Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, people are living with stress at levels higher than what is considered healthy. Unsurprisingly, the APA found the top four sources of stress to be money, work, family responsibilities, and health concerns.
Are you nervous about that project that’s due this week? Worried about the last of your sample that’s incubating in the lab? Perhaps you’re just convinced money is some sort of mythical object that you might one day catch a glimpse of. Or maybe you’re wondering how you might engineer a time machine to bring your daughter to jiu jitsu practice and pick up your son from daycare at the same time you’re supposed to be at your doctor’s appointment?
Even if none of these scenarios begin to scratch the surface for you, there is still hope for reducing the stress in your life. As we all know, too much stress can take a significant toll on your health. Not being able to cope with stress can lead to chronic diseases and accelerated aging (but don’t think about that too much, or risk adding it to your already lengthy list of stressors).
What you should think about, though, is turning to an ancient practice that reduces stress and improves your health. Epigenetic research is actually finding that the years-old act of meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, has numerous health and stress-reducing benefits.
Epigenetics is an ever-growing field of research that focuses on the chemical modifications made to DNA that change phenotype without altering the underlying genetic sequence. DNA methylation and histone modifications are two of the most common epigenetic mechanisms that impact gene expression. New scientific studies are supporting and describing the molecular changes and epigenetics-related benefits that are linked to meditation.
If improving your health by simply relaxing sounds too good to be true, below are 3 ways meditation may epigenetically alleviate stress and improve your health:
1. Lower harmful inflammation
Chronic inflammation is connected to a host of issues – depression, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and obesity, just to name a few. Based on research from a group of international scientists, meditation may be able to stave off this detrimental inflammation. Mindfulness meditation is based off of Buddhist practices that emphasize aligning one’s focus with the present in a nonjudgmental way to increase awareness, calming the mind and body.
While investigating blood mononuclear cells, researchers found that a day of intensive practice of mindfulness meditation by experienced meditators was linked to reduced expression of histone deacetylase genes (HDAC2, HDAC3 and HDAC9) which are thought to modulate inflammatory pathways, and decreased expression of two pro-inflammatory genes – RIPK2 and COX2. These meditators also experienced changes in global histone modification, specifically histones H4 pan-acetyl (H4ac) and histone H3 trimethyl Lys4 (H3K4me3), and demonstrated faster cortisol recovery to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST).
2. Maintain telomere length
Not only can meditation reduce inflammation, it may also protect parts of your chromosomes that are central to gene expression. Telomeres, the protective end caps on chromosomes, and the enzyme telomerase, which helps to rebuild and lengthen telomeres, are important to health and have been previously implicated in epigenetics. Their length has been shown to influence whether target genes are switched on or off and telomerase activity is thought to be linked to psychological stress and physical health.
But by simply meditating, you may be able to maintain telomere length and actually increase telomerase activity. In a study published in Cancer, researchers found distressed breast cancer survivors who engaged in mindfulness meditation could maintain their telomere length, but those that didn’t undergo meditation actually saw their telomeres decrease in length. Telomere dysfunction or shortening has been connected to the development of tumors and linked to bladder, bone, lung, and kidney cancer. Telomeres are also reportedly shorter in people with diabetes, heart disease, high stress levels, and they may predict diseases that are regulated by psychological stress.
Based on this preliminary research, people who are feeling stressed might be able to improve their telomere length and telomerase activity by meditating, possibly positively influencing gene expression and alleviating stress levels.
3. Reduce cancer risk
Recent research suggests that meditation and other similar lifestyle changes may also be able to reduce the risk of cancer. A small study done by Dr. Dean Ornish and scientists at University of California, San Francisco found that men with low-risk prostate cancer who underwent an hour long breathing and meditation exercise every day along with other activities like yoga or walking had decreased expression in genes associated with cancer. Specifically, the research team found that RAS family oncogenes (RAN, RAB14, and RAB8A) were down-regulated as a result of the activities.
Although this was only a preliminary study, research indicates that hypermethylation of CpG islands often results in the epigenetic silencing or inactivation of genes related to the development of cancer and various covalent modifications to histone proteins, such as phosphorylation, , or , are implicated in crucial physiological and pathological processes, including tumorigenesis. Histone modifications, alongside other epigenetic mechanisms like methylation of CpG islands, may go hand-in-hand in regulating gene activity, including transcription, repair, and replication, and can impact cancer and disease development.
Pathway analysis revealed significant modulation of biological processes involved in tumorigenesis, suggesting that meditation may actually molecularly mitigate the processes that play a role in developing cancer. These changes as a result of meditation lend more evidence to the very foundation of epigenetics – that the environment or other external factors could impact DNA expression and phenotype regardless of one’s existing genetic sequence. Their results showed down regulated pathways involving protein metabolism and modification, intracellular protein traffic, and protein phosphorylation which occurred as a result of the meditation and other activities.
It seems unusual that something as simple and easy as meditating could improve your health, but these studies demonstrate an epigenetic link between meditation and its potential disease-reducing benefits. Next time you’re feeling stressed, take some time to breathe and you may be surprised at just how effective meditation could be.
*Disclaimer: The points made herein represent a speculative opinion of the author based on related scholarly publications on animal and human studies.
- Carlson, L. E., Beattie, T. L., Giese-Davis, J., Faris, P., Tamagawa, R., Fick, L. J., Degelman, E. S. and Speca, M. (2015). Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors. Cancer, 121: 476–484.
- Epel, E., Daubenmier, J., Moskowitz, J.T., Folkman, S., Blackburn, E. Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 1172: 34-53.
- Esteller, M. (2006). Epigenetics provides a new generation of oncogenes and tumour-suppressor genes. British Journal of Cancer, 94(2), 179–183.
- Kaliman, P., Álvarez-López, M.J., Cosín-Tomás, M., Rosenkranz, M.A., Lutz, A., Davidson, R.J. (2014). Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 40: 96-107.
- Ornish, D., Magbanua, M.J., Weidner, G., Weinberg, V., Kemp, C., Green, C., Mattie, M.D., Marlin, R., Simko, J., Shinohara, K., Haqq, C.M., Carroll, P.R. (2008). Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention. PNAS, 105(24): 8369-8374.
- Robin, J.D., Ludlow, A.T., Batten, K., Magdinier, F., Stadler, G., Wagner K.R., Shay, J.W., &. Wright, W.E. (2014). Telomere position effect: regulation of gene expression with progressive telomere shortening over long distances. Genes & Development, 28: 2464-2476.
- Meditation for Beginners: A Guide to Inner Tranquility
- How to Meditate: Learning the Best Meditation Techniques
- Can You Eliminate Stress with Aromatherapy?
- How Stress Affects Your Health
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Published by dreddymd
Dr Eddy Bettermann MD focus on Biological Medicine (Biologische Medizin), Darkfield Microscopy (Dunkelfeld Mikroskopie), Orthomolecular Medicine (Orthomolekulare Medizin), Ayurvedic Medicine (Ayurveda), Psychosomatic Medicine (Psychosomatische Medizin), raw food (Rohkost), fasting (Fasten): Our primary integrative medicine goal is the maintenance of your health and wellness, and we are committed to safe and effective healthcare. Our specialties include online integrative medicine education by alternative doctor: food and allergy management through the use of Integrative medical therapy, Environmental Medicine, General Family Medicine, Ayurveda, Panchakarma, Chronic Fatigue, ADHD, autism, Fibromyalgia, Yeast/Fungus related diseases – Candidacies, mercury dental replacement and detoxification, Natural Thyroid Replacement, Weight loss, Lyme Disease, Irritable Bowel Disease, Attention Deficit Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Addiction related programs, Intestinal Dysbiosis, as well as trigger point therapy using Neural Therapy. Dr. Eddy Bettermann MD, physician from Germany, consultant and teacher in biological medicine, especially dark field microscopy known as Live Blood Analysis in Thailand, Malaysia, Hon Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. But he lecture also in the USA, Canada and the U.A.E. He speaks english and german. https://dreddymd.com/2017/01/17/the-interactive-live-blood-cd-and-the-certified-training-live-blood-analysis-online-course/ https://dreddymd.com/courses/ https://dreddymd.com/2017/01/17/live-blood-microscopy-analysis-darkfield-course/ “Let thy Food be thy Medicine and thy Medicine be thy Food.” — Hippocrates Physician Member of the Medical Board at AOX Singapore, Medical Doctor at Nurse Mobile Clinic and Physician at DrEddy Clinic Our Mission: The mission of the Integrative Medicine is to search for the most effective treatments for patients by combining both conventional and alternative approaches that address all aspects of health and wellness – biological, psychological, social and spiritual. Biological Medicine is a big part of my work and so is Dark field Microscopy, what I use in my daily practice and what I teach more then 15 years in Asia and around the world: Live Blood Analysis in dark field based on Haematology. We utilize Live blood analysis since 2004, conventional as well as specialty laboratories for a thorough diagnostic work up of the disease in question. Our integrative medicine treatment regimens are especially unique and are tailored specifically to the individual needs of each patient. Our Mission: don’t harm, prevent, use food as medicine We are a reliable partner for integrative medicine in Medical Spa & Clinic Development and integrative medicine Education Training for alternative doctors – we bring different holistic approaches, like Integrative Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda Medicine together. On your request we offer our service in your place as well. Heavy metal poisoning Heavy metal poisoning is much more common than most people realize, and if you’re thinking that it doesn’t apply to you because you haven’t been exposed to any, think again. If you’ve eaten fish regularly, had amalgam fillings, received vaccinations, drank contaminated water, or done industrial or agricultural work or pharmaceutical manufacturing, there’s a good chance that you have a fair amount of toxic metals in your system.. We are here to help and to educate! Wishing your health and happiness Dr Eddy Bettermann MD Protect you and your family from harmful radiation https://bit.ly/synergyscience-dreddymd More information about 5G and EMF: https://dreddymd.com/?s=5G+and+EMF View all posts by dreddymd