Improve Metabolism and Reduce the Inflammatory Response with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Kick-start your sluggish metabolism by engaging in physical exercise. Yoga moves and poses can help increase your metabolism and help you be more fit.” – Robin Reichert

 

Metabolic Syndrome is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It generally results from overweight and abdominal obesity and includes high blood pressure, insulin resistance and elevation of plasma cholesterol and triglycerides. It is an important risk factor as it increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes five-fold and heart attack or stroke three-fold. Metabolic Syndrome incidence has been rising rapidly and it currently affects 34% of U.S. adults. Needless to say this is a major health problem. The good news is that timely treatment can prevent or reverse the risk. The simplest treatment is simply exercise and weight loss.

 

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 quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It 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 reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.

 

Of course it is far better to prevent Metabolic Syndrome and chronic inflammation in the first place than to treat them later. Exercise can counteract their development and their consequent risks of disease. Yoga has been used to promote health and well-being for thousands of years. It has also been shown to be effective in treating Metabolic Syndrome. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. Most of these results were obtained from treating diseased individuals. It is important to establish if yoga can be effective in preventing Metabolic Syndrome and chronic inflammation through practice by healthy individuals.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of 8-Week Hatha Yoga Training on Metabolic and Inflammatory Markers in Healthy, Female Chinese Subjects: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1339638822726707/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4987461/

Chen and colleagues recruited healthy women and randomly assigned them to either receive Hatha yoga practice for 8-weeks, twice a week for 60 minutes, or a control condition. Before and after the 8-week practice they had fasting blood drawn and clinical markers of insulin, glucose, triacylglycerol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and total cholesterol, and inflammation markers of plasma cytokines and endothelial microparticles measured.

 

They found that yoga practice produced a significant reduction in Metabolic Syndrome indicators; plasma insulin, total cholesterol, and LDL-C, and insulin resistance levels, and also inflammation indicators; endothelial microparticles, proinflammatory cytokines, and inflammatory signaling proteins. Thus, yoga practice appears to reduce circulating markers of Metabolic Syndrome and also the inflammatory response.

 

These are exciting and significant results. Keep in mind that the intervention consisted of a total of only 16 hours of gentle Hatha yoga over 8 weeks. So, it doesn’t seem to require intensive long-term practice to produce these benefits. Yet, the yoga improved markers that indicate a significant reduction in the risk of Metabolic Syndrome and a reduction in chronic inflammation. This suggests that yoga practice can prevent physiological reactions that lead to disease and thus could promote health and well-being.

 

So, improve health by improving metabolism and reducing the inflammatory response with yoga.

 

“We think improved sleep could be part of the mechanism of what we were seeing. When women were sleeping better, inflammation could have been lowered by that. Reducing fatigue enables women to engage in other activities over time. So yoga may have offered a variety of benefits in addition to the yoga exercises themselves.” – Janice Kiecolt-Glaser

 

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

Chen, N., Xia, X., Qin, L., Luo, L., Han, S., Wang, G., … Wan, Z. (2016). Effects of 8-Week Hatha Yoga Training on Metabolic and Inflammatory Markers in Healthy, Female Chinese Subjects: A Randomized Clinical Trial. BioMed Research International, 2016, 5387258. http://doi.org/10.1155/2016/5387258

 

Abstract

We aimed to determine the effects of an 8 wk Hatha yoga training on blood glucose, insulin, lipid profiles, endothelial microparticles (EMPs), and inflammatory status in healthy, lean, and female Chinese subjects. A total of 30 healthy, female Chinese subjects were recruited and randomized into control or yoga practice group. The yoga practice included 8 wks of yoga practice (2 times/wk) for a total of 16 times. Fasting blood samples were collected before and after yoga training. Plasma was isolated for the measurement of lipid profiles, glucose, insulin, EMPs, and inflammatory cytokines. Whole blood was cultured ex vivo and stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and Pam3Cys-SK4. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated for the measurement of TLR2 and TLR4 protein expression. Yoga practice significantly reduced plasma cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, insulin levels, and CD31+/CD42b− EMPs. Cultured whole blood from the yoga group has reduced proinflammatory cytokines secretion both at unstimulated condition and when stimulated with Pam3Cys-SK4; this might be associated with reduced TLR2 protein expression in PBMCs after yoga training. Hatha yoga practice in healthy Chinese female subjects could improve hallmarks related to MetS; thus it can be considered as an ancillary intervention in the primary MetS prevention for the healthy population.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4987461/

 

Practice Yoga and be Resilient to Stress

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“yoga is anti-aging, lowers blood pressure, and is beneficial for treating metabolic syndrome x. Waist circumference, blood sugar, and triglycerides. Yoga has been known to balance the endocrine system and hormones for centuries. Now it is also being recognized as a way to balance blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diseases brought on by a classically western diet.” – Cheryl Walters
Stress is universal. We are constantly under some form of stress. In fact, if we don’t have enough stress, we seek out more. Stress actually can strengthen us. Muscles don’t grow and strengthen unless they are moderately stressed in exercise. Moderate mental stress can actually increase the size and connectivity of brain areas devoted to the activity. Moderate social stress can help us become more adept in social interactions. Moderate work stress can help us be more productive and improve as an employee, etc. So, stress can be a good thing promoting growth and flourishing. The key word here is moderate or what we called the optimum level of stress. Too little or too much stress can be damaging.

 

Unfortunately for many of us living in a competitive modern environment stress is all too often higher than desirable. In addition, many of the normal mechanisms for dealing with stress have been eliminated. The business of modern life removes opportunities for rest, working extra hours, and limiting or passing up entirely vacations to stay competitive. Persistently high levels of stress are damaging and can directly produce disease or debilitation increasing susceptibility to other diseases. Chronic stress can produce a condition called distress which can lead to headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping and can make other diseases worse.

 

It is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Because of their ability to relieve stress, mindfulness trainings are increasingly being practiced by individuals and are even being encouraged in some workplaces.
In today’s Research News article “Heart Rate Variability, Flow, Mood and Mental Stress During Yoga Practices in Yoga Practitioners, Non-yoga Practitioners and People with Metabolic Syndrome.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1311695092187747/?type=3&theater

or see summary below. Tyagi and colleagues investigate the ability of yoga practitioners to respond to and recover from stress. They recruited yoga practitioners who had been practicing for at least 6 months, comparable individuals who did not practice yoga, and individuals with metabolic syndrome. They had the participants relax in a reclining position and then challenged them with a stressful mental arithmetic task. During this time, they were measured for mood, flow, respiration, and cardiac activity with an Electrocardiogram (ECG). Flow is a “desirable state of positive arousal caused by the perception of subjective control with maximum physiological efficiency and the down-regulation of functions irrelevant for task fulfilment.”

 

They found that the yoga practitioners had greater flow and were in a better mood even before the stressful task and showed greater improvement in flow and mood after the task than the other groups. These included flow, total mood, and the mood components of tension, depression, fatigue, confusion, anxiety, and vigor. They also found that the yoga practitioners had lower heart rates and respiration rates than the other groups, had greater increases during the stressful task, and more rapid decreases afterward.

 

These are interesting results and replicate many previous results that the practice of yoga in general improves flow, mood, and physiological responses. This is not surprising as exercise in general is known to do this. What is new and significant is that yoga practice appears to improve resilience; that is, it results in vigorous responses to stress, but rapid recovery. Both of these responses are adaptive. By readying the physiology to cope with the effects of stress, it positions the individual to better withstand these effects. But, yoga also improves the recovery afterward preventing the stress effects to be prolonged and potentially damaging. As a result, yoga practitioners appear to better able to respond to and cope with stress, quickly and efficiently, without unnecessary prolonged physiological reactions.

 

So, practice yoga and be resilient to stress.

 

“Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration. Body- and self-awareness are particularly beneficial, because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.” – Natalie Nevin

 

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

Tyagi, A., Cohen, M., Reece, J. Telles, S. and Jones. L. Heart Rate Variability, Flow, Mood and Mental Stress During Yoga Practices in Yoga Practitioners, Non-yoga Practitioners and People with Metabolic Syndrome. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback (2016). doi:10.1007/s10484-016-9340-2

Abstract

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia are directly associated with autonomic flexibility, self-regulation and well-being, and inversely associated with physiological stress, psychological stress and pathology. Yoga enhances autonomic activity, mitigates stress and benefits stress-related clinical conditions, yet the relationship between autonomic activity and psychophysiological responses during yoga practices and stressful stimuli has not been widely explored. This experimental study explored the relationship between HRV, mood states and flow experiences in regular yoga practitioners (YP), non-yoga practitioners (NY) and people with metabolic syndrome (MetS), during Mental Arithmetic Stress Test (MAST) and various yoga practices. The study found that the MAST placed a cardio-autonomic burden in all participants with the YP group showing the greatest reactivity and the most rapid recovery, while the MetS group had significantly blunted recovery. The YP group also reported a heightened experience of flow and positive mood states compared to NY and MetS groups as well as having a higher vagal tone during all resting conditions. These results suggest yoga practitioners have a greater homeostatic capacity and autonomic, metabolic and physiological resilience. Further studies are now needed to determine if regular yoga practice may improve autonomic flexibility in non-yoga practitioners and metabolic syndrome patients.

 

Heart Healthy Yoga

Metabolic Syndrome is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It generally results from overweight and abdominal obesity and includes high blood pressure, insulin resistance and elevation of plasma cholesterol and triglycerides. It is an important risk factor as it increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes five-fold and heart attack or stroke three-fold.

Metabolic Syndrome incidence has been rising rapidly approaching epidemic proportions. It is estimated that it currently affects 34% of US adults. Needless to say this is a major health problem. The good news is that timely treatment can prevent or reverse the risk. The simplest treatment is simply exercise and weight loss.

Yoga has been used to promote health and well-being for thousands of years. In today’s Research News article “Effects of 1-year yoga on cardiovascular risk factors in middle-aged and older adults with metabolic syndrome: a randomized trial”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1045854842105108/?type=1&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4440276/

Siu and colleagues examine whether yoga is an effective treatment for metabolic syndrome. They found that a 1-year yoga program reduced waist circumference, blood pressure, and resting heart rate and increased activity levels. This suggests that yoga is effective in reducing the symptoms of the Metabolic Syndrome.

Probably the most important finding was a 3.5% reduction in waist circumference. Most of the Symptoms of the Metabolic Syndrome result from a high level of abdominal fat. This produces the insulin resistance which in turn increases diabetes risk and raises cholesterol and triglycerides which increases cardiovascular risk. Hence, a key to treatment is to reduce this belly fat and yoga appears to be effective at doing just that.

Yoga is in part an exercise and this by itself could be responsible for the improvement. Indeed yoga practice increased activity levels which promotes the conversion of fat to muscle. So, even if there is no change in weight there is a reduction in abdominal fat, the primary culprit in Metabolic Syndrome.

Yoga, however, produces other beneficial effects that could be responsible for the improvement in Metabolic Syndrome. Yoga practice reduces the physiological symptoms of stress. It reduces the levels of stress hormones and it relaxes the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight system. Stress exacerbates the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome. By reducing the physiological mechanisms by which stress affects Metabolic Syndrome, yoga can markedly improve the symptoms. In addition, by reducing stress, yoga can improve immune system response, increasing the individual’s ability to fight off diseases.

So practice yoga and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

CMCS