Those suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma, where psychological stress plays an important role, may benefit from mindfulness-based stress reduction, a form of meditation, according to a study by University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientists with the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, Scienceblog.com reported.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction, which is designed for patients with chronic pain, has practitioners continuously focus attention on the breath, body sensations and mental content, while either seated, walking or practicing yoga.
The study compared two methods of reducing stress: a mindfulness meditation-based approach, and a program designed to enhance health in ways unrelated to mindfulness.
The other group participated in the Health Enhancement Program, which included nutritional education; physical activity, such as walking; balance, agility and core strengthening; and music therapy, the article stated.
Both groups had the same amount of training, the same level of expertise in the instructors, and the same amount of home practice required by participants.
“In this setting, we could see if there were changes that we could detect that were specific to mindfulness,” Melissa Rosenkranz, assistant scientist at the center and lead author on the paper, which was published recently in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity said in the article.
Using a tool called the Trier Social Stress Test to induce psychological stress, and a capsaicin cream to produce inflammation on the skin, the researchers took immune and endocrine measures before and after training in the two methods. While both techniques were proven effective in reducing stress, the mindfulness-based stress reduction approach was more effective at reducing stress-induced inflammation.
The results show behavioral interventions designed to reduce emotional reactivity are beneficial to people suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions. The study also suggests mindfulness techniques may be more effective in relieving inflammatory symptoms than other activities that promote well-being, the article stated.
“This is not a cure-all, but our study does show there are specific ways that mindfulness can be beneficial, and that there are specific people who may be more likely to benefit from this approach than other interventions,” Rosenkranz said in the report.