1. Meditation shifted gene expression that related to stress, inflammation and wound healing.
A study by a team of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, University of California at San Francisco studied 20,000 genes in 3 groups of retreatants, non-meditators on a vacation retreat, experienced meditators, and novice meditators.
Everyone experienced improvement in mood up to a month later. Novice meditators experienced significant boost over depression even 10 months later.
All the groups showed shifts in the expression of genes related to stress, inflammation and wound healing. Experienced meditators showed greatest shift in these as well as telomerase activity.
One of the research leaders,Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, said, “Based on our results, the benefit we experience from meditation isn't strictly psychological; there is a clear and quantifiable change in how our bodies function. Meditation is one of the ways to engage in restorative activities that may provide relief for our immune systems.”
2. Meditation can directly improve immune response
In a study combining meditation, breathing, and cold water therapy, trained students were injected with Escherichia coli, a bacteria that normally induces violent sickness; yet they had no symptoms from the e coli injection
Review of 20 studies showing improvement in immune response through meditation:
- Reduced markers of inflammation, high levels of which are often correlated with decreased immune functioning and disease.
- Increased number of immune system’s helper cells that are involved in sending signals to other cells telling them to destroy infections.
- Increased telomerase activity; (telomerase deterioration leads to cancer and premature aging).
3. Regular meditators show reduced need for medical treatments.
A large study of insurance statistics of 2,000 meditators over a 5-year period indicates meditators had 55% less medical care utilization, both in-patient and out-patient, compared to controls matched for age, gender, and occupation. The group had lower sickness rates in all categories of disease, including 87% less hospitalization for heart disease and 55% less for cancer. The difference between the Meditators and non- Meditators was greatest for individuals over 40 years of age.
There are 3 possible ideas floating as to why immune systems are so much better with meditation:
1. Decreased Stress, Increased Emotional Regulation
2. Targeted Brain/Immune System Communication
3. Activation of the Second Brain (the Gut)