As I’ve mentioned before, stress is a leading cause of disease and dysfunction in the body. When the sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system is permanently active because of chronic stress, the body uses all its energy to deal with the constant threat it perceives, leaving no energy for growth and repair.
Inflammation Is Linked To Disease
Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself from harmful stimuli, aka stress, such as damaged cells, irritants, pathogens, or many other environmental cues. When the body is subject to chronic stress and therefore, inflammation, it can result in numerous conditions including arthritis, asthma, autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, and many more.
Levels of inflammation are detected by measuring the amount of certain inflammation markers, C-reactive proteins (CRP) and leukocytes (white blood cells), in the blood. CRP’s directly correlate with inflammation: the more you are inflamed, the higher your CRP levels. A high leukocyte count can seem like a good thing because they are the immune system’s “army,” but in reality if there are high levels present, it also indicates a threat is present as well.
Mindfulness Meditation Curbs Inflammation
Some recent studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can have profound effects on the immune system. Evidence revealed that patients who practiced meditation regularly had a reduced level of inflammation markers, a greater number of antibodies, an increased number of CD-4 cells, and an increased level of telomerase activity.
If you’re wondering, CD-4 cells are a type of T-cell that sends signals to other cells, letting them know to destroy infections. A mindfulness meditation study was conducted with HIV patients which resulted in elevated CD-4 levels.
Telomerase help prevent the deterioration of chromosomes which can lead to diseases like cancer and premature aging. Telomerase, also called telomere terminal transferase, is an enzyme that adds DNA sequences to the ends of chromosomes. When cells do not regularly use telomerase, they age and become more susceptible to disease. If telomerase is activated in a cell, the cell will continue to grow and divide.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the meditation-immune system connection works, but some theorize that decreased stress normalizes body functions. Stress tips the balance of gut bacteria, one of our prime defenses against infection and disease. In addition, research indicates that mindfulness meditation increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, right anterior insula, and right hippocampus, which are the areas of the brain that act as the immune system’s command center.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that being susceptible to conditions like type-2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even the common cold is magnified by our own state of mind. Gene expression is changeable once you begin to think, act, and feel differently.
Science tells us that the environment signals genes to change. Since emotions are the chemical end product of experiences in our environment, when you embrace elevated emotions in your meditations, you will not only raise your body’s energy, but you will also start to signal new genes in new ways ahead of the environment.
When we live an event over and over in our minds, the body can’t tell the difference between the real experience and the thought because the same emotion or stress causing chemicals are released regardless, albeit in differing amounts.
As the brain continuously wires the event into memory banks, the body emotionally experiences the chemical reactions over and over, anchoring into that state of being. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the change in internal chemistry, literally creating the boundaries by which we live.
The good thing about this is we can choose what events we play out in our minds and subsequently, how they manifest in our bodies and lives.