What is Interleukin-6
Interleukin-6 is very important for the Fight against infections such as bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances that are harmful to the body. Il-6 is secreted from the white blood cells during exercise like Tai Chi Chuan or in an immune response, which is how the body recognises and defends itself against disease. This immune response usually occurs during an injury such as a burn to the skin leading to inflammation and tissue damage or in the disease process.
Tai Chi Study on Systemic Inflammation
A randomized controlled trial was concluded at the University of California in 2011, which included 83 healthy older adults aged between 59 and 86. Blood samples were taken from each individual at the start of the trial. In this 16 week study with a period of a 9 week follow up, conclusively proved that Tai Chi can effectively strengthen the immune system. The group were split into two main sub groups; the first group were given Tai Chi exercise, whilst the second group were assigned health education only and no exercise for the same period.
All the subjects were assessed for markers of inflammation which are extremely important for ruling out specific conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. These raised levels of inflammation can be found in many conditions and even in cancer. The raised markers are only an indication that there may be a problem of an underlying disease, but further history and investigations would be necessary to clarify if a problem exists. The study also included evaluations for depression, sleep quality and physical activity.
What was remarkable is that the participants doing the Tai Chi exercise with high levels of IL -6 at the start of the programme were found to have a marked reduction of this inflammatory marker at the end of the study. This was comparable for both sub groups even those with lower levels of IL- 6 at the start. The health education group finished the study with much higher levels of IL-6, even those with a lower level of IL-6 at the start of the programme. The decrease in depression of both sub groups corresponded with a reduction in IL-6.
This study shows that older patients, who are at risk of inflammatory disease with a raised level of IL-6 circulating, can with a Tai Chi intervention programme markedly reduce their levels of this inflammatory marker.
My Personal View
The marvellous healing qualities of correct Taijiquan and Qigong study are well known to most of us that practice this wonderful art. My former Karate instructor Nicholas Adamou 9th Dan once stated to me that he could use his Qi (internal energy) from Tai Chi to heal injuries very quickly. Because Taijiquan is a complete mind and body experience I am not at all surprised by these findings. Indeed when the art is practiced by more experienced Taiji players the healing effects can be magnified greatly.
Gary Webb MChS HCPC (Podiatrist)
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