Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is caused by an imbalance of Th17/Treg cells due to a pro-inflammatory environment. T cells in RA show signs of aging and DNA damage, increasing the risk of mutations. According to a recent study published in Scientific Reports, yoga can reduce disease activity, balance Th17/Treg cells, and optimize cytokine levels while altering gene expression patterns.
The study by Dr. Gautam and colleagues randomized 64 participants with active RA into two groups – one group practiced yoga (n = 32), and the other did not (n = 32). Disease severity was evaluated at baseline and after an 8-week duration using the disease activity score 28 erythrocyte sedimentation rate (DAS28-ESR) and various markers, including T cell subsets, inflammatory and anti-inflammatory markers, epigenetic alterations, and gene expression patterns. The results showed that the group practicing yoga had a significant improvement in DAS28-ESR scores at the end of the 8-week program. The Treg cell population increased significantly, while the Th17 cells and aged T cell subsets decreased significantly in the yoga group. Additionally, there were significant improvements in epigenetic and inflammatory markers in the yoga group after 8 weeks.
The study also found that practicing yoga can help maintain immune homeostasis by increasing the Treg cell population and reducing the Th17 cell population. Yoga can also reduce the rate of immunological aging in T cells by decreasing the population of aged Th17 cells and aged Treg cells. Practicing yoga can positively modify the transcriptome and epigenome by normalizing various inflammatory markers, gene expression patterns, and epigenetic alterations.
A systematic review and meta-analysis by Ye et al., comprising ten trials, reported that yoga has potential benefits for patients with RA in terms of improving physical function, disease activity, and grip strength. In a study with 66 patients divided into two groups, yoga and non-yoga, the yoga group experienced a significant decrease in DAS28-ESR (P <0.001) and improvement in the physical health, psychological well-being, and social relationships domains (P <0.001) of quality of life (QOL), except for the environmental domain (P> 0.05). The yoga group also showed a decrease in IL-6, TNF-α, and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4, along with an increase in transforming growth factor-beta. These findings indicate that practicing yoga can lead to a reduction in disease activity by reducing inflammatory cytokines, elevating mind-body communicative markers, and normalizing various transcript levels, ultimately improving QOL.
Yoga can significantly benefit individuals with RA by positively influencing their immune system through improvements in inflammatory markers, immune balance, and overall health outcomes. As a complementary approach to RA treatment, it enhances physical function, fosters mental well-being, and supports immunological tolerance. Moreover, the practice of yoga offers a holistic approach to managing RA, addressing not only the physical symptoms but also promoting emotional and psychological well-being.
- Gautam S, Kumar R, Kumar U, Kumar S, Luthra K, Dada R. Yoga maintains Th17/Treg cell homeostasis and reduces the rate of T cell aging in rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Sci Rep. 2023 Sep 11;13(1):14924.
- Ye X, Chen Z, Shen Z, Chen G, Xu X. Yoga for Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Med (Lausanne). 2020;7:586665.
- Gautam S, Kumar M, Kumar U, Dada R. Effect of an 8-Week Yoga-Based Lifestyle Intervention on Psycho-Neuro-Immune Axis, Disease Activity, and Perceived Quality of Life in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Front Psychol. 2020;11:2259.