When you meditate, you take the time to stop, breathe, and connect with the present moment. This can have serious health benefits, including for your immune system..
When you meditate, you take the time to stop, breathe, and connect with the present moment. This can have serious health benefits, including for your immune system.
“Meditation is a conscious practice that allows us to be in the present. If we are too focused on the past, we are more susceptible to depressive experiences, and conversely when we focus too much on the future, feelings of anxiety are likely to arise, ”says Dr. Catherine Jackson, a licensed clinical psychologist and certified neurotherapist. the board on optimal neuro holistic services.
“Meditation allows us to train our brain to focus more and more on the present and, by doing so, to reduce stressors that negatively affect the immune system.”
How, exactly, does meditation help maintain healthy immune function?
Meditation helps reduce levels of cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.” One of the most important ways that meditation can help boost your immune system is by reducing cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
“Too much stress causes the body to produce too much cortisol, and when the body experiences stress for too long, it becomes chronic, leading to overactive cortisol production that results in inflammation,” says Jackson.
“When people are chronically stressed, their cortisol levels are high and this can put their immune function at risk,” explains Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and visiting professor of Health Psychology. at Princeton University.
“Meditation can help people relax and reduce anxiety, which can lower cortisol levels … and can help improve our immune response.”
Meditation can help your body go from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest.” It can also help change the body’s sympathetic nervous system, also known as “fight or flight” mode.
“Meditation induces the parasympathetic system, which is the ‘rest and digest’ system,” says lifestyle medicine physician and trainer Kathy Tsapos Parmele, MD. “It induces a wide variety of biochemical changes by decreasing the gene expression of proteins related to inflammation and improving the expression of genes related to the immune response.”
When your body is in rest or digestion mode, it will also feel calmer, which, in turn, can help reduce stress and provide additional benefits to your immune system.
“Physiological changes include decreases in oxygen consumption, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate,” adds Tsapos Parmele. “These healthy effects affect the whole body because they reduce the cascade of inflammatory stress that leads to immune dysfunction.”
Meditation has been shown to positively affect gut health, supporting healthy immune function. The digestive system plays an important role in immunity. The ways in which meditation impacts the body (for example, by reducing stress hormones), can help maintain a healthy gut, which, in turn, can support a healthy immune system.
“Decreased responses to stress improve intestinal function through the GI-neuronal axis. A large part of our immune system lives in the gut as part of the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), ”explains Tsapos Parmele. “Meditation decreases the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn reduces the release of cortisol and norepinephrine, decreases intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut), and reduces inappropriate activation of the immune system that otherwise leads to autoimmune disorders. ”.
How often do you have to meditate to experience the immune-boosting effects?
Clearly, taking time to meditate can have a huge impact on your body’s immune response. But how often do you have to meditate to enjoy those immune-boosting effects? “The key is to reduce stress, and a single meditation session can have a ripple effect to calm you down.” “Which can help you reduce your current state of stress,” says Avena.
While one session may be all you need to start generating immunity-boosting effects from your meditation practice. “The more you meditate, the better the response,” explains Tsapos Parmele.
They even recommend the use of technology to be able to measure certain parameters in meditation. For example, Fitbit Sense, has an EDA scanner to keep track and control your stress. With Guided Meditations, found in the Fitbit app, you can choose from several options. And so do the meditation that best suits your lifestyle.
Learning something new
“In our central nervous system, practicing any new activity results in neuroplasticity,” says Parmele. “The growth of new neural connections that join and become more robust the more practical,” he adds. The specialist emphasizes that “in the same way, the more you meditate, the more these neural connections join and you can more quickly reach a parasympathetic state.” “Which leads to better immune function and decreased inflammation.”
Just make sure you don’t get carried away; the important thing is that you start meditating, not that you meditate every day or start creating a “perfect” practice. “A lot of us get excited about getting started and we tackle too much too quickly. Or we feel overwhelmed or intimidated at the thought of meditation, especially if you’re new, ”adds Jackson.
“Start with what is comfortable for you and eliminate the need to feel like you have to do it perfectly. If your mind wanders, gently return your attention to the focus of your meditation or when you notice that you are falling asleep. The more you practice this, the better it will become and the more benefits you will get ”, says the specialist.