Researchers Discover How Meditation May Improve Your Gut Health

As our modern world gets busier and busier, our minds can become more and more overwhelmed. Luckily, meditation has become increasingly popular for its relaxation and stress reduction benefits. However, there is also scientific proof that meditation can improve health by helping to manage anxiety and pain, increase attention span, improve impulse control, and decrease blood pressure (via Healthline). Now it seems like meditation can even alter gut microbes, as per a 2023 study published in General Psychiatry.

While meditation might be a newer concept to us, it's actually been around for thousands of years, according to the Mayo Clinic. It involves focusing your attention, usually on your breath or a mantra you repeat to yourself to quiet the constant stream of thoughts that can take up space in your mind. When those thoughts are toned down, you might feel less stressed and more present. Meditation is accessible to anyone because you don't need special training or a fancy app. You can do it while commuting to work, taking a walk, or in the middle of a tense moment with your kids. Even just taking one or two deep breaths can be enough to bring you back to the present moment and increase your calmness.

Meditation can do wonders for a person's overall health

In order for meditation to change your gut health, as per the 2023 study published in General Psychiatry, researchers from Shanghai Mental Health Center in China analyzed stool samples and blood samples from 37 Buddhist monks at three different Tibetan temples and 19 people who lived nearby. Between 3 and 30 years, the monks practiced meditation for at least two hours per day. Researchers found that the monks' stool samples contained significant amounts of healthy bacteria, including some linked to reduced mental illness. Their blood samples also showed lower cholesterol levels than those living in surrounding areas.

Fortunately, these gut microbes improved inflammation and metabolism in the monks as well, showing that long-term meditation could have a positive impact on gut health, which, in turn, impacts mental and overall health. While meditating for two hours a day sounds nice, it's probably not attainable for most of us. In fact, just 13 minutes of meditation a day is associated with health benefits, according to a 2019 study published in Behavioural Brain Research. However, it's just as important to practice regularly, so five minutes every day can be even more beneficial than 30 minutes twice a week (per Healthline). Other options include trying an app like Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer if you want some meditation guidance.