ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
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Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
Holistic Treatment for Candida Infection
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Pain More a Cause of Arthritis Than a Symptom
A Winning Strategy to Beat Spring Sporting Injuries
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
CANCER
Get to Know the Pap Test
Many Cancer Patients Turn to Complementary Medicine
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Child's Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans
Babies Born in High Pollen Months at Wheezing Risk
Robots May Come to Aging Boomers' Rescue
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
DIABETES
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Vitamin B12 Key to Aging Brain
Coffee Drinkers Might Live Longer
Natural Oils Help Lower Body Fat For Some
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Preparing for a Chlorine Gas Disaster
Air Pollution May Cause Appendicitis: Study Reveals
EYE CARE, VISION
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
Cases of Age-Related Farsightedness to Soar
FITNESS
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Bursts of Vigorous Activity Appear to Be a 'Stress-Buffer'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
GENERAL HEALTH
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Vinegar Might Help Keep Off Pounds
Eat Light - Live Longer
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
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
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
Obese People Seem to Do Better With Heart Disease
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Babies Cared For In Others Homes Might Become Heavy Toddlers
Dangerous Toys Still on Store Shelves, Report Finds
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
MEN'S HEALTH
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
MENTAL HEALTH
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Meditation May Boost College Students' Learning
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
SENIORS
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Boost In Elderly Population Will Be Felt Worldwide
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
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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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