ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Indigo Ointment Benefits Psoriasis Patients
New Insights Show Ginseng Fights Inflammation
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
CANCER
Gene Screen May Predict Colon Cancer's Return
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
Broccoli May Help Battle Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
Moms Who Breast-Feed Less Likely to Neglect Child
For Dialysis Patients, More Pills = Lower Quality of Life
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Secondhand Smoke Quickly Affects Blood Vessels
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
DENTAL, ORAL
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
Holistic Dentistry-My View
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
DIABETES
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Eating Less May Slow Aging Process
Eating Lots Of Vegetables, Olive Oil May Extend Life
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
1976 Italian Dioxin Release Damaged Babies' Thyroids
Pollution Particles Impair Blood Vessel Function
Agent Orange Exposure Tied to Prostate Cancer Return
EYE CARE, VISION
Kids' Eye Injuries From Golf Clubs Rare But Severe
Decorative Halloween Eye Lenses May Pose Serious Risks
Green Tea May Ward Off Eye Disease
FITNESS
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
Resistance Training Boosts Mobility in Knee Arthritis Patients
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
When Clocks Change, Body May Need Time to Adjust
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fish Oil Supplements Help With Heart Failure
Implanted Defibrillators Boost Long-Term Survival
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
MEN'S HEALTH
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Countdown to Hair Loss
MENTAL HEALTH
Chocolate a Sweet Pick-Me-Up for the Depressed
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Mind Exercise Might Help Stroke Patients
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
SENIORS
Video Gaming Just Might Fight Aging
As You Age, Better Health Means Better Sex
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Supportive Weigh-In Program Keeps Pounds Off
Natural Therapies for Menopause
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
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Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes

WEDNESDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've taken a significant stride forward in understanding how relaxation techniques such as meditation, prayer and yoga improve health: by changing patterns of gene activity that affect how the body responds to stress.

The changes were seen both in long-term practitioners and in newer recruits, the scientists said.

"It's not all in your head," said Dr. Herbert Benson, president emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "What we have found is that when you evoke the relaxation response, the very genes that are turned on or off by stress are turned the other way. The mind can actively turn on and turn off genes. The mind is not separated from the body."

One outside expert agreed.

"It's sort of like reverse thinking: If you can wreak havoc on yourself with lifestyle choices, for example, [in a way that] causes expression of latent genetic manifestations in the negative, then the reverse should hold true," said Dr. Gerry Leisman, director of the F.R. Carrick Institute for Clinical Ergonomics, Rehabilitation and Applied Neuroscience at Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K.

"Biology is not entirely our destiny, so while there are things that give us risk factors, there's a lot of 'wiggle' in this," added Leisman, who is also a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel. "This paper is pointing that there is a technique that allows us to play with the wiggle."

Benson, a pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine, is co-senior author of the new study, which is published in the journal PLoS One.

Benson first described the relaxation response 35 years ago. Mind-body approaches that elicit the response include meditation, repetitive prayer, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, guided imagery and Qi Gong.

"Previously, we had noted that there were scores of diseases that could be treated by eliciting the relaxation response -- everything from different kinds of pain, infertility, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia," Benson said.

He believes that this study is the first comprehensive look at how mind states can affect gene expression. It also focuses on gene activity in healthy individuals.

Benson and his colleagues compared gene-expression patterns in 19 long-term practitioners, 19 healthy controls and 20 newcomers who underwent eight weeks of relaxation-response training.

More than 2,200 genes were activated differently in the long-time practitioners relative to the controls and 1,561 genes in the short-timers compared to the long-time practitioners. Some 433 of the differently activated genes were shared among short-term and long-term practitioners.

Further genetic analysis revealed changes in cellular metabolism, response to oxidative stress and other processes in both short- and long-term practitioners. All of these processes may contribute to cellular damage stemming from chronic stress.

Another expert had a mixed response to the findings.

Robert Schwartz, director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center's Institute of Biosciences and Technology in Houston, noted that the study was relatively small. He also wished that there had been more data on the levels of stress hormones within the control group, for comparison purposes.

However, Schwartz called the study "unique and very exciting. It demonstrates that all these techniques of relaxation response have a biofeedback mechanism that alters gene expression."

He pointed out that the researchers looked at blood cells, which consist largely of immune cells. "You're getting the response most probably in the immune cell population," Schwartz said.

"We all are under stress and have many manifestations of that stress," Benson added. "To adequately protect ourselves against stress, we should use an approach and a technique that we believe evokes the relaxation response 20 minutes, once a day."

-Amanda Gardner

More information

There's more on meditation at the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.



SOURCES: Herbert Benson, M.D., president emeritus, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass.; Gerry Leisman, M.D., Ph.D., director, F.R. Carrick Institute for Clinical Ergonomics, Rehabilitation and Applied Neuroscience and professor, neuroscience, Leeds Metropolitan University, U.K. and professor, University of Haifa, Israel; Robert Schwartz, Ph.D., director, Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology, Houston; PLoS One

Last Updated: July 02, 2008

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