- Sun Y, Ju P, Xue T, et al. Alteration of faecal microbiota balance related to long-term deep meditation. General Psychiatry 2023;36: e100893.
In order to compare the two groups and avoid confounders, care was taken to ensure that none of the subjects had taken antibiotics, pre- or probiotics before. In addition, they all had similar eating habits. Their diet consisted mainly of barley, rice, steamed bread and pasta, plus vegetables, meat and tea.
The stool samples were subjected to 16S rRNA gene sequencing. This amplifies specific gene regions of the bacterial ribosome, which serve as a genetic fingerprint. In this way, the individual bacterial strains in the intestine can be precisely differentiated.
The result showed that the composition of the intestinal microbiome differed significantly in both groups. In the monks, bacterial strains associated with mental health, such as the Prevotellaceae family, were predominant. In previous studies, they were reduced in both depressed patients and autistic children compared to the healthy control group. In the meditating monks, they accounted for over 40% of the bacterial flora, significantly more than in their neighbours who refrained from meditating.
Another interesting observations was that of certain biochemical metabolic processes which were more active in the monks. For example, the biosynthesis of glucans was in full swing. These polysaccharides are said to have all kinds of positive effects on digestion, blood circulation, and the immune system.
Finally, the levels of total cholesterol and apolipoprotein B in the blood were higher in the control group than in the monks. Both are associated with an increased cardiovascular risk.
With 56 study participants, the significance of the study is of course limited. Moreover, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the general population from the very specific living conditions in the Tibetan highlands. Nevertheless, the small study once again underlines the importance of the gut and its microbial inhabitants for our physical and mental well-being.
Meditating is not only subjectively good for humans, it also has manifest health-promoting effects. You don't have to become a Buddhist monk to do this. Those who regularly allow themselves a conscious time-out for mind and body can benefit from it in the long term.