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Meditation may alter gene expression

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There has been a growing trend to search for natural manners to relax due to an increased awareness of the side effects which are often associated with tranquilizers. Meditation is being viewed as a scientifically proven natural method to help you relax without drugs. Science Daily reported on Dec. 8, 2013, gene expression changes with meditation.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine writes that meditation is a mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine. Meditation is practiced for many health reasons, including to increase calmness and physical relaxation, to improve psychological balance, to cope with illness, or to improve overall health and well-being.

Due to the beneficial health effects of meditation, scientists have been seeking to understand how these practices physically affect the body. A new study which was done by an international group of researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body which follow a period of mindfulness meditation. Researchers observed that meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, which included altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which was in turn associated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

Study author Richard J. Davidson, PhD, has said, "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice." The researchers noted the changes were observed in genes which are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs. This suggests a possible biological mechanism for therapeutic effects of meditation on inflammatory disorders.

The research results showed a down-regulation of genes which have been implicated in inflammation. Davidson says, "Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression." Such a scientific explanation of the health benefits of meditation should encourage more people to consider meditation as a complementary form of health care more seriously.



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