Inflammation is a buzzword that’s here to stay. So, it’s important to sort the good from the bad and get our relationship with inflammation on the right track.
Thank goodness for inflammation. The swelling you experience with a sprained ankle or splinter is crucial to the healing process. It’s just your immune system rushing to the site of injury to protect you from further harm or infection. But, inflammation can run amok, especially in this modern world of environmental pollutants, nutrient-depleted diets, and high-stress living. And when inflammation becomes chronic, it instigates all manner of disease—heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and more!
Stress is one of the major causes of inflammation, especially stress that arises due to lack of sleep. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) set out to discover whether improved sleep and the meditation movement tai chi could reduce chronic inflammation in older insomniacs. The results are promising, and show that tai chi for inflammation may help forestall a number of age-related illnesses.
Inflammation Be Gone!
UCLA researchers separated 123 adult insomniacs 55 years and older into 3 randomized groups. The first received cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, the second was put on a tai chi program, and the control group took a sleep seminar.
Participants treated with cognitive behavioral therapy showed improvement in insomnia symptoms as well as the reduction of C-reactive protein, which is a major marker of inflammation. Cognitive behavioral therapy also reversed the activation of molecular inflammation signaling pathways. All benefits were experienced throughout the 16-month follow-up period. Tai chi patients also showed a reduction in inflammatory makers throughout the 16 months. The control group exhibited no reduction in inflammation.
Dr. Michael Irwin, who conducted this work along with his colleagues at the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the University of California Los Angeles, explains: “Behavioral interventions that target sleep reduce inflammation and represent a third pillar, along with diet and physical activity, to promote health and possibly reduce the risk of age-related morbidities including depression.”
What Is Tai Chi?
Tai chi was originally a martial art for self-defense, but has since evolved into a gentle form of exercise that helps to lower stress and promote health. The movements are slow, controlled, and focused, and always accompanied by breath, which is why tai chi is often thought of as a form of movement meditation.
Studies suggest that tai chi not only helps to reduce stress but also helps to:
- Treat anxiety and depression
- Improve stamina and energy
- Encourage flexibility, balance, and agility
- Strengthen the muscles and tone the body
Although more research needs to be conducted, tai chi also shows promising potential as…
- An immune booster
- Blood pressure regulator
- Joint pain remedy
- Overall health aid