Why Buddhist Monks have a healthier microbiome, scientists find

(ORDO NEWS) — Buddhist monks who practice deep meditation daily may have a healthier microbiome than non-meditators, according to a new study.

The study authors analyzed the gut bacteria of 37 monks from three temples in Tibet and found they had higher concentrations of several beneficial strains than non-meditators.

“Tibetan Buddhist meditation, which is known to have its origins in ancient Indian Ayurveda, can be defined as a form of psychological training,” the researchers explain.

“This practice is known to train, allow the body’s self-regulatory mechanisms to promote well-being, and provide insight into the true nature of all phenomena.”

Numerous studies have shown the potential of meditation and other mindfulness practices to improve psychological and physical health, but the mechanisms underlying these benefits are not fully understood.

Given the importance of the gut-brain connection in regulating mood, immune function, and the nervous system, the study authors set out to investigate how the gut flora of Buddhist monks differs from that of non-religious people.

After comparing monks’ faecal samples with fecal samples from 19 secular residents from the same region, the researchers found that “the composition of the gut microbiota in the meditation group was significantly different from that of the control group.”

For example, monks had significantly higher levels of the Prevotella bacteria, which had previously been shown to be more common in healthy people than in patients with major depressive disorder.

Meanwhile, bacteroids were associated with reduced anxiety and addictive behaviors, and were significantly higher in samples provided by meditators than in non-practitioners.

Other strains that have been elevated in monks’ guts include Megamonas, which affects a wide range of psychocognitive traits, and Faecalibacterium, which have been shown to be significantly reduced in people suffering from anxiety.

The researchers say these changes in gut flora may activate protective anti-inflammatory mechanisms and lead to improved metabolism in regular meditators.

After analyzing the blood plasma of all participants, the study authors also found that markers of cardiovascular disease risk, such as cholesterol and apolipoprotein B, were significantly lower among the monks.

“The monks-enriched microbiota was associated with a reduced risk of anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular disease, and may improve immune function,” the researchers wrote.

“Overall, these results suggest that meditation plays a positive role in psychosomatic states and well-being.”

All of the Buddhist practitioners included in the study meditated for at least two hours a day for three to 30 years, leading the authors to conclude that “prolonged deep meditation may have a beneficial effect on the gut microbiota, allowing the body to maintain an optimal state of health.”

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