How Meditation Boosts Immunity, Benefits Health, Conquers Disease
How The Mind Can Boost Immunity, Multiply Health, & Conquer Disease
When it comes to what the human body "can" and "can't" do, a revolution is well underway. And what is leading the charge, rewriting the biology books with each new published study? Meditation.
From literally altering brain matter, to extending life, to conquering "unconquerable" diseases, to rewriting genetic code, meditation's latest scientific findings are truly awe-inspiring.
Here, we discuss some of this amazing new research, and how we can all use meditation to awaken our inner-healing "SuperHero." Untuck your cape, here we go:
T Cells & Antibodies: Two Of Meditation's Immunity Super-Warriors
How To Fortify Your Health's Front Line
What if you could train your body to, like a fully loaded Mack truck, run over any bacteria, virus, or germ crossing your interstate? This is not any kind of fanciful wish-making. According to scientists, each of us have within us a bulletproof defense system waiting to be activated.
To do this, your immune system needs to draft more "soldiers" to its front line, with "antibodies" and "T cells" your body's most ruthless warriors. Before we tell you how meditation boosts these two health gladiators, here is a bit of science to understand why they are undefeated.
Meditation Drafts Legions Of T Cells & Antibodies
Serving as "scouts" for your immune system, antibodies’ (also known as immunoglobulins) job is to correctly identify invaders (called antigens) such as viruses, bacteria, and germs. After finding out precisely "who" is invading your castle, antibodies will then attach themselves to the offenders (antigens), effectively "marking them for death."
Having the enemy in the crosshairs signals the next round of attack, with your immune system's "baddest" good guys, T cells, entering the picture. With both "killers" and "helpers" playing a role, these assassins mercilessly "execute" the invading bacteria, virus, or germ. It's a dirty job but somebody's gotta' do it.
Luckily, scientists have discovered an immuno-knight in shining armor. Proven to draft legions of antibodies and T cells, meditation's immune system army is trained to handle any foreign invasion — whether by land, sea, or air. To illustrate, here are a couple of relevant studies:
T Cells: How Meditation Puts The Brakes On HIV & AIDS
One type of T-cell, namely CD4, gets eaten away by HIV, the crippling virus that causes the immune system dwindling disease — AIDS. With more than 40 million cases worldwide, AIDS needs no further introduction. But there is good news on the horizon.
An 8 week UCLA study found that, for 50 HIV positive men, only 30-45 minutes of mindfulness meditation per day stopped the decline of CD4 T cells, dramatically slowing down and even halting the disease’s typically nasty progression.
Moreover, the researchers found a very strong "dose-response." What does this mean? Study lead author, Carnegie Mellon University Professor of Psychology David Creswell recently said, "the more mindfulness meditation classes people attended, the higher the CD4 T cells at the study's conclusion."
The math is easy. The more meditation you do, the more T cells you have, the more your immune system can dropkick maruading invaders.
How Meditation Amasses An Antibody Fortune
Further strengthening the fabled "meditation ⇆ immunity" link, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied as a group of 25 healthy employees practiced mindfulness meditation for 8 weeks. What did they find?
The researchers were inundated with amazing data, with two key discoveries. The group of meditators activated a very important immune-linked brain region (left-sided anterior) — while showing a powerful antibody response to the flu vaccine.
Standing firm on its own, supercharging the body with extra antibodies and T-cells is quite impressive. Combine that with meditation’s ability to also turn on, like a light switch, a critical immune-linked brain region, and what do you get? Scientists chomping at the bit for more meditating brains to study.
How To "Think" Yourself To Great Health: Meditation & The "Cell Membrane"
Your Body Is A "Cell" Wonderland
Think of your body as a "community" of 50 trillion living cells.
While each "citizen" (cell) is a conscious, living, breathing, sentient being, interacting with all other community members — they are also part of the much bigger, much more wonderfully complex "whole."
When your cellular community is in harmony, you are healthy. When in disharmony, the door opens to disease.
Before we tell you how to create your own "cellular" utopia, it is important to understand a bit of science.
How Meditation Upgrades Thought: The "Cell Membrane"
According to most all scientists before Aristotle, the earth was flat.
Dr. Bruce Lipton, a developmental biologist at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, determined early in his academic career that the "carved in stone" doctrine, at least in his field of research, was flat out wrong.
As an esteemed cell researcher, he discovered that the so called "brain" of the cell was NOT in the nucleus — but in the protective covering, the "cell membrane."
Like your Macbook's keyboard, the actions of the cell membrane are, keystroke by keystroke and thought by thought, programmed by your beliefs, emotions, and experiences.
Meditation: Think Yourself To Great Health
Back to the community of 50 trillion living cells. How do you create a "physical utopia," where each and every cell is happy, fulfilled, and living a life of true purpose?
Meditation. If thought (via the membrane) ultimately dictates cell health, then fixing the root of the problem is the clear solution. That is, having better thoughts.
Whatever metaphor you can think of, when it comes to upgrading "thought," meditation has you covered. Deeper thought, check. Higher thought, check. Clearer thought, check.
How Meditation Makes You A Master Mind Mechanic
By interfacing with your thoughts on the deepest level, meditation is the only true method of going face to face with your incomprehensibly complex mind.
To keep your car moving down the road, sometimes you gotta' visit the local mechanic. Likewise, when your thoughts need a tuneup, you "gotta' get under the hood."
Meditation is the only true way to put your thoughts "up on the rack", run diagnostics, and repair whatever is keeping them from firing on all cylinders. Best of all, no tow-truck is ever needed, no wasting half-a-day at the local Firestone.
Thoughts Do Heal, Meditation Is The Key
In his bestselling book, "The Biology of Belief," Dr Lipton confirmed that since our cells, genes, and DNA are manipulated by our mind — then we can literally "think our way to great health."
The paradigm has shifted: we are no longer victims of mom and dad's double helix, we are no longer just biological machines, and our health is no longer beyond our control. Mindfulness is the way.
How Meditation Helps You Harness The "Mind-Body Connection"
Why Elevating The Mind Elevates Immunity
Since the birth of modern medicine, the body’s ability to heal and defend itself, at least according to medical textbooks — was a purely physical phenomenon. Over the last few decades, however, a new paradigm has emerged.
The "mind-body connection" has taken a jackhammer to once carved in stone scientific "dogma", with new discoveries adding to the already Mount Everest stack of evidence.
Backed by countless studies, we now know that our immune cells' ability to dominate disease and protect against foreign invaders is under direct command and control of the mind.
Like a chain reaction or domino effect, your positive and negative thoughts elicit corresponding mental / emotional states — which then either help or hinder your cells, organs, immune system, and health.
Here are a couple of ways mindfulness elevates your consciousness to the top floor, which then penthouses your whole immune system.
Thought By Thought: How The Undisciplined Mind Pecks Our Health Away
Like a machine gun, the anxiety ridden, poor immune system functioning mind fires one negative thought after another:
"Why do I always say such stupid things? Why don’t they like me? Am I getting sick? Will anyone ever love me? Will I ever have enough money? Why can’t I lose weight?"
In fact, scientists estimate that the human mind generates more than 70,000 thoughts per day — meaning a negatively polarized mind can chip away at your health quite literally every couple of seconds!
So, how many of your thoughts are based on fear, worry, and doubt? How many are based on confidence, happiness, and hope? Is poor "thought hygiene" compromising your immune system?
While we all have troubling thoughts from time to time, the difference for folks with unhealthy thought patterns is that the sheer barrage of negativity is far beyond "normal."
How Meditation Gets Us Off The Anxiety "Hamster Wheel"
The overactive mind can be truly overwhelming and paralyzing, triggering a cataclysm of negative effects. The road to poor health is paved by "poor thought asphalt".
Then, how do we tame the so called "monkey mind"?
Meditation. By taking a breather from the health-robbing hamster wheel of anxiety, meditation ensures you no longer waste your vitality micro-managing unproductive fear based thinking.
Instead of rehearsing yesterday’s tragedies and borrowing tomorrow’s troubles, instead of buying into your fears, meditation allows you to experience the profound bliss between each thought.
When you no longer betray your nervous system through mental time travel, your awareness teleports back into the present moment.
Can you guess what else lives in the present moment? Your health and happiness.
"Fighting" Our Thoughts: Why Meditation Is The Mind's Best Referee
Black or white, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, young or old. We humans love (often polarizing) labels and categories, it seems that nothing and no one is exempt.
Similarly, the human mind likes to categorize its incoming thoughts — this is a "good" thought, that is a "bad" thought, I "should" think this, I "shouldn’t" think that, and so on.
The problem is, this judgment of incoming thoughts, this fighting with "bad" thoughts that we "shouldn’t" be having — only makes matters worse.
Carl Jung, one of modern psychology’s founding fathers, once said, "What you resist, persists."
Like a river current, the turbulent, "scared of itself" mind can take your immune system downstream, against your wishes, into enemy territory. Your health is powerless against an unruly mind.
The good news is that mindfulness reclaims your kingdom of excellent health, no matter how long it is been under the cruel, authoritative rule of undisciplined thought patterns.
How Mindfulness Helps You Achieve "Thought Mastery"
We tend to define ourselves by the mind chatter constantly churning in our heads, often letting irrational thoughts determine our self-worth, beliefs, and actions.
How does meditation fix this problem? When a thought surfaces, mindfulness trains us to neutrally "observe" it from a distance. Not a good thought, not a bad thought. Just a thought.
For example, "My boss hates me. I think he is going to fire me. My life is over if I lose my job."
Instead, mindfulness trains the mind to think, "Oh, there’s that thought again. I have had it before, I have been here before. Thoughts come and go, this one is not special."
Away from any kind of unnatural or forced so called "whimsical" positive thinking, the true "mental reconditioning" power of mindfulness helps you realize that "you are NOT your thoughts."
A Quiet Mind Creates A Healthy Body
Like waves crashing upon the shore, thoughts come and go. No wave is any more important than the last one or the next one.
When we no longer "buy-in" to the silliness, craziness, or scariness constantly surfacing within our mind, then we take back our long lost power to "choose" our thoughts.
This mental upgrade also upgrades our body's defense shield, elevating immunity to the highest possible level. No matter what health battle you are facing, having a reset button for the mind can work wonders.
"The Iceman" Wim Hof's Frozen Feats
Becoming Superhuman Through Meditation
Maybe you caught The "Iceman" Wim Hof on a National Geographic documentary, viral Youtube video, or Discovery Channel feature. Now a living legend, news of his jaw-dropping accomplishments have spread far and wide.
A holder of more than 25 Guinness World Records, the nearly 60 year old dutchman has become reknowned for his ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures by using meditation to crank up his "inner thermostat."
Before we tell you the massive implications of his "superhuman" abilities, here are a few of his frozen feats:
Braving hurricane force wind chills (-53°C, -63°F), in 2007 the Iceman climbed the world’s tallest peak, Mt Everest, wearing only shorts. Two years later, National Geographic & the BBC filmed him run a barefoot marathon in the Arctic Circle (-20°C, -4°F).
Packed head to toe with 1000+ pounds of ice, Wim Hof can last two full hours effectively "frozen." He has broken his own "full ice immersion" record 6+ times on various TV appearances.
He has done a lot of other cool stuff, too. But you get the idea.
How The Iceman Makes The Impossible, Possible. Mind Over Matter: A Few Studies
How does he do it? To raise his body temperature, the dutchman manipulates his autonomic nervous system (ANS) through deep meditative breathing techniques. Therein lies the controversy.
The human autonomic nervous system is, according to all medical textbooks, involuntary and therefore — impossible to consciously manipulate and control. The lungs, kidney, liver, and heart work all by themselves. Or so they say.
But the data is now suggesting otherwise. While the Iceman is the ultimate "mind over matter" case study, other researchers have discovered similar remarkable abilities in trained meditators.
Author of "Counter Clockwise" and Harvard Professor, Ellen Langer has shown that we can consciously slow and speed our heart rate after only one week of mindfulness training.
Legendary Mind-Body researcher and author of the bestselling book "Relaxation Response," Dr Herbert Benson found that meditating monks could increase the temperature of their fingers and toes by as much as 47°F (8.3°C), while drying wet blankets through mental control of their body heat!
The point is that, yes, we most certainly can do things with our mind and body that science once believed impossible.
The Iceman's Immunity Put To The Test
Can the Iceman, with his superhuman abilities, also ward off disease?
To test’s Hof’s conscious immune system control, researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre injected him with an endotoxin (bacteria) which causes flu-like symptoms and inflammation.
What did the doctors find? The test results showed that the injected bacteria had zero impact on the Iceman. In other words, his meditation fueled immune system forced the pathogen into submission. Pretty amazing.
But the question then becomes, is Wim Hof just a freak of nature, one in a billion, an extreme outlier?
From "Average Joe" To "Superhuman": The Iceman Trains 12 Students
Wim says that his feats and superman abilities are available to anyone and everyone who practices his meditative techniques. Intrigued by the possibility, researchers put his claim to the test.
For 10 days, Wim trained 12 students with the very same deep breathing meditative technique that he practices.
In the lab his meditators were injected with dead E. coli bacteria, which invokes the same immuno-response as a living pathogen.
And The Researchers Were Astonished
The meditators showed little to no effects from the injection, quickly squashing any flulike symptoms and inflammation.
How did they do it? By "breathing" high levels of oxygen into their blood, the meditators triggered a cataclysm of immuno-upgrades, starting with better tissue alkalinity and elevated levels of adrenaline/epinephrine.
(Note: An acidic body is linked to countless diseases. Luckily, meditation makes the body more alkaline, as this study clearly shows.)
Study author Matthijs Kox, told Livescience: "The adrenaline levels were higher than in people who bungee jumped for the first time...The acid-base [blood] balance oxygen levels… could lead to this effect."
As your body’s first line of defense, your immune system can be upgraded to "superhuman" levels. The potential is within each and every one of us.
You don’t need to be a freak of nature, as the "The Iceman’s" 12 students have so convincingly proven in only 10 short days. Meditation is the way.
Meditation & Endorphins: The Hidden Healing Power Of Feeling Good
How Thought Impacts Health
Let's do some simple math. If the human mind generates 70,000+ thoughts per day, this means that we have a new thought quite literally every couple of seconds.
You can think of the mind as a machine gun that fires not blanks, not BBs, and not pellets — but health-penetrating magnum-caliber bullets.
That is, scientists have proven that every single thought has a powerful and direct impact on our cells, tissues, organs, and immune system.
Are you seeing the big picture yet? It's quite simple. Our physical health and state of mind are joined at the hip.
In fact, this revolution has given birth to a whole new field of study.
Deepening our scientific understanding into how our thoughts impact our health, Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) studies the link between the neurological and immune systems.
How Meditation Helps To Run Away From The Big "C"
Better than any manufactured drug, what if we could self-generate a million dollars worth of cancer fighting chemicals by simply retraining our brain?
To illustrate, "Interleukin-2" is a powerful cancer fighting drug on the market today. Known for stimulating two of the body’s key cancer conquering molecules, interleukin and interferon, a full course costs in the neighborhood of $40,000. Did we mention the nasty side effects?
What else triggers these two cancer warriors? Endorphins. Think back to the last time you felt really, really good. Your system was likely flooded with these same natural internal pain killers.
How Meditation Activates Your Inner Pharmacy
Running is great, but maybe not for everyone. In terms of boosting endorphins, is there anything that works better? Yes, meditation!
Legendary doctor and world-renowned author, Deepak Chopra M.D., has stated that the meditative mind can, by boosting powerful neurotransmitters (like endorphins) — "make a million dollars worth of Interleukin-2."
A 1995 study (Harte et al) published in the Biological Psychology Journal tested the neurotransmitter release of two groups — 11 elite runners and 12 highly trained meditators — after running and meditation, respectively. What did they find?
While both groups’ endorphin levels were greatly elevated, meditation's "endorphin boosting effect" scored even higher than running!
How Meditation Awakens The Doctor Within
Countless anecdotal reports and books have been written about people who, after getting a terminal cancer diagnosis and only weeks left to live — achieve spontaneous remission, effectively "overcoming" cancer after beginning a meditation program (or yoga, visualization, etc).
Perhaps meditation's release of feel-good cancer-killing biochemicals contributed?
(Disclaimer: The above mentioned "spontaneous remission" cases are the exception and not the rule. Results will vary from person to person. Please follow your doctor's advice.)
Harnessing Epigenetics: How Meditation Curates Gene Expression
Human Potential: Are Mom & Dad The Limit?
The biggest finding since Swiss chemist Johann Friedrich Miescher’s discovery of DNA, Epigenetics is an emerging field of study with monumental implications.
As the code your body uses for building and rebuilding itself, your out-of-the-womb DNA double helix blueprint contains 23 chromosome pairs, with around 22,300 (identified) genes.
If we are all pre-programmed with a gene map, then is our potential "set" at birth? Can we change the overwhelming will of Mother Nature?
Yes. According to recent Epigenetic discoveries, in terms of who and what we are, nature dominates nurture. There is a quiet scientific revolution now rewriting biology books.
How Meditation Transcends Genetics
While we all have an at-birth set of genes, there is a layer above our DNA sequence which is ultimately responsible for which genes get expressed and which ones stay dormant.
While your family tree is full of heart disease and cancer, you can, like the light switch in your bedroom, turn off those genes which have your "fate" in their crosshairs.
With this new paradigm, we become what we eat, what become we drink, and we become our level of physical activity. We can win the health lottery not through our parents, but through our thoughts and actions.
Then, how do we harness this incredible power?
Meditation. The best way to rewrite nature’s blueprint, meditation is renowned for its ability to alter gene expression. Here are a few ways this is done:
How Meditation "Unexpresses" Cancer
Dr. Dean Ornish and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco had a group of low-risk prostate cancer survivors practice an hour long meditative breathing exercise. What did they find?
By decreasing the expression of cancer associated genes (RAN, RAB14, & RAB8A), they discovered that meditation could actually "molecularly mitigate" and "silence" the processes which play a role in developing cancer.
If you like complex science words, another study found that mindfulness had exerted powerful "global influence" (histone modification) on the "chief regulators" (H4 pan-acetyl and histone H3 trim ethyl Lys4) responsible for cancerous tumor formation and development.
While more studies are needed, when it comes to meditation's never ending list of benefits, it certainly appears that the "Big C" is included.
Note: If you are looking for more ways meditation upgrades gene expression, then see the following sections on this page: Telomeres & Longevity, Chronic Inflammation, and Beyond Probiotics: The "Gut-Brain Axis".
Telomeres: How Meditation Extends Lives & Slows Aging
How Stress Grinds Down Telomores, Speeds Aging
Sometimes called the "White House Effect," have you ever noticed how a new president or prime minister seems to age a decade after only a couple of years in office?
Stress, according to many health and longevity researchers, speeds up our "biological clock" — a powerful force which makes us look and feel old long before our time.
In fact, in addition to losing their length, the tip-like "telomeres" within our DNA begin to "fray," just like the shoe lace tips on your favorite running shoes, over time, and especially under stress.
A great way to measure "true health," short "frayed" telomeres are linked to the whole medical dictionary: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, and much more.
Thankfully, telomere damage can be slowed down and even reversed. How? Meditation.
How Meditation Lengthens Telomeres, Shortens Cancer
There have been some remarkable studies into meditation's powerful effect on telomeres, with benefits reaching far beyond longevity. Here are a couple:
One study (Carlson et al) published in the highly respected journal, "Cancer," found that meditation helped breast cancer survivors maintain (a powerful result!) their telomere length, while the non-meditating group saw their telomeres drastically shorten.
Another study by scientists at the University of California-Davis found meditators' white blood cells to have a thriving telomere community, with the citizens (telomeres) healthy and tall.
Why Meditation Is The "Gene Mozart"
With Oncology (cancer), Longevity, and Life-Extension topping the list, many disciplines are deeply interested in meditation's ability to — like an Iowa corn field, grow and maintain "tall" telomeres.
Epigeneticists are enthralled at these results because telomere length determines which genes get switched on and off.
By keeping your telomeres long, strong, and healthy, does meditation's powerful "gatekeeping" work to express only your "best" genes?
If your genes are the piano keys, and your lifestyles choices are the pianist, then meditation may just be Mozart.
Inflammation Nation: A Modern Health Crisis
A Modern Epidemic, Inflammation Is Linked To Most Disease
Chronic inflammation, especially within the brain, is a self-perpuating, highly toxic body condition — the perfect petri-dish for disease to proliferate.
Wake Forest School of Medicine professor Floyd Chilton, Ph.D. outlines the severity of the problem in his 2006 book "Inflammation Nation."
With stress as the leading contributor, Dr. Chilton believes that we are living in the midst of a chronic inflammation epidemic, with statistics becoming more and more alarming by the year.
Stress "Fans" Inflammation Flames: Meditation Conquers Stress
Stress, anxiety, and inflammation live within a self-perpetuating ecosystem where — if you boost one, you boost the other two. More stress increases inflammation, which increases anxiety, you get the idea. A toxic circle of life.
The whole medical dictionary, from A to Z, starting with anxiety, can be linked to the body’s chronic inflammation "wildfire," with many nasty diseases the result — addiction, arthritis, asthma, cancer, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, just to name a few.
Luckily, meditation has extinguished more wildfires than the National Park Service. Here are a couple of ways this is done:
How Meditation Extinguishes Inflammation Genes
According to a recent published study, meditation works "Genie" gene magic on inflammation. What did they find?
After only 8 hours of practice, meditation had "down regulated" several key genes: RIPK2, COX2, & HDAC histone deacetylase — the same genes that anti-inflammatory & analgesic drugs target.
In terms of their abilities, the meditators were found to have very low stress chemicals (cortisol) when giving an impromptu speech, while performing fast and accurate on the spot mental calculations in front of a live audience.
On the implications, study author Richard J. Davidson, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the UW–Madison, had this to say:
"Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression."
How Meditation Drys Up Inflammation's "Fuel" Source: Cortisol
With so many of us (unknowingly) running around with our bodies in perpetual fight or flight inflammation mode, putting out the wildfire can dramatically upgrade our mental, physical, and emotional health in unseen ways.
When it comes to the body's multiple disease linked "wildfire", meditation is the world's most expert firefighting team, extinguishing inflammation from every fire-hydrant on the block. All you have to do is make the call.
Beyond Probiotics: Meditation & Gut Health
Why You Have Two Brains
The powerful "emotion ⇆ stomach" connection is a common cultural reference:
"Trust your intuition, trust your gut... I’m so nervous, I have butterflies in my stomach... I have a gut feeling to reject this job offer... What a gut-wrenching experience."
This link is now showing up in many cool and interesting scientific ways. With more than 100 million nerves lining your so called "second brain," the gut / enteric nervous system (ENS) is actually composed of the very same tissue(s) as your central nervous system (CNS).
Why The "Gut-Brain Axis" Is Essential To Health
In fact, many doctors are now saying that our deeply intertwined "first" real brain and "second" gut brain (sometimes called the gut-brain axis) are actually one system, not two.
While it can’t do calculus, write a novel, or pass an exam — your gut certainly can orchestrate a symphony of neurotransmitters, hormones, and electrical impulses.
Beyond helping you digest food, your gut has its own brain-like neural network, playing critical roles in keeping you healthy, including regulating inflammation and commanding your immune system.
So, will simply eating right keep the gut-brain axis in balance? Not necessarily. Here we will go into why your state of mind is so critical to gut health, and why meditation is the missing link above and beyond diet.
"Imaginary" Disease: Why The Mind Is Key To A Healthy Gut
To illustrate the mind-gut link, have you ever heard of the guy afflicted with the "incurable, unknown origin" chronic disease? After visiting a dozen or so doctors, they all have one simple but bewildering diagnosis: "it’s all in your head"! This happens much more than we think.
In fact, gastroenterologists have compiled more than 20 of these "all in your head" GI tract diseases (FGIDs), which account for the vast majority of clinical visits.
So, what’s the reason for these mysterious illnesses? Diet? No, because many of these folks have already tried everything, and why the doctor has labeled their affliction effectively "psychosomatic."
Why Your Ability To Handle Stress Controls The Gut-Brain Axis
The culprit is a known offender, sitting atop the health police’s most wanted list — stress.
Even after switching to a healthy diet, stress explains why many "second brain" gut-related diseases still stick around.
Strengthening the link, research has shown that psychological trauma can lead to digestive problems, inflammation, ulcers, IBS, IBD, Crohns, & more.
In light of these new findings, it is obvious that healing the gut is impossible without addressing our ability to manage emotion and stress. How you think does affect your health.
How To Heal Your Gut With Your Mind: Meditation
As the #1 stress conquerer, meditation is the top contender for the "gut-health" championship belt. Who are the other competitors in the ring, duking it out? Probiotics, psychobiotics, diet, and prescription drugs.
(Note: Boxing metaphor aside, when it comes to your highest health, all of the above options certainly have their rightful place, of course.)
Here is one study firmly planted in meditation's corner:
Study: How Meditation Turns Off "Bad" Gut Genes, While Helping 1,000+ More
For 48 patients suffering irritable bowel syndrome (IBD) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a 9 week study at Massachusetts General Hospital changed everything.
Meditation had somehow managed to beneficially alter more than 1,000 genes, including suppressing the nasty protein complex arsonist (NF-kB) responsible for igniting (inflaming) the immune system and GI tract.
Said co-senior study author, Dr. Towia Libermann: "In both IBS and IBD, the pathway controlled by a protein called NF-kB emerged as one of those most significantly affected by the relaxation response."
With monumental implications, meditation effectively disables the genetic trigger linked to so many nasty gut/non-gut related diseases (anxiety, depression, MS, Autism, Parkinson’s, & more), while short-circuiting the body’s endless stress response cycle.
To illustrate the implications, if a pack of mischievous bears were the lone culprits behind your twisted-up micriobiome, then meditation would chase them back into their cave for a "permanent winter hibernation."
Your gut is incredibly important for overall health. Diet, while important, does not guarantee a healthy microbiome. As evidenced by the "gut-brain-axis," your ability to handle stress is (arguably) more important than diet, along with genes.
Luckily, meditation not only dominates stress like Michael Jordan over the '92-'93 Phoenix Suns, but also orchestrates a Mozart-like symphony expressing only your "cream of the crop" genes.
Infused Health: 3 Key Meditation Chemicals: Melatonin, GH, & DHEA
If you are looking for a supercharged immune system, then boosting these three brain & body chemicals will do the trick. Luckily, meditation boosts them all.
Meditation Chemical #1 — Growth Hormone: Swim In The "Fountain Of Youth"
When you were a teenager, Growth Hormone fueled your growth spurt. Unless you are the world's tallest man Robert Wadlow, your GH levels are nothing like they were during puberty. Today, GH's main job is to keep your tissues young, strong, and healthy.
Like all good things coming to an end, this super chemical has a shelf life. As Father Time takes his toll, our pea-sized pituitary gland slowly shuts down its growth hormone factory, laying off more workers every year.
Perhaps the greatest reason for age related frailty, less GH means weaker bones, weaker muscles, weaker heart, along with poor mood, poor motivation, poor energy, and extra body fat. Getting old is the best.
With so many clear benefits, it is easy to see why the rich and famous spend $1000+/month supplementing with this fountain of youth chemical.
No under the radar prescriptions, no shady doctors, and no fly-by-night clinics — meditation's growth hormone elevating magic works naturally.
With an emphasis on immune system related benefits, here are some of the many things GH can do:
- Helps recover from illness.
- Reduces infection.
- Fortifies the immune system.
- Improves allergies.
- Overcomes chronic illness of all types.
- Beats auto immune disorders.
- Promotes cellular growth.
- Is approved by the FDA for HIV/AIDS patients.
- Enhances myeloid progenitor cells.
- Modulates Cytokine Response.
- Boosts HIV specific T-cell response & maturation.
- Elevates immune re-builders (CD4 & CD8).
- Helps fight pathogens & infection (especially in the elderly).
- Speeds up protein synthesis.
- Especially helpful in chronic diseases like lupus, arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.
Meditation Chemical #2 — Melatonin: Become A Master Of Sleep
Since the dawn of man, our biological clocks have been set according to Earth’s natural cycles of light and dark.
The problem is, with work days lengthened by ever-advancing technology, our days have nudged ever further into the night. We need night to be healthy, cutting it short is not cool.
With excessive light as melatonin's #1 foe, this superhero immuno-chemical is getting siphoned off by screen addiction (among other reasons).
Manufactured in the pineal gland, melatonin is known to help and/or prevent over 100 diseases, including cancer. Like a tube of Colgate toothpaste, slowly squeezing this stuff out of our system is not a good thing.
Luckily, scientists have discovered how to keep a full tank. One research study found that, during meditation, melatonin levels were boosted by an average of 98%, with many participants seeing 300% gains!
Indeed, meditation is the smart man’s way of rebalancing biology. Here are a few things melatonin can do:
- Is necessary for deep, regenerative sleep.
- Helps ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder) & ADD.
- Regulates healthy menstrual cycles & helps PMS.
- Minimizes bone loss.
- Low levels are linked to prostate cancer.
- Is a powerful antioxidant.
- Stimulates white blood cells.
- Attacks cancer cells.
- Is used as complementary treatment for many cancer types: breast, brain, lung, prostate, & stomach.
- Counters chemotherapy side effects: weight loss, depression, & frailty.
- Helps tinnitus, Alzheimer’s, depression, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, headaches, IBS, & more.
Meditation Chemical #3 — DHEA: Live Long & Prosper
One 12 year study looked at DHEA levels for 240 men aged (50-79 years). What did they find? Put simply, the more of this stress counterpuncher that you have, the more years you have left.
So, like an hourglass, our DHEA levels dwindle away, bit by bit — with each lost sand grain dropping our disease defense shield a notch or two.
Luckily, meditation flips that hourglass upside down. One study by Dr. Vincent Giampapa, M.D., former President of the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine and now a well-known longevity researcher, found that meditators were shown to have 43.77% more DHEA than common folk.
If you are looking for a big and strong immune system, here are some of the many health benefits of this longevity molecule:
- Increases bone density, especially for women during menopause.
- Alleviates depression.
- Helps weight loss.
- Normalizes adrenal gland function.
- Improves lupus (SLE).
- Helps sexual function, libido, & erectile dysfunction.
- Protects against age-related physical function.
- Slows brain aging.
- Slows HIV progression.
- Improves cervical cancer.
- Helps chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Helps insulin resistance, obesity, & cholesterol.
- Improves blood vessel function, prevents blood clots.
- Combats diabetes.
- Alleviates addiction.
- Minimizes age and disease related bone loss.
- Improves lupus, asthma, hives, eczema, and pneumonia.
Harnessing Neuroplasticity: Healthy Brain, Healthy Life
Scientific Breakthrough: We Can Now "Sculpt" Our Brain
Your brain’s potential is "fixed" at birth. Mom and dad's brain genes transferred to your DNA double helix determine your grades, SAT score, career path, and how much money you make. Is this true?
Nope. While scientists were once convinced that we could not upgrade our brain throughout life, recent discoveries have proven otherwise.
By taking a jackhammer to once carved in stone medical dogma, the brain’s newly discovered "neuroplastic" nature means that we can carve and mold our noggin' like a sculptor shapes his clay.
That is, through certain types of activities, we can physically and functionally change and upgrade our brains in ways once believed impossible.
Why Meditation Is The "Michelangelo" Of Brain Sculpting
In her bestselling book, "You Are Not Your Brain," Rebecca Gladding MD recently wrote "The brain, and how we are able to mold it, is fascinating and nothing short of amazing."
Then, what’s the best way to upgrade the human brain? With thousands of studies fueling the movement, many scientists believe meditation to be the best way to build a better, healthier brain.
Helping to ward off would-be invaders, here are four immune system linked brain regions that meditation so conveniently fortifies.
Meditation Brain Region #1 — Insula Cortex: Why Compassionate People Are So Healthy
A highly cited 2008 University of Wisconsin study showed the empathy linked "insula cortex" to be very active while a meditator is "in session."
What’s the link? Many studies, including one at Emory University School of Medicine, have shown that compassionate people have, along with huge reductions in inflammation, better stress responses and far healthier immune systems.
Think of the kindest people that you know. According to scientists, they should also be the healthiest that you know.
New meditators often report a big "shift" in consciousness very early in their regimen. Is awakening their dormant "insula cortex" the reason for this upgrade? Quite possibly.
Meditation Brain Region #2 — Hippocampus: "King Hippo" Drops Depression
People with depression know this brain region well. Actually, maybe they don’t, because depression grinds the hippocampus down to a nub. Luckily, meditation reverses the atrophy, making it big and strong again.
A 2008 UCLA study (Neuroimage Journal) found that after only 8 weeks of practice, meditators had physically and functionally grown the neural thickness, density, and overall size of their "right hippocampi".
With dementia, heart disease, cancer, and thyroid problems topping the list of depression related diseases, meditation’s implied health upgrading capacity is truly mind-boggling.
Meditation Brain Region #3 — Prefrontal Cortex: Build Intelligence & Health
If all of the brain regions held an election, then the Prefrontal Cortex would be emperor.
Perhaps the greatest dividing line between neanderthals and modern man, this "king of all brain regions" is ruler for good reason, known for: zapping anxiety and depression, good decision making, high intelligence (like Albert Einstein), strong immune system function, and more.
Then, what’s the best way to build up the prefrontal cortex?
Meditation. In 2005, a groundbreaking study by esteemed Harvard neuroscientist Dr Sara Lazar found that meditation practitioners had extremely "well-developed" prefrontal cortexes, with a direct link between experience and size, strength, and "folds" (gyrification).
So, meditation not only fortifies your immune system, it can supercharge your intellect. Win win.
Meditation Brain Region #4 — The Amygdala: Achieve Stress Mastery
With countless studies implying that stress causes nearly every disease, it becomes clear that less stress leads to more health. You don’t need to be a doctor to see that the sky is blue.
Responsible for the "caveman" fear response within the brain, modern man is activating his double-almond sized "amygdala" way too often.
How many times did you face a life or death situation last month? Are you fighting lions, tigers, and bears on your daily commute to work? (Depending on the traffic in your city this may actually be true!)
The problem is, our primitive caveman amygdala is triggering negative stress hormones in response to our job problems, financial difficulties, and relationship squabbles. You can take the "caveman out of the cave", but you can’t take the "cave out of the caveman".
Or can we? Is it possible to evolve this primitive brain region, and in essence, hack ourselves to the front of the evolution queue? Yes, through meditation!
As evidenced by countless studies (including an 8 week Massachusetts General Hospital MRI brain scan study), the "caveman" stress response brain region, the amygdala, is cooled off and deactivated in and after meditation.
By shrinking the brain’s fear center, your stress plummets, and your health and immune system soar.
How Meditation Builds Healthy Hearts, Bypasses Surgery
An incredible study published in the academic compilation "Potentiating Health & The Crisis Of The Immune System," Psychologist Dr Carl Stonier (University of Hull) had 40 heart patients practice guided meditation over the course of one year, with the control group receiving only counseling. More proof into the mind’s incredible ability to heal the body, here is what he found:
Incredible Meditation Heart Patient Study Results:
- The statistics (below) for mental well-being, emotional health, degree of chest pain, and exercise tolerance for the "guided meditation" group's results were both potent and long lasting — while the "counseling only" group’s results were weak and temporary.
- "Meditation Only Group" — Final Results: (3 months +934%, 6 months +705%, 12 months +577%)
- "Counseling Only Group" — Final Results: (3 months +103%, 6 months -32%, 12 months 34%)
- 6 patients in the meditation group left the bypass surgery waiting list.
- While in very serious condition prior to the study (with many on a heart transplant waiting list), 0 patients in the meditation group died. However, 6 patients from the counseling only group died from cardiac related events.
- The meditators either reduced greatly or entirely came off their heart medication.
- The meditators regained significant "control" of their lives, including their ability and capacity to exercise.
- After completion of the study, the doctors found the results to be so exemplary that the control group also received the guided visualization meditation so called "treatment."
How Meditation Lead To The Miracle Of The "Cardiac Cripple"
One shining example of Dr. Stonier’s study was a woman deemed the "cardiac cripple." With her medication maxed out and incapable of another bypass surgery, she was out of options and out of hope.
Luckily, the guided meditation proved to be her magic. The same woman who got angina from simply getting out of her car was, after practicing meditation for only three months, swimming nearly a mile every day.
While nothing in the past had worked for her, she ended up maintaining good health for decades afterward, even becoming the caregiver to her husband who developed Alzheimer’s later in life.
Why Meditation Is Priceless
Is the best medicine also the cheapest medicine? With heart bypass surgery now in the $70,000-$200,000 range, how much does the ancient mind practice cost?
While we don't have enough data to say that mindfulness can empty the heart bypass surgery waiting list (a bold claim indeed!), meditation is certainly key to the future of medicine.
Sleep: The Ultimate Healing State & Immune System Booster
We Need Deep Sleep. We Are Not Getting Deep Sleep.
As you probably know, the lion’s share of your body’s healing occurs while you are asleep. To be precise, in a very deep (sub-REM), no thinking, ultra slow brainwave state called "Delta."
The problem is, with diet, caffeine, & late-night TV / iPad / iPhone / computer screen time topping the list, modern man’s lifestyle choices have made our sleep cycles more shallow than the baby pool.
We are collectively crippling our delta brainwaves, depraving our immune system of the nourishment it needs to be strong and healthy. Luckily, meditation is the world's best sleep IV, infusing even the most malnourished insomniac.
How Meditation Gives You Super-Deep, Natural Sleep
How? The logic is clear. Numerous scans show that meditators have dominant Delta brainwaves while in-session and while asleep. These results actually make a ton of sense.
Meditation's brainwave re-balancing not only deepens the sleep state, but also adds another round of restorative and rejuvenative battery recharge when "in session." Meditators sleep so deeply and "power-up" so efficently while in session, in fact, that many report needing fewer hours of nightly shuteye. If quality beats qauntity, then sleep is no exception.
How Meditation Helps You Sleep Like A Log
Piling on the evidence: Beyond delta waves, meditation also boosts the main night-time chemical "melatonin," puts to bed "monkey-mind-chatter," while activating the "#1 REM gatekeeping" brain region (Pons). The result? Super deep natural sleep, every night of the week.
Doctors have countless reasons (and studies!) to believe that meditation’s never-ending list of benefits include, well, everything! Sleep like a log, supercharge your health. How? You already know.