Meditation and Yoga Change How Our DNA Is Expressed

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Meditation, Yoga and other “mind-body interventions” (MBIs) can reverse the damaging effects of stress and anxiety on the level of our DNA, according to a new study.

When our body becomes stressed, our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) goes into survival mode and tells our body to increase the production of a molecule called Nuclear Factor kappa B, or NF-kB. This molecule regulates how our genes are expressed.

NFkB tells our genes to produce proteins called cytokines, which cause inflammation at a cellular level. This reaction is useful for a short-lived “fight or flight” response, but if triggered continuously, can lead to serious health concerns such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, accelerated aging, and even psychiatric disorders such as depression.

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According to the new study, those who practice MBIs, actually exhibits the opposite effect: a decrease in the production of NFkB and cytokines. This means a reduction in the pattern of pro-inflammatory gene expression — and thus a reduction in the link of inflammation-related diseases and disorders.

Lead researcher, Iyana Buric, noted, “”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, the MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”

The researchers looked at 18 studies featuring a total of 846 participants over 11 years. They were able to chart a distinct pattern in the molecular changes that happened within the participants’ physiologies as a result of regular practice of MBIs.

Ayurveda, which literally means “the science of life”, has long understood that the mind/body system must be considered as a whole. Ayurveda is a comprehensive system of medicine that places equal emphasis on the body, mind and spirit, and strives to restore the innate harmony of the individual.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique, was instrumental in restoring Ayurveda to its comprehensive and integrated form in a system known as Maharishi Ayurveda. He emphasized the inseparable, very intimate relationship between the unmanifest field of consciousness and all the manifest levels of the physiology. According to this view, the primary approach to health must be from the most basic foundation: the field of consciousness.

The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa offers an integrated approach of purification treatments (Panchakarma), the Transcendental Meditation program, Yoga, diet, lifestyle and herbs, emphasizing a unique, individualized, and a holistic approach to health that has seen remarkable results in the lessening and abatement of a wide range of disorders.

For more information on The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa programs, visit:

www.theraj.com

 

How To Reduce and Manage Stress—a Key Tool for Healthy Living

Life, by nature, can be unpredictable and, therefore, stressful. If we are lucky, the stress we experience is a short-lived. Too often, however, situations occur that keep us stressed for days, weeks, or even months. This experience of unrelenting stress can cause significant damage to our health, mind and emotions. If you go to the Internet, you’ll find pages and pages of articles and research studies linking stress to ill health.

Stress Creates a Super-highway for Spreading Cancer

Depression and Chronic Stress Accelerate Aging

Moderate to High Stress Leads to Higher Mortality Rate

Mild Stress Linked to Long-Term Disability

Stress Can Control Our Genes

Chronic Stress May Cause Long-Lasting Epigenetic Changes

Chronic Stress Predisposes Brain to Mental Illness

Stress: Yes It Really Can Trigger a Heart Attack

Chronic Stress Can Damage Brain Structure and Connectivity

Clearly if we are interested in staying healthy, stress management should be one of our top priorities.

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Let’s take a look at the mechanisms of the stress response. Stress is described as “any physical, emotional, social, economic or other factor that requires a response to change.” Since it has been said that ” change is the only constant in life”, if stress is associated with change, it can also be considered a constant. Luckily the human body is brilliantly designed to react to stress. It does so by activating the secretion of the hormone cortisol. This initiates a beautiful cascade of physiological responses that allows us to deal with immediate danger or challenge.

When the adrenal gland releases cortisol into the body, the hormone “turns off” many of our normal physiological mechanisms while “turning on” many temporary mechanisms. This is the source of the “fight or flight” response. Ideally once the emergency situation has been resolved, our metabolic functions go back to their normal functioning. But if we are under constant stress the adrenal gland does not get a signal to stop producing cortisol. The long-term production of cortisol can severely compromise our health and permanently alter our metabolic process.

Results of Long-Term Stress

Some of the documented results of long-term stress include:

  1. Weakened immune response leading to heightened vulnerability to infection
  2. Memory loss: excess cortisol can overwhelm the hippocampus and actually cause atrophy. Studies of the elderly have indicated that those with elevated cortisol levels display significant memory loss resulting from hippocampus damage. Luckily the damage incurred is usually reversible.
  3. Shortening of telomeres. The link between memory loss and stress may in some part be due to shortened telmeres. The telomere is the outermost part of the chromosome. As we age, telomeres shorten. Research has shown that oxidative stress and inflammation accelerates this shortening. Shorter telomere length has recently been associated with cortisol levels indicative of exposure to chronic stress. If its telomeres get too short, a cell may die. Shortened telomere length has been associated with risks for dementia and mortality, and may be a marker of biological aging, according to a new study.
  4. An increase in abdominal fat. Researchers at Yale University found slender women who had high cortisol also had more abdominal fat. Abdominal, or visceral, fat is a key player in a variety of health problems Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.
  5. Systemic inflammation. Researchers have found that chronic stress changes gene activity of immune cells before they enter the bloodstream so that they’re ready to fight infection or trauma — even when there is no infection or trauma to fight. This leads to increased inflammation in the body. Problematically, systemic inflammation is known to cause elevated cortisol levels. Thus chronic stress can create a vicious cycle wherein the cortisol and inflammation basically feed each other. Chronic inflammation has been linked with a range of conditions such as heart disease, depression and even cancer.

Stress-Busters

While we may not be able to eliminate the stress in our lives, we can take measures to give the body the relief from stress that it needs in order to stay healthy.

  1. Decrease consumption of caffeine and alcohol, both of which impact cortisol levels
  2. Go to bed by 10:00. Your body needs sleep. Getting six hours or less over time can significantly increase cortisol levels. It takes a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep to give your body enough time to recover from the stresses of the day before.
  3. Practice a stress reduction technique. Research has shown that the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM) can lower cortisol levels. The lowering is even greater in those who practice TM regularly. In fact, the longer people practice TM, the more pronounced is the effect. TM was also found to decrease the time it took for the body return to normal functioning following stressful stimuli. This is significant because high cortisol levels can actually create a self-perpetuating loop by disrupting the delicate feedback balance that tells the brain to stop releasing cortisol.Researchers concluded that the Transcendental Meditation technique gives the body a reprieve from experiencing stress, and as a result, the body is able to respond more normally to stress stimuli of short duration.
  4. Schedule a week of Panchakarma treatments. Multiple studies have shown that massage therapy can lower cortisol levels, increase dopamine and serotonin (our happy, feel-good hormones), and lower excitatory hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine. A week of luxurious in-residence treatments can provide a much-needed break from the day-to-day pressures at work and home.

More Stress-Busting Recommendations

  • Get more spinach in your diet.  Spinach has magnesium, which help balance your body’s production of cortisol.
  • Eat more citrus fruits.  Research has shown that citrus fruits like oranges and kiwis have high content of vitamin C, which help slow the production of cortisol.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough healthy omega-3 oils in your diet.  These healthy fats not only inhibit inflammation, but also help lower cortisol levels and reduce stress.
  • Get some Holy Basil in your diet!  This tasty herb is an adaptogen herb, which is a unique class of healing plants that help reduce the production of stress related hormones.
  • Research has shown that zinc helps inhibit the production of cortisol.  Vegetarians can get zinc from cashews, pumpkin seeds, spinach and beans.
  • Good news! Dark chocolate has high levels of anti-oxidants that help decrease inflammation and slow the secretion of cortisol.  Just make sure that it’s at least 70% dark chocolate.

Arming ourselves with an understanding of the stress response and minimizing the impact of stress on our minds and bodies is one of the keys to maintaining balanced health. This is why any responsible health program must include stress reduction techniques. Learn more about Panachkarma treatments and learning the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique at The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Managing Stress Affects Health, Memory, and Body Weight

Life is full of ups and downs, and some of them can be stressful. If we are lucky, stress is a short-term event. But often situations occur that keep us stressed for days, weeks, or months. This experience of non-stop stress can cause significant damage to our health, mind and emotions. Understanding the mechanisms of our stress response can help us minimize and control the damage.

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The medical dictionary describes stress as “any physical, emotional, social, economic or other factor that requires a response to change.” The human body is brilliantly designed to react to stress in order to survive. It does so by activating the secretion of the hormone cortisol. This initiates a cascade of physiological responses.

Cortisol is meant to be a “quick fix”. It turns “off” many of our normal physiological mechanisms while it turns “on” many temporary mechanisms. It is the source of the “fight or flight” response. Ideally after an emergency situation has been resolved our metabolic functions go back to normal.  If we are under constant stress, however, the long-term secretion of cortisol can compromise our health and permanently alter our metabolic process.

Some of the documented results of long-term stress include:

Results of Long-Term Stress

1. Weakened immune response leading to heightened vulnerability to infection

2.  Memory loss: excess cortisol can overwhelm the hippocampus and actually cause atrophy. Studies of the elderly have indicated that those with elevated cortisol levels display significant memory loss resulting from hippocampus damage. Luckily the damage incurred is usually reversible.

3. An increase in abdominal fat. Researchers at Yale University found slender women who had high cortisol also had more abdominal fat. Abdominal, or visceral, fat is a key player in a variety of health problems Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.

While we may not be able to eliminate the stress in our lives, we can take measures to give the body the relief from stress that it needs in order to stay healthy.

Stress-Busters

1. Decrease consumption of caffeine and alcohol, both of which impact cortisol levels

2. Go to bed by 10:00. Getting six hours or less over time can significantly increase cortisol levels. It takes a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep to give your body enough time to recover from the day’s stresses.

3. Practice a stress reduction technique.

The Transcendental Meditation technique (TM) has been found to lower cortisol levels. The lowering is greater in those who practice TM regularly. The longer people practice TM, the more pronounced is the effect.

TM was also found to decrease the time it took for the body return to normal functioning following stressful stimuli. This is significant because high cortisol levels can actually create a self-perpetuating loop by disrupting the delicate feedback balance that tells the brain to stop releasing cortisol.

Researchers concluded that the Transcendental Meditation technique gives the body a reprieve from experiencing stress, and as a result, the body care respond more normally to stress stimuli of short duration.

4. Schedule a week of Panchakarma treatments

Multiple studies have shown that massage therapy can lower cortisol levels, increase dopamine and serotonin (our happy, feel-good hormones), and lower excitatory hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine.

A week of luxurious in-residence treatments can provide a much-needed break from the day-to-day pressures at work and home.

More Stress-Busting Recommendations

  • Get more spinach in your diet.  Spinach has magnesium, which help balance your body’s production of cortisol.
  • Eat more citrus fruits.  Research has shown that citrus fruits like oranges and kiwis have high content of vitamin C, which help slow the production of cortisol.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough healthy omega-3 oils in your diet.  These healthy fats not only inhibit inflammation, but also help lower cortisol levels and reduce stress.
  • Get some Holy Basil in your diet!  This tasty herb is an adaptogen herb, which is a unique class of healing plants that help reduce the production of stress related hormones.
  • Research has shown that zinc helps inhibit the production of cortisol.  Vegetarians can get zinc from cashews, pumpkin seeds, spinach and beans.
  • Good news! Dark chocolate has high levels of anti-oxidants that help decrease inflammation and slow the secretion of cortisol.  Just make sure that it’s at least 70% dark chocolate.

Arming ourselves with an understanding of the stress response and minimizing stress and its impact on our minds and bodies is key to maintaining balanced health. This is why any responsible health program must include stress reduction techniques. Learn more about Panachkarma treatments and learning the Transcendental Meditation technique at The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com