Deep meditation can alter your gut microbes for better health

Summary: Practicing meditation regularly helps regulate the gut microbiome and has the potential to reduce anxiety, depression and heart disease, a new study reports.

Source: BMJ extension

Regular deep meditation, practiced over several years, can help regulate the gut microbiome and potentially reduce the risks of physical and mental health problems, finds a small comparative study published in the open access journal General Psychiatry.

The gut microbes found in a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks differed substantially from those of their lay neighbors and have been linked to a lower risk of anxiety, depression and cardiovascular disease.

Research shows that the gut microbiome can influence mood and behavior through the gut-brain axis. This includes the body’s immune response, hormone signaling, stress response and the vagus nerve, the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which oversees a number of crucial bodily functions.

The significance of the group and sample design is that these deep thinking Tibetan monks can serve as representatives of some deeper meditations. While the number of specimens is small, they are rare due to their geographic location.

Meditation is increasingly being used to help treat mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, traumatic stress, eating disorders, and chronic pain. But it’s not clear whether it might also be able to alter the composition of the gut microbiome, say the researchers.

In an effort to find out, the researchers analyzed the stool and blood samples of 37 Tibetan Buddhist monks from three temples and 19 secular residents in neighboring areas.

Tibetan Buddhist meditation originates from the ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda and is a form of psychological training, say the researchers. The monks in this study practiced it for at least 2 hours a day from 3 to 30 years.

None of the participants had used agents that can alter the volume and diversity of gut microbes: antibiotics; probiotics; prebiotics; or antifungal medications in the previous 3 months.

Both groups were matched for age, blood pressure, heart rate, and diet.

Analysis of the stool samples revealed significant differences in the diversity and volume of microbes between the monks and their neighbors.

Bacteroidetes And firmicutes species were dominant in both groups, as one would expect. But Bacteroidetes were significantly enriched in the monks’ stool samples (29% vs 4%), which were also contained in abundance Prevotella (42% vs 6%) and a high volume of Megamonas And Faecalibacterium.

“Collectively, different bacteria enriched in the meditation group [have been] associated with alleviation of mental illness, suggesting that meditation may influence certain bacteria that may play a role in mental health,” the researchers write.

These include Prevotella, Bacteroidetes, Megamonas And Faecalibacterium species, previously published research suggests.

Research shows that the gut microbiome can influence mood and behavior through the gut-brain axis. Image is public domain

The researchers then applied an advanced analytical technique to predict which chemical processes might be affected by the microbes. This indicated that several protective anti-inflammatory pathways, as well as metabolism – the conversion of food into energy – were improved in people who practiced meditation.

Finally, analysis of the blood sample showed that levels of agents associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including total cholesterol and apolipoprotein B, were significantly lower in monks than in their secular neighbors from their analysis. functional with intestinal microbes.

While it is a comparative study, it is observational and the number of participants was small, all male, and lived at high altitudes, making it difficult to draw firm or generalizable conclusions. And the potential health implications could only be deduced from previously published research.

But based on their findings, the researchers suggest that meditation’s role in helping prevent or treat psychosomatic illnesses is definitely worth further research.

And they conclude: “These findings suggest that long-term deep meditation may have a beneficial effect on the gut microbiota, enabling the body to maintain optimal health.”

About this meditation, microbiome and health research news

Author: Emma Dickinson
Source: BMJ extension
Contact: Emma Dickinson-BMJ
Image: Image is public domain

Original research: Free access.
“Alteration of fecal microbiota balance related to long-term deep meditation” by Ying Sun et al. general psychiatry


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This shows the computer generated neurons

Altered fecal microbiota balance related to long-term deep meditation


Advances in research have confirmed that the gut microbiota can influence health through the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Meditation, as an inner mental exercise, can have a positive impact on regulating an individual’s physical and mental health. However, few studies have comprehensively investigated the fecal microbiota after long-term (several years) deep meditation. Therefore, we propose that long-term meditation may regulate gut microbiota homeostasis and, in turn, influence physical and mental health.


To study the effects of long-term deep meditation on the structure of the gut microbiome.


To examine the intestinal flora, 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed on fecal samples from 56 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nearby residents. Based on the sequencing data, linear discriminant analysis effect size (LEfSe) was employed to identify differential gut microbial communities between the two groups. The Phylogenetic Investigation of Communities by Reconstruction of Unbserved States (PICRUSt) analysis was used to predict fecal microbiota function. Additionally, we evaluated biochemical indices in plasma.


The diversity indices α of the meditation and control groups differed significantly. Gender-wise, Prevotella And Bacteroids they have greatly enriched themselves in group meditation. According to the LEfSe analysis, two beneficial bacterial genera (Megamonas And Faecalibacterium) have greatly enriched themselves in group meditation. Functional predictive analysis also showed that several pathways, including glycan biosynthesis, metabolism, and lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis were significantly enriched in the meditation group. Furthermore, plasma levels of clinical risk factors were significantly decreased in the meditation group, including total cholesterol and apolipoprotein B.


Long-term traditional Tibetan Buddhist meditation can have a positive impact on physical and mental health. We confirmed that the gut microbiota composition differed between monks and control subjects. Enriched microbiota in monks has been associated with a reduced risk of anxiety, depression and cardiovascular disease, and could improve immune function. Overall, these results suggest that meditation plays a positive role in psychosomatic conditions and well-being.

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