A new study of gut microbes found that the microbiome of Buddhist Monks is healthier than that of the general population, carrying with it lower risk of anxiety, depression and heart disease.
Published in the journal General Psychiatry, the findings linked regular deep meditation practiced over several years with regulation of the gut microbial health. The gut microbes of the Tibetan Buddhist monks in the study differed substantially from those of their secular neighbors.
The researchers said that the Tibetan Buddhist meditation originates from the ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda, and is a form of psychological training. The monks in this study had been practicing it for at least 2 hours a day for between 3 and 30 years.
None of the participants had used agents that can alter the volume and diversity of gut microbes: antibiotics; probiotics; prebiotics; or antifungal drugs in the preceding 3 months. Both groups were matched for age, blood pressure, heart rate, and diet.
Stool sample analysis revealed significant differences in the diversity and volume of microbes between the monks and their neighbors.
Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes species were dominant in both groups, as would be expected. But Bacteroidetes were significantly enriched in the monks’ stool samples (29% vs 4%), which also contained abundant Prevotella (42% vs 6%) and a high volume of Megamonas and Faecalibacterium.
“Collectively, several bacteria enriched in the meditation group [have been] associated with the alleviation of mental illness, suggesting that meditation can influence certain bacteria that may have a role in mental health,” the researchers wrote.