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How Mindfulness Meditation Changes Your Genetic Expression

Mindfulness Meditation and Epigenetics, Meditation and Epigenetics

Mindfulness meditation has become an important topic of conversation within the context of the new science of epigenetics. The conventional belief dictates that our genetic makeup determines our fate; in other words, everyone is stuck with random genes passed down from our parents. 

However, recent discoveries in epigenetics, a new branch of biology that studies how environmental signals are translated into gene expression, has become vital in understanding human behavior.

Histone Modification and DNA Methylation

Bruce Lipton, a developmental biologist and author, who has been a scientific pioneer in the field of epigenetics, explains that chromosomes, found in the nucleolus of the living cell, which are units of heredity, are comprised half of DNA, and half by histone proteins. “Scientists were focused on the DNA, and threw away the protein – epigenetics says this protein is doing something,” Lipton described this phenomenon of histone modification during a fascinating presentation posted on YouTube, which discusses the remarkable findings in his book, The Biology of Belief. [1]

According to Lipton, a chromosome is a DNA core with a  protein sleeve. An environmental signal bides to the regulatory protein conformation sleeve, causing it to detach from DNA, which enables sections of the DNA blueprint to be read and ultimately expressed. Once the signal is removed, the protein sleeve returns to its previous position and covers up the DNA sequence.

In addition to histone modifications, it is known that genes can also be regulated by a form of epigenetic modification that directly affects one base of the DNA, namely the base C. This process is referred to as DNA Methylation. The four bases are namely Adenine, Thymine, Guanine ad Cytosine. It has already been more than 60 years now, since scientists discovered that C can be modified directly. This process is executed as small molecules of carbon and hydrogen bind to this base and allow certain genes to be turned on and off, or to ‘dim’ their activity. [5]

Imagine each of your life experiences, enabling perceptions and interactions with nature, which send environmental signals to your cells, all which have an important effect on which genes are expressed.

Mindfulness Meditation

Instead of using sophisticated DNA-based alteration method, a recent study has found that proper mindfulness meditation can help suppress inflammation-causing genes. The first evidence to support the claim was discovered in December 2013 during a comparison test conducted to a group of experienced meditators and another group consisting of untrained subjects. [2]

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” says study author Richard J. Davidson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After a single day of mindfulness practice by the two groups, the experienced meditators showed a range of molecular and genetic differences. This effect was seen only in experienced meditators group after the practice, despite the fact that there was no difference in the tested genes of the two groups at the beginning of the study. One of the most obvious genetic changes was reduced level of pro-inflammatory genes, allowing for faster physical recovery. Moreover, the changes only occurred in genes commonly targeted by the current anti-inflammatory drugs.

A peaceful mind has been regarded as an important factor to assist with recovery process from inflammatory disorders. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends meditation to help lower the risk of heart disease. The epigenetic study now has possible explanation for the biological mechanism behind that therapeutic benefit.

The Placebo Effect

According to György Irmey, a medical director of Association for Biological Resistance to Cancer based in Heidelberg, cancer is often accompanied by inflammatory processes. The director also adds, “We do advise our patients to meditate, both for prevention and treatment of cancer. The attitude of the patient is one of the determining factors in the healing process – research on the placebo effect underlines this fact.” [3]

During mindfulness meditation, the mind essentially sends environmental signals to the cells which in effect trigger epigenetic controls for genetic expression.

According to Lipton, we can heal ourselves with belief and behavior. He highlights a 2008 study which showed how nutritional and lifestyle effects demonstrated extremely positive epigenetic controls. [4]

Today, epigenetic research is quickly growing and this is welcoming news because the general public needs more knowledge on the effects of thoughts, perceptions and environmental toxins on genetic expression.

[1] https://www.brucelipton.com/books/biology-of-belief
[2] http://news.wisc.edu/22370
[3] http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/6/218/218ra5
[4] http://www.sunridgemedical.com/ResearchArticles/NutritionAndSupplementsAgainstCancer/Changes%20in%20Prostate%20Gene%20Expression%20with%20Nutrition%20and%20Lifestyle.pdf
[5] https://conceptualrevolutions.com/2015/12/26/epigenetic-modification-revealed-major-scientific-breakthrough/

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    By: Honey Goode

    Honey Goode is a Registered Nurse and became an International Yoga Teacher, Project Contributor and Writer at ConceptualRevolutions.com. She is currently traveling in South East Asia and exploring the entrepreneurial world while teaching yoga at various fitness gym, studios and private classes. Honey believe in attaining one’s highest potential with the guidance and understanding of the inner philosophy of yoga and mindful meditation.

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