If you have been diagnosed with cancer, stress relief is more important than ever for your quality of life. A recent study found that relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation actually produce molecular changes that counteract depression.
The Immune System in Overdrive
When stress triggers the familiar “fight-or-flight” reaction, it also boosts production of a molecule called NF-kB. This molecule in turn stimulates genes to produce cytokines, which are proteins that cause inflammation as part of the immune system response.
In the short term, this process is helpful in battling infections and other common ailments. Problems arise when the pro-inflammatory gene expression is chronic, leading to higher cancer risk along with accelerated aging and mental disorders such as depression.
Exploring the Mind-Body Connection
The study from the Universities of Coventry and Radboud, published in Frontiers in Immunology, examined gene behavior in 846 participants over a span of 11 years. Principle focus was the effect of mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as yoga, tai chi and meditation.
Results showed that regular practice of MBIs caused reduced production of NF-kB and cytokines. This decrease reversed the pro-inflammatory gene expression pattern, with a corresponding reduction in the risk of inflammation-related conditions.
According to lead researcher Ivana Buric, the process leaves a “molecular signature” that reverses the effects of stress and anxiety. MBIs can change the genetic code to follow a path toward health and well-being.
Immunotherapy for Cancer: A Personalized Approach