Thursday, April 08, 2010

Relaxation Response Helps Cure and Prevent Genetic Stress-Related Illness

Below are two research reports showing that the invocation of the Relaxation Response can not only prevent illness, but reverse it as well.

Recent information states that 80% of all chronic illness is brought on by stress. It also has been shown that genetic-related illnesses are very frequently stress-related. When you have an "at risk" genetic marker, it does not mean that you will manifest that disease. That gene has to "express" first, it has to kick into the "on" position before the disease appears. Chronic stress is frequently the finger that presses the "on" button that causes chronic disease to manifest.

How to avoid chronic illness: No stress, no finger hitting the "on" button, no disease. Get it?

Your genes do NOT control you. You - and your lifestyle as it relates to stress - control which genes express and which ones do not. By reducing stress or by practicing meditation techniques like the Relaxation Response, you make the choice for wellness.

Enjoy the research reports below!

The therapeutic use of the relaxation response in stress-related diseases.

Med Sci Monit. 2003 Feb;9(2):RA23-34.

The Mind/Body Medical Institute, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
The objective of this work was to investigate a possible (therapeutic) connection between the relaxation response (RR) and stress-related diseases. Further, common underlying molecular mechanisms and autoregulatory pathways were examined.

For the question of (patho)physiology and significance of RR techniques in the treatment of stress-related diseases, we analyzed peer-reviewed references only. The RR has been shown to be an appropriate and relevant therapeutic tool to counteract several stress-related disease processes and certain health-restrictions, particularly in certain immunological, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative diseases/mental disorders.

Further, common underlying molecular mechanisms may exist that represent a connection between the stress response, pathophysiological findings in stress-related diseases, and physiological changes/autoregulatory pathways described in the RR. Here, constitutive or low-output nitric oxide (NO) production may be involved in a protective or ameliorating context, whereas inducible, high-output NO release may facilitate detrimental disease processes.

In mild or early disease states, a high degree of biological and physiological flexibility may still be possible (dynamic balance). Here, the therapeutic use of RR techniques may be considered particularly relevant, and the observable (beneficial) effects may be exerted via activation of constitutive NO pathways. RR techniques, regularly part of professional stress management or mind/body medical settings, represent an important tool to be added to therapeutic strategies dealing with stress-related diseases. Moreover, as part of 'healthy' life-style modifications, they may serve primary (or secondary) prevention. Further studies are necessary to elucidate the complex physiology underlying the RR and its impact upon stress-related disease states.

Genomic counter-stress changes induced by the relaxation response.

PLoS One. 2008 Jul 2;3(7):e2576.

Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Comment in:
BACKGROUND: Mind-body practices that elicit the relaxation response (RR) have been used worldwide for millennia to prevent and treat disease. The RR is characterized by decreased oxygen consumption, increased exhaled nitric oxide, and reduced psychological distress. It is believed to be the counterpart of the stress response that exhibits a distinct pattern of physiology and transcriptional profile. We hypothesized that RR elicitation results in characteristic gene expression changes that can be used to measure physiological responses elicited by the RR in an unbiased fashion.

METHODS/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We assessed whole blood transcriptional profiles in 19 healthy, long-term practitioners of daily RR practice (group M), 19 healthy controls (group N(1)), and 20 N(1) individuals who completed 8 weeks of RR training (group N(2)). 2209 genes were differentially expressed in group M relative to group N(1) (p<0.05) and 1561 genes in group N(2) compared to group N(1) (p<0.05). Importantly, 433 (p<10(-10)) of 2209 and 1561 differentially expressed genes were shared among long-term (M) and short-term practitioners (N(2)). Gene ontology and gene set enrichment analyses revealed significant alterations in cellular metabolism, oxidative phosphorylation, generation of reactive oxygen species and response to oxidative stress in long-term and short-term practitioners of daily RR practice that may counteract cellular damage related to chronic psychological stress. A significant number of genes and pathways were confirmed in an independent validation set containing 5 N(1) controls, 5 N(2) short-term and 6 M long-term practitioners. 

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: This study provides the first compelling evidence that the RR elicits specific gene expression changes in short-term and long-term practitioners. Our results suggest consistent and constitutive changes in gene expression resulting from RR may relate to long term physiological effects. Our study may stimulate new investigations into applying transcriptional profiling for accurately measuring RR and stress related responses in multiple disease settings.