Want To Improve Your Gut Health? Get Into This Habit, New Research Says
When you think about improving your gut health, things like fermented foods or dietary changes might come to mind. But according to new research published in the journal General Psychiatry, there's another surprising way to alter your gut microbiome that has nothing to do with food: meditating. Here's what they found.
Studying the connection between meditation and the gut.
The benefits of meditation are widely known but predominantly focus on the mental health benefits. In this study, researchers wanted to find out whether meditation could have some gut health benefits as well.
To do so, they analyzed stool and blood samples from Tibetan Buddhist monks and compared them to controls who did not meditate. These monks were avid meditators and also did not take anything that would alter their guts like antibiotics, antifungals, or probiotics.
Compared to the control group, the monks had more of the good bacteria strains that are associated with positive mental health, like Prevotella, Bacteroidetes, Megamonas, and Faecalibacterium species. The findings also indicated that anti-inflammatory pathways and metabolic health were stronger in the meditation group.
The blood samples also revealed that the monks had "significantly lower" levels of agents like cholesterol and apolipoprotein B, which are associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease risk.
As the study authors write in their research, "The microbiota enriched in monks was associated with a reduced risk of anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular disease and could enhance immune function. Overall, these results suggest that meditation plays a positive role in psychosomatic conditions and well-being."
Other ways to support your gut microbiome.
If you're a seasoned meditation practitioner, take this as good news that your practice is benefiting not just your mind but your gut health too. And even if you're not planning on becoming a Buddhist monk anytime soon, making time for meditation in your day-to-day life has so many benefits beyond your biome.
Along with picking up a meditation practice, some other ways to support optimal gut health include eating a wider variety of nutrient-dense foods—particularly fermented ones—and getting enough sleep and exercise.
And of course, giving your biome a beneficial bacteria boost by prioritizing probiotics is always a good idea. If you don't know where to start, check out our favorite probiotic supplements here.
The more we learn about the gut biome, the more it becomes abundantly clear that the body thrives when we treat it like a whole system of interconnected parts. While more research needs to be done to fully understand the brain-gut axis, this is just another bit of evidence that our guts thrive when we take care of ourselves, and that includes when we meditate.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.