Stress, Genes, and the Mind/Body Link

By Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

July 2, 2008

Is it all in your head? Well, maybe not. Much of mind/body medicine has been based on observation with no clear form of proof adequate to satisfy skeptics. Researchers at Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital have shown clear genetic switch differences1 between the relaxation response and the stress response. This is concrete scientific evidence of the mind/body link.

I have been researching the mind/body link for over 20 years, collecting health data, different types of symptoms, stress levels, and behavioral/personality styles. The influences between mind and body are bi-directional – and very powerful.

In this new research it clearly shows that individuals better trained in deep relaxation techniques have far better gene control on important topics such as inflammation. Even those just learning how to relax were able to change their gene switches into a healthy and less inflammatory condition. I have also found that nutrition can also powerfully influence the ability of anyone to relax and have a more positive mood.

While on some level these findings may appear simplistic, they alter the entire subject of medicine at the most fundamental level. While machines and fancy diagnostic gadgets may seem appealing, harnessing the power of hope will be the real skill that sets the great healers apart from the mundane practitioners.

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