Relief from chronic inflammatory conditions could come from an unsuspecting source: your own mind. New research published in the January issue of the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity points to the healthful benefits of using mindfulness meditation techniques to reduce inflammatory responses in the body.
According to Medscape Medical News, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers who led the study found certain chronic inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma, showed signs of improvement from a mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR).
The eight-week study, which included a control group, found the group trained in MBSR techniques, showed fewer post-stress inflammatory responses. Study author Melissa A. Rosenkranz, PhD, told Medscape Medical News: "Because of the experimental design, we were not able to determine whether both interventions reduced stress-evoked cortisol responses or whether participants simply became habituated to the stressor. It is true to say that the postintervention cortisol responses to the stressor declined an equivalent amount for both groups."
The meditation techniques used have also been used in treating patients with chronic pain issues. Methods include a focused attention on the breath and body sensations as well as the "flow" of mental activity, while either seated in a traditional meditation posture, walking, or even during yoga postures. Focusing on the subject's present moment conditions is intended to help transform their relationships with their situations and illnesses to a more positive experience.
According to Dr. Rosenkranz, "Key points would be that MBSR may be beneficial to those with chronic inflammatory conditions by changing the way they relate to their condition and their symptoms, and in so doing, may reduce emotional neural reactivity and the contribution of this reactivity to further symptom expression. Our data suggest that those with conditions which have a neurogenic inflammatory component (eg, psoriasis, dermatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma) may benefit more, in terms of decreased inflammatory potential, from this type of intervention."
Other studies have found meditation can benefit heart rates and help to reduce stress levels. Decreasing stress plays a major role in reducing the risk of developing certain diseases and can speed the healing process as well.
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Photo credit: Wiertz Sebastien