Yogis have long known that our "issues are in our tissues" or as modern psychiatry would say we have psychosomatic expression of our stress. Now a scientific study sheds new light on how stress may lead to a common cause of pain and disease in humans inflammation.
Using data from two large studies, Danish researchers have found that higher blood levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP, are associated with a greater risk of psychological stress and clinical depression.
Elevated levels of CRP, a byproduct of inflammation in the body, are thought to be linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular illness.
The researchers, writing online last week in The Archives of General Psychiatry, tested levels of CRP in 73,131 adults, documenting antidepressant use and hospitalizations for depression. They also used a questionnaire to measure stress in each patient.
After controlling for smoking, income, education and other factors, they found that the higher the level of CRP, the more likely a person was to use antidepressants, to have been hospitalized for depression and to feel he or she had “not accomplished much” or “should just give up.”
It is not clear what explains the association, but the authors suggest that elevated CRP levels probably indicate elevated levels of certain cytokines that can increase feelings of stress. It is also possible that depression itself may lead to increased inflammation.
“Irrespective of other factors, we found that basically healthy people with CRP levels above 3 milligrams per liter had a two- to threefold increased risk of depression,” said the lead author, Dr. Borge G. Nordestgaard, a professor of medicine at the University of Copenhagen. “Dampening inflammation may be one way of treating depression.”
How do you dampen inflammation? Research has shown that diet, exercise and meditation can reduce inflammation. The Buddha said, "You are what you think." Modern psychologists have shown that habitual thoughts will lead to an expression of stress through the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal pathway commonly called the "fight or flight syndrome." The cascade of neurohormal changes in the body that include large amounts of epinephrine and cortisol can result in an increase in inflammation among other deleterious effects. It is logical to assume that activities that improve how we think such as yoga, meditation, prayer etc can decrease the secondary by products of thought. This study is one more example that we have the ability to improve our lives and health through time honored practices such as yoga and meditation.