Tag Archives: integrative medicine

The Science of Mindfulness

In a heavily peer-reviewed environment, Jon Kabat-Zinn, often termed the ‘father of mindfulness,’ proved beyond reasonable doubt that practices of Integrative Medicine—including the marriage of meditation and medicine—made Western medical science twice as curative.

More recent studies confirm that both prayer and meditation are highly reactive in both lowering our reactivity to traumatic and negative events, and also helping preserve the aging brain. Dr. David Spiegel, associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and medical director of the center for integrative medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, explained: “Praying involves the deeper parts of the brain: the medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex — the mid-front and back portions,” says Dr. Spiegel, adding that this can be seen through magnetic image resonance (MRI), which render detailed anatomical pictures. “These parts of the brain are involved in self-reflection and self-soothing.”

In another study conducted by NYU Langone Medical Center, members of Alcoholics Anonymous were placed in an MRI scanner and then shown drinking-related images to stimulate cravings—which were soon after reduced when the participants prayed. The MRI data demonstrated changes in parts of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for the control of emotion and “the semantic reappraisal of emotion.”

Last month, researchers from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. Participants who had been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain — although older meditators still had some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it wasn’t as pronounced as the non-meditators. “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” said study author Florian Kurth. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”

There is further data backing the idea that meditation and prayer can trigger the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain. Dr. Loretta G. Breuning, founder of the Inner Mammal Institute and the author of The Science of Positivity and Habits of a Happy Brain, explains that when we pray, we can activate neural pathways developed when young to release hormones such as oxytocin. “Oxytocin is known for its role in maternal labor and lactation, but it also [enables] social trust and attachment, giving us a good feeling despite living in a world of threat,” says Dr. Breuning. “It’s the idea of ‘I can count on something to protect me.’ So when a situation comes up and you’re out of ideas and you are helpless, feeling much like you did when you were a baby, prayer can provide some other source of hope.”

While meditation is not a panacea or cure-all, there is ample evidence that it may benefit those who practice it regularly. If you have a few minutes in the morning or evening, rather than turning on your phone or going online, see what happens if you try quieting down your mind, and paying attention to your thoughts while letting them go without reactions. If the research is accurate, a few minutes of mindful meditation may make a big difference.

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Immunotherapy: Investigating Cancer Research

The proliferation and advent of technology in medical research has spurred new techniques and treatments to combat cancer, a disease with an alarming mortality rate that will lead to an estimated 1,685,210 new cases in 2016, and 595,690 deaths.

The model of immunotherapy—using one’s body as the tool with which to fight cancer—has been considered an experimental treatment since its conception, in stark contrast to the standard chemotherapy and radiation that is traditionally offered for cancer patients. While chemotherapy directly attacks the cancer, immunotherapy harnesses the patient’s own immune system to fight off the disease.

The most widely used forms of immunotherapy include drugs called checkpoint inhibitors, which block a mechanism used by cancer cells to shut down the immune system, and cell therapy, which involves removing a patient’s immune cells, genetically altering them to help fight cancer, multiplying them, and ultimately infusing them back into the bloodstream.

While pharmaceutical companies initially were disinterested in the research and science, favoring drugs that had the ability to be mass-produced and treat everyone, drug companies are progressively funneling more money into clinical trials and tests—attempting to understand the powerful and critically important tool further.

Quoted in a New York Times article, Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of melanoma and immunotherapeutics services at Memorial Sloan Kettering, articulated what many doctors are experiencing as they begin to utilize this therapy, once considered a mere pipe dream: “This is a fundamental change in the way that we think about cancer therapy.”

Other doctors that have seen almost miraculous results in clinical trials have expressed similar sentiments: “Think of how dauntingly personalized this is,” says Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute. “We are using their own cells to treat a unique mutation in their own tumor.” This individualized treatment has been proven to be effective in many cases, generating complete remissions in many patients who felt they were out of options.

Yet while immunotherapy has proven to be stunningly successful in several cases, doctors are continuing to explore why the treatment has a higher efficacy in some patients, while others relapse. Moreover, the arduous, lengthy, and complex process of re-engineering and duplicating cells is very costly, and is still undergoing scrutiny and examination.

Want more information about our Integrative Cancer Therapies Fellowship? Gain access to cutting-edge therapy modalities, along with a particular segment targeted towards the immunology of cancer, coupled with updated information and research surrounding immunotherapy. Learn more today

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10 Proteins Top Alzheimer’s Biomarkers

Often, the biological processes of Alzheimer’s Disease begin many years prior to the display of symptoms, making the pursuit of predictive diagnostics a paramount effort.  Simon Lovestone, from King’s College London (United Kingdom), and colleagues analyzed blood samples from 1,148 people: 476 with Alzheimer’s, 220 with mild cognitive impairment and 452 elderly controls without dementia. The researchers honed in on 26 proteins previously found to be linked with Alzheimer’s Disease, and found that 16 of the  proteins were strongly associated with brain shrinkage in either mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s.  The team then ran a second series of tests to see which of these could predict which patients would progress from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s; they identified a combination of 10 proteins capable of predicting with 87% accuracy whether people with mild cognitive impairment would develop Alzheimer’s disease within a year.  Writing that: “We have identified 10 plasma proteins strongly associated with [Alzheimer’s] disease severity and disease progression,” the study authors submit that:  “Such markers may be useful for patient selection for clinical trials and assessment of patients with predisease subjective memory complaints.”  For the news source visit: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/07/08/us-health-alzheimers-idUKKBN0FC2IC20140708

Hye A, Riddoch-Contreras J, Baird AL, Ashton NJ, Bazenet C, Lovestone S, et al.  “Plasma proteins predict conversion to dementia from prodromal disease.”  Alzheimers Dement. 2014 Jul 3.

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