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Looking to boost your immunity amid rising Covid-19 cases? Practise intense meditation, study says

"What we found was that multiple genes related to the immune system were activated — dramatically — when you do Inner Engineering practices," Vijayendran Chandran, assistant professor of paediatrics and neuroscience, said.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
January 10, 2022 4:30:15 pm
meditation, immunityThe participants meditated for more than 10 hours a day. (Source: Pexels)

Ever since the pandemic began, there has been a growing focus on boosting immunity and health, and rightfully so. With a healthy immune system, the body becomes more capable of fighting any ailment and its side effects. While holistic and nutritious diet, exercise and adequate sleep play a key role, did you know that practising intense meditation can help, too?

As per a study conducted by the University of Florida, eight days of intense meditation causes robust activation of the immune system. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it is believed to be the first comprehensive genomic study of how meditation affects the biological processes directly involved in disease development.

According to Vijayendran Chandran, PhD, an assistant professor of paediatrics and neuroscience in the UF College of Medicine, while the positive effects of meditation are well-documented, far less is known about its molecular and genetic effects.

Chandran, who practised it for about 21 minutes a day upon the insistence of his wife, said, “I tried it and it worked really well. I just felt great.”

This made him curious to find out how exactly ‘Inner Engineering practices’ benefit the body. Thus, he, along with his collaborators, studied the genetic profiles of 388 samples obtained from 106 people before and after an April 2018 advanced Inner Engineering retreat at the Isha Institute of Inner-Sciences in McMinnville, Tennessee. In the tightly controlled environment of the retreat, the participants remained silent for eight days, meditated for more than 10 hours a day, ate vegan meals and followed a regular sleep schedule.

The blood samples of the participants were collected five to eight weeks in advance, then just before and after the retreat, and finally three months later. The genomic study found several immune-related and other cellular pathways altered after the meditation retreat.

The researchers found increased post-retreat activity in 220 genes directly related to the immune response. This included heightened activity in 68 genes associated with interferon signalling, which is a key element of our body’s anti-virus and anti-cancer responses. This is particularly significant, according to Chandran.

As per the researchers, several studies have shown that interferon signalling is imbalanced in patients with severe Covid-19. “This is the first time anyone has shown that meditation can boost your interferon signalling. It demonstrates a way to voluntarily influence the immune system without pharmaceuticals,” he said.

Notably, it was established that the enhanced immune system after the result was primarily the result of meditation and not diet, sleep patterns or other factors.

“What we found was that multiple genes related to the immune system were activated — dramatically — when you do Inner Engineering practices,” Chandran highlighted.

The researchers also compared interferon activity in the retreat participants and severely ill Covid-19 patients and the difference were “stark”.

“Meditation activated 97 per cent of interferon-response genes, compared with 76 per cent gene activations in mild Covid-19 patients and 31 per cent in severe Covid-19 cases,” the analysis found.

Further, they also observed the opposite trend for inflammation-signalling genes, where they saw significantly high levels of inflammatory genes in severe Covid-19 patients, compared with mildly ill patients and no change in inflammatory genes after meditation.

All in all, the findings support the idea that meditation contributes to potentially improving multiple health conditions.

Concluding, Chandran said that the beneficial gene-activity effects need further study, including replication in a randomised clinical trial. “It could also be helpful to determine if a less intense meditation regimen in the long term might produce similar beneficial immune-system effects,” he said.

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📣 The above article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional for any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

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