Is there an association between meditating and the health of your gastrointestinal tract? Scientific research seems to say that’s the case. In fact, mindfulness, or the practice of being in the moment, can benefit your GI tract in many ways. Read on to find out more about how meditation can benefit your stomach and improve digestion.
What is Leaky Gut?
Your gut contains billions of bacteria, yeast, and other microbes. You might think bacteria are all bad, but there are actually many strains that are good for you. They help keep your gut working well, so you won’t have digestive problems. But there are also a lot of bad microbes as well. If the bad/good balance becomes disrupted, you’ll be most at risk for digestive issues, like leaky gut.
When the lining of the digestive tract weakens, harmful microbes can enter, or “leak,” into the body. This can lead to problems so severe that they interfere with your quality of life.
Evidence suggests that meditation can help reduce the chances of leaky gut occurring. As a result, it might also help lower the risk of gastrointestinal disorders.
What the Science Says
Regular meditation practice may play a role in reducing gut problems. In one study, researchers wanted to know if mindfulness meditation could help people with GI problems.
Fifty people with digestive issues participated in the study. They took part in programs that addressed many issues. Among them: cognitive skills, stress reduction, and other behaviors that provide health benefits. All the participants took part in weekly sessions involving meditation. They also practiced meditation at home for between 15 and 20 minutes each day.
According to the results, all the participants showed major improvement in their symptoms. They also reported an improved quality of life and a reduction in anxiety. But these results didn’t stop with the end of the study. Follow-up visits showed that the participants were still seeing benefits three weeks later.1
How Mindfulness Meditation Works
Mindfulness meditation isn’t some recent fad. In fact, people have practiced it for more than 2,000 years. The best way to describe it is a method of focusing the mind on the moment, instead of worrying about the future or past. There are different levels of mindfulness-based stress reduction. If you’re a beginner, you’ll spend about 20 minutes meditating during any one session. But advanced practitioners spend as long as an hour.2
Advocates of mindful meditation say it’s a way to help them deal with anything that happens to them. Whether something good or bad occurs, they’re ready to deal with it. It helps them lead fuller lives, because they’re actually experiencing life.
Popular Types of Meditation
– This involves staying in a seated position with your legs crossed, usually on a mat. Practitioners will usually repeat some sort of phrase. The most common one is “Om.” But whatever the phrase may be, it helps clear the person’s mind. The mantra, often spoken at a low volume, helps make the person more in tune with their environment.
– Millions of people, around the world, practice transcendental meditation. It’s basically a technique that promotes a state of relaxed awareness. To try it out, sit in a comfortable position and silently repeat a mantra (words) or sound. The typical practice is two times a day for 20 minutes each session.
– This is the form of meditation most associated with praying. People do it to find a deeper connection with their God. Christians, Hindus, and people of many other faiths practice it. Some practitioners choose to enhance their experience by using oils. These include myrrh, cedar, and frankincense.
– Most people think of yoga when they think of movement meditation. But it can work with most any type of gentle motion. You can practice movement meditation anywhere. Try it while walking around your neighborhood, or working in your garden.3
A lot of people meditate, and they do it for a lot of reasons. They’re all looking to find peace, but they also do it to help reduce stress or anxiety. Some use it to improve their focus, so they can be more productive. Still others use it to try and kick bad habits, such as drinking alcohol or smoking. Some meditate to get over a stressful or traumatic experience. Others are seeking an understanding of their life’s purpose.
Meditation Myths (hint: it’s not that hard)
One of the misconceptions about meditation is that there’s only one way to do it. You have to sit in a certain way or put your body in a specific position. The reality is, you need to find the position that you find the most comfortable. Whether that means sitting in your favorite chair or lying on your bed, it doesn’t matter.
There is another common misconception that you need to work to clear your mind. The opposite is actually true. You shouldn’t force yourself to empty your mind. Let whatever feelings, emotions, or thoughts that you have flow. Let them come and go without judging them.
The Bottom Line
Meditation practice is a great way to reduce anxiety. And scientific evidence shows that it can also help improve your digestive health. Try it yourself, and find out how meditation can benefit your gut. Don’t be afraid to start what could be a fruitful, mindful journey.