As the final and most potent response to threats from external sources, such as bacteria and viruses, the immune system is comprised of a complex network of interrelated body processes. For example, it is well known that abstaining from smoking and intoxicants, a healthy and well-balanced diet, and exercise all can assist in keeping the immune system functioning well.
Now, we can add one more tool to the list of immune strengtheners. As more research is done on the benefits of meditation, it has been discovered that the practice can actually aid us in fighting off harmful bombardments from environmental toxins. We’d like to cover five powerful ways that meditation assists the immune response.
1. Antibody Boost
A recent study published by the National Institute of Health measured 48 participants, 25 of which were provided an 8-week course in mindfulness meditation, and 16 that were not. After the 8-week period, all participants were vaccinated against the influenza virus. It was found that the group of meditators had higher levels of antibodies both before and after vaccination. The institute underscored the need of additional research on the benefits that can be had by regular meditation.
2. Meditation Reduces Inflammation
Research published in Science Direct linked loneliness in elderly adults to a higher amount of expression in pro-inflammatory genes, leading to higher mortality compared to their counterparts with more fulfilling relationships. Participants from the lonely group were, again, enrolled in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program, after which it was found that they had both reduced feelings of loneliness and a corresponding reduction in pro-inflammatory gene expression compared to a control group.
3. Meditation Increases Immune System Cell Counts
A study conducted by UCLA researchers found that AIDS patients who were enrolled in an 8-week mindfulness meditation course maintained their levels of CD-4 cells, which are one type of immune cell typically reduced by the disease. Remarkably, the more courses a patient attended, the higher their cell count after the 8-week period. In contrast, the control group saw a marked reduction in CD-4 cells, as is expected to happen when the disease runs its course.
4. Meditation Promotes A Mental Environment In Which The Immune System Thrives
For as-yet-unknown reasons, the immune system is sensitive to positive and negative thoughts. Therefore, meditation actually helps form the perfect environment for the immune system to thrive by increasing electrical activity in the prefrontal cortex, right anterior insula, and hippocampus, which are all responsible for positive thought.
5. Meditation Reduces Stress
Meditation is commonly utilized as a tool to either disperse or prevent the stress accumulated throughout the day. Not only does stress depress our emotions, it depresses our immune system. Therefore, a reduction in stress means a healthier, more functional immune response, for which meditation is an easy solution.