A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology reviewed over a decade of studies analyzing how the behavior of our genes is affected by so-called Mind-Body Interventions (MBIs), including mindfulness, yoga and meditation.
According to researchers, MBIs leave a “molecular signature” in our cells which reverses the effect stress has on the body. When a person is exposed to a highly stressful event, their sympathetic nervous system is triggered (the system responsible for the fight or flight response), increasing the production of a molecule called NF-kB. NF-kB reacts by activating genes to produce proteins called cytokins that cause inflammation at a cellular level. This reaction is useful in a fight or flight situation, but prolonged exposure to stress can have serious effects on our physical and mental health.
However, this recent study shows that people who practice MBI’s on a regular basis, such as yoga or meditation, exhibit the opposite effect. Their bodies showed a decrease in the production of NF-kBs and cytokins. Meaning, they’re at a reduced risk for inflammation-related diseases.
As lead researcher Ivana Buric from Conventry University’s Centre for Psychology puts it: “These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, MBI's cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our well-being.”
More research needs to be done to understand these effects in greater depth, but it’s long been understood that there’s a powerful connection between our mental health and our physical health.
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