction in anxiety and depression levels and an increase in T-helper cell (CD4 Cell) counts in the blood. It should be kept in mind that there was not an active control condition. So, it is unclear if the effectiveness of Integrated Yoga practice was due to exercise effects or perhaps to expectancy effects, researcher bias effects, etc. It will remain for future research to sort out exactly what is responsible to the improvement in the HIV patients.

 

Regardless, these are exciting and potentially important results suggesting that Integrated Yoga practice may not only improve the psychological well-being of HIV infected patients but also strengthen the immune system. This would make them better able to combat other infections and diseases.

 

So, improve psychological and physical effects of HIV with yoga.

 

“As you become more adept at yoga, you learn which poses can help you, depending on how you are feeling physically. There are certain poses that assist in relieving fatigue, diarrhea, anxiety, depression. You do learn about the nature of self, but you also learn that so much is beyond your control. It helps you realize, somehow, to trust in a higher being.” – Steve McCeney

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/

 

Mindfully Control Inflammation

 

“I don’t think anybody would argue that fact that we know inflammation in the body, which comes from a lot of different sources, is the basis for a lot of chronic health problems, so by controlling that, we would expect to see increased life expectancy … but if we’re not changing those things and just taking ibuprofen, I don’t know if we’re really going to make any headway in that, I feel like there are probably a lot of factors that we could change without medicating with risk.”– Josie Znidarsic

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. Its primary effect is to increase blood circulation around the infected area, dilating the blood vessels around the site of inflammation. It also produces gaps in the cell walls surrounding the infected area, allowing the larger immune cells, to pass. It also tends to increase body temperature to further fight infection. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries and as such is an important defense mechanism for the body. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health.

 

Chronic inflammation can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but then reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.

 

Contemplative practices appear to relax the physical systems of the body including the immune system, reducing inflammation. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/inflammatory-response/). In today’s Research News article “Mind-body therapies and control of inflammatory biology: A descriptive review”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1157023674321557/?type=3&theater

Bower and colleagues review the published research literature on the effects of mind-body practices on the inflammatory response. They found mixed and inconclusive results for circulating and cellular markers of inflammation but consistent findings for gene expression inflammatory pathways. These studies consistently demonstrated that mind-body practices including tai chi, yoga, and meditation produced a decrease in inflammatory gene expressions and does so in diverse populations of practitioners.

 

Bower and colleagues suggest that mind-body practices alter gene expression through their well-documented effects on the neuroendocrine system. These techniques are known to reduce the activity of the activating portion of the peripheral nervous system, the sympathetic system, to reduce the release of stress hormones, particularly cortisol, and to lower perceived stress (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/stress/).  Mind-body practices are also known to improve emotion regulation (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/emotions/) and reduce depression (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/depression/), and anxiety (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2016/01/02/distress-produces-less-stress-with-mindfulness/). All of these effects occur via alterations of the nervous system by mind-body practices. The reduced activation and heightened relaxation then reduce the inflammatory response.

 

Regardless of the explanation, it is clear that mindfulness practices reduce potentially harmful inflammatory responses. So, mindfully control inflammation.

 

 

“The mindfulness-based approach to stress reduction may offer a lower-cost alternative or complement to standard treatment, and it can be practiced easily by patients in their own homes, whenever they need.” – Melissa Rosenkranz

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Kill Cancer with Tai Chi

 

Tai Chi Cancer Liu2

“Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice… has value in treating or preventing many health problems.” ~Harvard Women’s Health Watch

 

Our bodies contain many cancerous cells. They usually don’t develop into a cancer as our bodies defenses keep them under control. Part of that defense are types of peripheral blood mononuclear cells called Natural Killer (NK) cells. These are fast acting white blood cells that can destroy virus containing or tumor cells. So, in fighting off the development of cancerous cells into a deadly cancer, the NK cells are an important early component.

 

Exercise is known to increase NK cells in cancer survivors. Tai Chi is a gentle exercise that has been practiced for thousands of years with purported benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research. It has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues See links below). One of the ways that it acts to have these effects is by strengthening immune system function (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/10/30/strengthen-the-immune-system-with-qigong/). It has also been shown to improve recovery from cancer (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/age-healthily-mindful-movement-and-cancer-recovery/).

 

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the U.S. Over 150,000 people a year in the U.S. die from lung cancer. If it is caught early about half of the patients will survive for at least 5 years. But, only about 15% of the cases are diagnosed early. So, overall only about 18% of the patients survive for at least 5 years. Needless to say treatments to improve survival with lung cancer are badly needed.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Tai Chi on mononuclear cell functions in patients with non-small cell lung cancer”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1148256135198311/?type=3&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4321705/

Liu and colleagues examine the effects of 16 weeks of Tai Chi exercise on peripheral blood mononuclear cells in lung cancer patients who had survived at least 2 years compared to a comparable treatment as usual group. Tai Chi produced a significant increase in the ability of peripheral blood mononuclear cells.to kill cancer cells. They found that the Natural Killer cells were the type of peripheral blood mononuclear cell that increased in the Tai Chi group.

 

These are potentially important results. They suggest that Tai Chi may be helpful in survival from lung cancer by improving the immune system’s ability to kill cancerous cells, particularly by increasing the levels of Natural Killer cells. Further research is needed to determine if this improves long-term survival in these patients.

 

There are a number of ways that Tai Chi may be improving the immune response to cancer. The simplest explanation is as an exercise. The advantage of Tai Chi, however, over other exercises is that it is very safe and gentle and can be practiced by people of all ages. Another possible explanation is that Tai Chi is known to improve the psychological and physiological response to stress. So, Tai Chi may be effective by improving the patients’ response to the stress of the illness. Regardless, it is clear that Tai Chi improves ability to kill cancer cells.

 

So, kill cancer with tai chi.

 

“Of all the exercises, I should say that T’ai Chi is the best. It can ward off disease, banish worry and tension, bring improved physical health and prolong life. It is a good hobby for your whole life, the older you are, the better. It is suitable for everyone – the weak, the sick, the aged, children, the disabled and blind. It is also an economical exercise. As long as one has three square feet of space, one can take a trip to paradise and stay there to enjoy life for thirty minutes without spending a single cent.” ~T.T. Liang

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

 

Tai Chi Qigong links

It has been shown to improve cardiac health (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/09/02/heart-health-with-tai-chi/), reduce the risk for strokes (seehttp://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/09/18/dont-get-stroked-practice-tai-chi/), reduce the physical and psychological responses to stress (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/09/28/age-healthily-with-qigong-soothing-stress-responses/), improved sleep in people suffering from insomnia (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/aging-healthily-sleeping-better-with-mindful-movement-practice/ and  http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/06/age-healthily-treating-insomnia-and-inflammation/), helped with recovery from cancer (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/age-healthily-mindful-movement-and-cancer-recovery/) and reduced chronic inflammation (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/contemplative-practice/tai-chi-qigong/

Reduce Symptoms in Breast Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness

 

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”  ~B.K.S. Iyengar

 

About 12.5% of women in the U.S. develop invasive breast cancer over their lifetimes and every year about 40,000 women die. Indeed, more women in the U.S. die from breast cancer than from any other cancer, besides lung cancer. It is encouraging, however, that the death rates have been decreasing for decades from improved detection and treatment of breast cancer. Five-year survival rates are now at around 95%.

 

The improved survival rates mean that more women are now living with cancer. This can be difficult as breast cancer survivors can have to deal with the consequences of chemotherapy, and often experience increased fatigue, pain, and bone loss, reduced fertility, difficulty with weight maintenance, damage to the lymphatic system, heightened fear of reoccurrence, and an alteration of their body image. With the loss of a breast or breasts, scars, hair shedding, complexion changes and weight gain or loss many young women feel ashamed or afraid that others will reject or feel sorry for them. As a result, survivors often develop psychological symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and impaired cognitive functioning. These consequences of breast cancer can be grouped into three categories, gastrointestinal, cognitive/psychological, and pain and fatigue.

 

Mindfulness practices have been shown to be beneficial in cancer recovery (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/cancer/) and particularly with recovery from breast cancer (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/29/live-more-effectively-with-breast-cancer-with-mindfulness/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/09/09/beating-radiotherapy-for-cancer-with-mindfulness/). But, these practices can produce varying results depending upon the peculiarities of the patient. It would be helpful for potentiating the effectiveness of mindfulness practices applied to breast cancer survivors if markers could be found which could identify those who were likely to respond favorably to mindfulness training from those who would not. Markers in the immune system are likely candidates. Breast cancer treatment and the sequela produce considerable stress in the survivor. Stress produces a robust response in the immune system and mindfulness training has been shown to reduce stress and the immune system response. So, it would make sense that immune system markers of the stress response might be predictors of mindfulness training efficacy.

 

In today’s Research News article “Immune Biomarkers as Predictors of MBSR(BC) Treatment Success in Off-Treatment Breast Cancer Patients”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1132703630086895/?type=3&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604564/

Reich and colleagues looked for immune system markers which identify mindfulness training responders among breast cancer survivors. They took blood samples for lymphocyte analysis and then trained half the women with a modified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program that was specifically designed to be appropriate for breast cancer (MBSR)[BC]. The second half of the women were used as a wait list control group. They found that the mindfulness training produced decreases in all three symptom clusters, gastrointestinal, cognitive/psychological, and pain and fatigue. They found that there were significant immune system markers. But, they were different for the three symptom clusters. B-lymphocytes and interferon-γ were the strongest predictors of gastrointestinal improvement, +CD4+CD8 were the strongest predictor of cognitive/psychological improvement, while lymphocytes and interleukin (IL)-4 were the strongest predictors of fatigue improvement.

 

These results are interesting and potentially important. They are further evidence that the stress reduction produced by mindfulness training is important in dealing with the symptoms of breast cancer survival. They also suggest that immune system markers may be significant predictors for response to mindfulness training. The fact that there were different markers for different symptom clusters, however, muddies the waters, making the markers useful for certain women who have heightened symptoms in particular areas. Regardless, it is clear that mindfulness training is an effective treatment for the symptoms present after successful treatment of breast cancer and potentially markers which can identify potential responders may be possible.

 

So, it is increasing clear that mindfulness is an effective treatment for residual symptoms in breast cancer survivors.

 

“The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together.” ~Kurdish Saying

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Strengthen the Immune System with Qigong

Qi gong is one modality of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) believed to be at least 4,000 years-old. Written records referring to Qi and its effects are thought to be as old as 3,300 years (Shang dynasty oracle bones, Zhou dynasty inscriptions).

 

Qigong has been practiced for thousands of years with purported benefits for health and longevity. Qigong training is designed to enhance function and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of qigong practice been scrutinized with empirical research. It has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues (See links below).

 

There is evidence that Qigong practice strengthens the immune system and lowers the incidence of upper respiratory infections (colds and flu). The state of the immune system is an indicator of the state of health of the individual. Chronic inflammation is associated with a number of diseases and what’s called the innate immune response involving high levels of Natural Killer (NK) cells. On the other hand, the ability of the body to detect and fight of infections is indicated by what’s termed the adaptive immune response and involves both T and B cells lymphocytes. It follows then that if qigong practice improves general health and fights off infection and inflammation, that practice should increase T and B lymphocytes and decrease NK cells.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects on the Counts of Innate and Adaptive Immune Response Cells after 1 Month of Taoist Qigong Practice”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1109601799063745/?type=3&theater

Vera and colleagues studied the effect of one month of qigong practice on plasma levels of T, B, and NK cells. They found that qigong practice, in comparison to control participants, increased the levels of T and B lymphocytes and decreased the levels of NK cells. This indicates that engaging in qigong practice strengthens the immune system and reduces inflammation.

 

These results help to explain why qigong practice appears to be so beneficial for health. It strengthens the body’s critical defenses against disease and reduces the maladaptive over-activity in this system as reflected in chronic inflammation. Importantly, qigong does this with a practice that is safe, simple, easily scalable to large numbers of people, very inexpensive, and applicable to all age groups and to both healthy and ill individuals.

 

So, practice qigong and strengthen the immune system.

 

“Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice… has value in treating or preventing many health problems.” ~Harvard Women’s Health Watch

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Qigong Links

It has been shown to improve cardiac health (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/09/02/heart-health-with-tai-chi/), reduce the risk for strokes (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/09/18/dont-get-stroked-practice-tai-chi/), reduce the physical and psychological responses to stress (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/09/28/age-healthily-with-qigong-soothing-stress-responses/), improved sleep in people suffering from insomnia (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/aging-healthily-sleeping-better-with-mindful-movement-practice/ and  http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/06/age-healthily-treating-insomnia-and-inflammation/), helped with recovery from cancer (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/age-healthily-mindful-movement-and-cancer-recovery/) and reduced chronic inflammation (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/contemplative-practice/tai-chi-qigong/)