This news is closely related to the discussion of epigenetic medicine in my highly recommended book The Genie in Your Genes: Epigenetic Medicine and the New Biology of Intention by Dawson Church (published April 30, 2007). I have found this material very useful in managing my intraocular pressure. Consciousness is the most powerful way to manage eye pressure in my experience. Formal meditation techniques are a proven way to increase your skill in changing your state of consciousness.
A Preliminary Study Shows Meditating Turns off Stress-Related Genes
By LAUREN COX
ABC News Medical Unit
July 2, 2008—
It turns out peaceful thoughts really can influence our bodies, right down to the instructions we receive from our DNA, according to a new study.
Researchers for the study, published in the Public Library of Science, took blood samples from a group of 19 people who habitually meditated or prayed for years, and 19 others who never meditated.
The researchers ran genomic analyses of the blood and found that the meditating group suppressed more than twice the number of stress-related genes -- about 1,000 of them -- than the nonmeditating group.
The more these stress-related genes are expressed, the more the body will have a stress response like high blood pressure or inflammation. Over long periods of time, these stress responses can worsen high blood pressure, pain syndromes and other conditions.
The nonmeditating group then spent 10 minutes a day for eight weeks training in relaxation techniques that involved repeating a prayer, thought, sound, phrase or movement.
"What this does is to break the train of everyday thought -- you no longer have stressful thoughts and because of that the body is able to return to a healthy state," said Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute Mind/Body Medicine and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
By the end of the training, the novice meditating group was also suppressing stress-related genes, although at lower levels than those of the long-term meditating people.
Meditation in the Genes
"In the old days, we thought the mind didn't affect the body," Benson said. "In truth, it's breaking down the very old rule."
Indeed, fellow mind-body researchers are finding more evidence that meditation and spiritual practices can influence the body in elemental ways.
Dr. Dean Ornish, professor of medicine and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute at the University of California at San Francisco, recently found a relationship between meditation and genes in prostate cancer.
"This is an important pilot study showing that meditation alone may favorably alter gene expression in whole blood," Ornish said. "These findings provide additional evidence to our recent study in PNAS [the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences] showing that meditation -- when combined with better nutrition and moderate exercise -- also favorably altered gene expression in prostate tissue."
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