Improve Health with Qigong

Improve Health with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The health benefits from Qigong and Tai Chi comes about both by supporting the body’s natural tendency to return to balance and equilibrium and also gently yet profoundly creating strength, flexibility and balance in the muscles and joints through gentle flowing movements.” – Denise Nagel

 

Qigong and Tai Chi have been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Qigong and Tai Chi training are 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 systemreduce inflammationincrease the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream and improve cardiovascular function.

 

Because Qigong is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. So, with indications of so many benefits it makes sense to step back and review the research on the effects of Qigong training on health and well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “Beneficial Effects of Qigong Wuqinxi in the Improvement of Health Condition, Prevention, and Treatment of Chronic Diseases: Evidence from a Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6220394/ ), Guo and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effects of Qigong practice on physical and psychological health. They found 28 published research studies.

 

They report that the research finds that Qigong practice by healthy adults produces improvements in cognitive functions including concentration and attention, strengthens the immune system, improves body shape and size, physical function, and the cardiovascular system, improves mood and psychological well-being, improves lipid metabolism, slows physiological indicators of aging, and reduces inflammation. For clinical populations, they report that the research indicates that Qigong practice reduces depression, and improves osteoarthritis, including knee osteoarthritis, metabolic syndrome, and blood fat levels.

 

Conclusions from these very exciting findings must be tempered as the research methodologies were often weak. More tightly controlled studies are needed. Regardless, these findings suggest that Qigong practice produces improved physical and psychological health in both healthy adults and people with mental and physical diseases. These are a remarkable set of benefits from this simple practice and suggest the reason why it has continued to be practiced by large numbers of people for hundreds of years. Hence, this simple, inexpensive, convenient, safe, and fun practice may improve the participants ability to successfully conduct their lives, improving health and well-being.

 

So, improve health with Qigong.

 

“A compelling body of research emerges when Tai Chi studies and the growing body of Qigong studies are combined. The evidence suggests that a wide range of health benefits accrue in response to these meditative movement forms.” – Dr. Mercola

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Guo, Y., Xu, M., Wei, Z., Hu, Q., Chen, Y., Yan, J., & Wei, Y. (2018). Beneficial Effects of Qigong Wuqinxi in the Improvement of Health Condition, Prevention, and Treatment of Chronic Diseases: Evidence from a Systematic Review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2018, 3235950. doi:10.1155/2018/3235950

 

Abstract

Purpose

Qigong is a modality of traditional Chinese mind-body medicine that has been used to prevent and cure ailments, to improve health in China for thousands of years. Wuqinxi, a Chinese traditional Qigong that focuses on mind-body integration, is thought to be an effective exercise in promoting physical and mental wellbeing. Thus, we summarized the evidence and aim to unravel effects of Wuqinxi on health outcomes.

Methods

We performed a systematic review of Wuqinxi studies published in English or Chinese since 1979. Relevant English and Chinese language electronic data bases were used for literature search. The selection of studies, data extraction, and validation were performed independently by two reviewers.

Results

A total of 28 eligible studies were included in this review, among which three are 3 in English and 25 in Chinese. The studies included in this review involve three different experimental designs: (1) 16 RCTs; (2) 2 historical cohort studies; and (3) 10 pretest and posttest studies (PPS). Participants in this review are categorized as either healthy or clinical populations. The results from this systematic review support the notion that Wuqinxi may be effective as an adjunctive rehabilitation method for improving psychological and physiological wellbeing among different age of healthy populations in addition to alleviating and treating diseases among various clinical populations.

Conclusion

The results indicated that Wuqinxi has been thought to be beneficial to improve health and treat chronic diseases. However, the methodological problems in the majority of included studies make it difficult to draw firm conclusive statements. More methodologically rigorous designed large-scale RCTs with a long-term follow-up assessment should be further conducted to examine the effects of Wuqixi on health-related parameters and disease-specific measures in different health conditions. This systematic review lends insight for future studies on Wuqinxi and its potential application in preventive and rehabilitation medicine.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6220394/

 

Improve Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness with Tai Chi

Improve Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Qigong and Tai Chi initiate the “relaxation response,” which is fostered when the mind is freed from its many distractions. This decreases the sympathetic function of the autonomic nervous system, which in turn reduces heart rate and blood pressure, dilates the blood capillaries, and optimizes the delivery of oxygen and nutrition to the tissues.”

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi 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 Tai Chi 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 inflammationincrease the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream and improve cardiovascular function.

 

Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. So, with indications of so many benefits it makes sense to explore further the effects of Tai Chi training on physical and psychological well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Tai Chi Synergy T1 Exercise on Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness of Healthy Individuals.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2018/6351938/ ), Tai and colleagues recruited adults and randomly assigned them to either participate in 12 weeks, once a week for 60 minutes, of either Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise or a metabolically equivalent walking exercise. “Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise is an aerobic exercise composed of movements derived not only from Tai Chi exercise but also from Eight Trigrams Palms, form and will boxing, mantis boxing, Qigong, and Yoga . . . The 60-minute exercise involves 4 exercise elements: handwork, trunk work, legwork, and whole-body work. The 3 levels of exercise intensity, light, average, and heavy, are adjusted according to the tolerance and fitness of the exerciser.” The participants were measured before and after the 12 weeks of training for body size and fatness, heart rate and blood pressure, serum glucose and cholesterol, physical fitness, bone density, and cell counts of immune regulator cells, including T cells, CD3+ cells, CD19+ B cells, CD16-CD56- cytotoxic T cells, and CD16+CD56+ NK/T cells.

 

They found that both exercises decreased the Body Mass Index (BMI) indicating decreased body fatness and also increased parasympathetic control of heart rate and blood pressure suggesting reduced activation and greater relaxation. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise, but not walking, was found to significantly improve physical fitness and reduce blood levels of glucose and cholesterol. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise was also found to improve immune system function as indicated by significantly increased T cells, CD3+ T cells, CD19+ B cells, and CD16+CD56+NK cells and significantly decreased CD3+ cytotoxic T cells.

 

These results are impressive especially as the group sizes were relatively small, 26 and 23 participants. They suggest that Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise is safe and effective in improving the physical health of participants; improving body fatness, physiological relaxation, physical fitness, and immune system function. Metabolically equivalent walking exercise also improved physical health, but not to the same extent as Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise.

 

It is well established that exercise is important for health. There’s no question there. There is, however, a question as to what exercises may be best for which group of people. Tai Chi and similar mindful movement exercises have been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle recovery after exercise, movement and flexibility, and immune and metabolic function. The present study demonstrated that a particular form of augmented Tai Chi is very effective in improving health. It would be interesting to compare the effectgiveness of various forms of mindful movement prctices.

 

So, improve autonomic function, metabolism, and physical fitness with Tai Chi.

 

“Qigong practice activate a number of the body’s self regulating systems which are responsible for the balanced function of the tissues, organs and glands. The uptake of oxygen, as well as, oxygen metabolism is tremendously enhanced by Qigong practice.” – Roger Jahnke

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Hsu-Chih Tai, Yi-Sheng Chou, I-Shiang Tzeng, et al., “Effect of Tai Chi Synergy T1 Exercise on Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness of Healthy Individuals,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2018, Article ID 6351938, 7 pages, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/6351938.

 

Abstract

Objectives. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise is an aerobic exercise derived mainly from Tai Chi exercise. It is also derived from the Eight Trigrams Palms, form and will boxing, mantis boxing, Qigong, and Yoga, with a total of 16 sessions in 63 minutes. In this study, we investigated its effects on autonomic modulation, metabolism, immunity, and physical function in healthy practitioners. Method. We recruited a total of 26 volunteers and 23 control participants. Heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI) were recorded before and after practicing Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise and regular walking for 10 weeks, respectively. Serum glucose, cholesterol, and peripheral blood including B and T cell counts were also measured. They underwent one-minute bent-knee sit-ups, sit and reach test, and three-minute gradual step test. Results. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise enhanced parasympathetic modulation and attenuated sympathetic nerve control with increased very low frequency (VLF) and high frequency (HF) but decreased low frequency (LF) compared to the control group. Metabolic profiles including serum glucose, cholesterol, and BMI significantly improved after exercise. The exercise enhanced innate and adaptive immunity by increasing the counts of CD3+ T cells, CD19+ B cells, and CD16+CD56+ NK cells but decreasing the CD3+ cytotoxic T cell count. All monitored parameters including physical fitness and physical strength improved after the exercise. Conclusion. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise improves autonomic modulation, body metabolism, physical fitness, and physical strength after 10 weeks of practice.

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2018/6351938/

 

Improve Inflammatory Responses in Breast Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness

Improve Inflammatory Responses in Breast Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Several studies have documented the value of meditation in managing both psychological and physical symptoms associated with cancer and its treatments. But it is important for patients considering meditation to note that regular, ongoing practice is essential for sustained benefits.” – Shelly Latte-Naor

 

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. Breast cancer diagnosis, however, is not always a death sentence. 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.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with general cancer recovery and breast cancer recovery. Mindfulness helps to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. One important benefit of mindfulness practices appears to be a strengthening of the immune system, the body’s primary defense against disease. 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. This response works to fight off infections and injuries. Unfortunately, breast cancer treatment tend to suppress the inflammatory response making the women more susceptible to infection. Mindfulness training have been shown to adaptively alter the inflammatory response.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR[BC]) on Levels of Inflammatory Biomarkers Among Recovering Breast Cancer Survivors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5942506/ ), Reich and colleagues recruited adult survivors of breast cancer who had completed treatment. They were randomly assigned to receive either a 6-week program of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) modified for breast cancer survivors or to usual care. The MBSR program consists of 6 weekly 2-hour sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion and encouraged daily practice for 15-45 minutes. Blood was drawn before and after treatment and 6 weeks later and assayed for cytokines; IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, TNFα, and TGF-β1.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and to the usual care group, participation in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program produced significant increases in the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNFα. Hence, mindfulness training alters the activity of the inflammatory systems, increasing the inflammatory response. This is important as breast cancer treatment tends to decrease the activity of the inflammatory system and this results in increases in susceptibility to infection. By increasing the activity of the proinflammatory cytokines, IL-6 and TNFα, MBSR training tends to produce a normalization of their levels. This would tend to make these women better able to fight off infection and better recover from their treatment.

 

This normalization of the proinflammatory response produced by MBSR practice may be the underlying mechanism by which mindfulness practice helps with general cancer recovery and breast cancer recovery.

 

So, improve inflammatory responses in breast cancer survivors with mindfulness.

 

“A growing body of research points to direct benefits related to meditation practices. These benefits extend to cancer patients. .  .  . As a result, a number of cancer centers now offer programs that include types of meditation and mindfulness practices,”

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Reich, R. R., Lengacher, C. A., Klein, T. W., Newton, C., Shivers, S., Ramesar, S., … Kip, K. E. (2017). A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR[BC]) on Levels of Inflammatory Biomarkers Among Recovering Breast Cancer Survivors. Biological Research for Nursing, 19(4), 456–464. http://doi.org/10.1177/1099800417707268

 

Abstract

Purpose:

The purpose of this substudy of a large randomized controlled trial was to evaluate the efficacy of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (Breast Cancer) (MBSR[BC]) program compared to usual care (UC) in normalizing blood levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines among breast cancer survivors (BCS).

Method:

A total of 322 BCS were randomized to either a 6-week MBSR(BC) program or a UC. At baseline and 6 and 12 weeks, 10 ml of venous blood and demographic and clinical data were collected and/or updated. Plasma cytokines (interleukin [IL]-1β, IL-6, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor [TNF] α, transforming growth factor [TGF] β1, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor [sTNFR] 1) were assayed. Linear mixed models were used to assess cytokine levels across three time points (baseline and 6 and 12 weeks) by group (MBSR[BC] vs. UC).

Results:

Of the six measured cytokines, three were nondetectable at rates greater than 50% (IL-10, IL-1β, TGF-β1) and, because of overall low prevalence, were not analyzed further. For the remaining cytokines (TNFα, IL-6, sTNFR1), results showed that TNFα and IL-6 increased during the follow-up period (between 6 and 12 weeks) rather than during the MBSR(BC) training period (between baseline and 6 weeks), while sTNFR1 levels did not change significantly across the 12-week period.

Conclusions:

Study results suggest that MBSR(BC) affects cytokine levels in BCS, mainly with increases in TNFα and IL-6. The data further suggest that B-cell modulation may be a part of immune recovery during breast cancer management and that increases in TNFα and IL-6 may be markers for MBSR(BC)-related recovery.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5942506/

 

Improve Arthritis with Qigong

Improve Arthritis with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Qigong techniques are simple and do not need to be carried out precisely to bring about its great benefits. Qigong practice is known for preventing disease, strengthening immunity and producing better health and well-being. However it is under-appreciated, even in China, that Qigong therapy can be effective for relieving pain and treating arthritis.” – Kellen Chia

 

Arthritis is a chronic disease that most commonly affects the joints. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Depending on the type of arthritis symptoms may include pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, and decreased range of motion. It affects an estimated 52.5 million adults in the United States. It is associated with aging as arthritis occurs in only 7% of adults ages 18–44, while 30% adults ages 45–64 are affected, and 50% of adults ages 65 or older. The pain, stiffness, and lack of mobility associate with arthritis produce fatigue and markedly reduce the quality of life of the sufferers. Arthritis can have very negative psychological effects diminishing the individual’s self-image and may lead to depression, isolation, and withdrawal from friends and social activities Arthritis reduces the individual’s ability to function at work and may require modifications of work activities which can lead to financial difficulties. It even affects the individual’s physical appearance. In addition, due to complications associated with rheumatoid arthritis, particularly cardiovascular disease, the lifespan for people with rheumatoid arthritis may be shortened by 10 years.

 

It is obvious that there is a need for a safe and effective treatment to help rheumatoid arthritis sufferers cope with the disease and its consequences. Increasing exercise has been shown to increase flexibility and mobility but many form of exercise are difficult for the arthritis sufferer to engage in and many drop out. But all that may be needed is gentle movements of the joints. Qigong or Tai Chi training are designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. They have been shown to have many physical and psychological benefits, especially for the elderly. Because They are not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and are safe, having no appreciable side effects, they are appropriate for an elderly population. So, it would seem that Qigong or Tai Chi practice would be well suited to treat arthritis in seniors.

 

In today’s Research News article “Qigong Exercise and Arthritis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5750595/ ), Marks reviewed and summarized the published research on the effectiveness of Qigong practice for the treatment of arthritis. He found that Qigong practice produced significant improvements in the musculoskeletal system including increased strength, joint flexibility, posture, balance motor function, and motor coordination, and improvements in quality of life and cognitive function. In addition, the research reported decreased pain, fatigue, and blood pressure and improved immune function, metabolic function, circulation, aerobic capacity, and reduced falls, improved psychological health, mood, and sleep.

 

These are impressive results. Scientific research suggests that Qigong practice produces  widespread improvements in mental and physical health in arthritis sufferers. In addition, it is inexpensive, convenient, appropriate for individuals of all ages and health condition and is safe to practice, making it an almost ideal treatment for the symptoms of arthritis.

 

So, improve arthritis with Qigong.

 

“Qigong focuses on relaxing the body, which over time, allows the joints and muscles to loosen up, improving the circulation of fluids and blood. The practice focuses on rebuilding overall health and strengthening the spirit, while encouraging one to change the way one looks at life in general, and at the illness affecting you.” – 1MD

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Ray Marks. Qigong Exercise and Arthritis. Medicines (Basel) 2017 Dec; 4(4): 71. Published online 2017 Sep 27. doi: 10.3390/medicines4040071

 

Abstract

Background: Arthritis is a chronic condition resulting in considerable disability, particularly in later life. Aims: The first aim of this review was to summarize and synthesize the research base concerning the use of Qigong exercises as a possible adjunctive strategy for promoting well-being among adults with arthritis. A second was to provide related intervention directives for health professionals working or who are likely to work with this population in the future. Methods: Material specifically focusing on examining the nature of Qigong for minimizing arthritis disability, pain and dependence and for improving life quality was sought. Results: Collectively, despite almost no attention to this topic, available data reveal that while more research is indicated, Qigong exercises—practiced widely in China for many centuries as an exercise form, mind-body and relaxation technique—may be very useful as an intervention strategy for adults with different forms of painful disabling arthritis. Conclusion: Health professionals working with people who have chronic arthritis can safely recommend these exercises to most adults with this condition with the expectation they will heighten the life quality of the individual, while reducing pain and depression in adults with this condition.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5750595/

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/