Meditation may help to improve the gut microbiome, boost the immune system and reduce the risk of heart disease, anxiety and depression, according to a small study of Tibetan Buddhist monks.

The research, which was led by the Shanghai Mental Health Centre at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, analysed the stool and blood samples of 37 Tibetan Buddhist monks from three temples and 19 secular residents in the neighbouring areas.

In the past three months, none of the monks had taken antibiotics, probiotics, prebiotics, or antifungal medicines, which can change the number and variety of gut microorganisms.

Age, blood pressure, heart rate, and nutrition were all comparable in both groups.

The researchers used a sophisticated analytical approach to forecast which chemical pathways the bacteria would influence.

Stool samples indicated substantial variations in microbial diversity and volume between the monks and their neighbours.

The analysis demonstrated that various protective anti-inflammatory mechanisms, as well as metabolism, were increased in monks who practised meditation.

According to the researchers, the data also suggest that meditation may lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Blood sample research found that levels of chemicals linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease were much lower in monks than in their secular counterparts.

The researchers emphasised that the study was observational in nature, and that the number of participants was small, all male, and lived at high altitude, making it difficult to make strong or general conclusions.

They stated that the possible health ramifications could only be deduced from previously published research.

Meditation is increasingly being utilised to treat addiction, severe stress, eating disorders, and chronic pain. However, it has not been determined if it can also change the composition of the gut microbiota.

The study was shared in the journal General Psychiatry, published by the British Medical Journal.

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