by Dr. Will Cole
My job as a functional medicine practitioner is to really identify what is and isn’t working for people and keeping them from living optimally. I dive deep into their symptoms, labs, and health history to determine the underlying cause of their health problems. Are they exposed to toxins? Is it the foods they are eating? Do they have hormone imbalances, viral infections, or microbiome imbalances?
It is easy to neglect aspects of our health. One being our mind, and specifically, the importance of the mind-body connection which when left unattended can contribute to major problems. If we aren’t feeding our mind it doesn’t matter if we chug kombucha all day and eat as clean as possible. Our body hears everything our mind says. Just because we aren’t feeding our bodies toxins through food we can still be serving ourselves toxic thoughts and emotions.
Regardless of a patient’s specific diagnosis, this is why I recommend meditation practices for almost every person. It’s of the utmost importance to find a meditation practice that works for each individual. Why, you ask? Well, let’s get geeky and examine the science behind why meditation works and what makes it so awesome for your health.
1. Reduced Inflammation.
Have you ever heard of NF Kappa B before? No, it’s not a fraternity. It’s a major source of inflammation which is a contributor to almost every chronic health problem in our society. A randomized controlled trial showed that NFkB can be lowered with meditation and therefore, can lower overall inflammation levels.
2. Improved immune function.
Does it seem like you are always fighting off a cold? Well, a study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry showed that meditation improves genetic pathways that control our immune system!
Telomeres are located at the ends of your chromosomes and kind of look like the plastic parts found at the end of your shoe strings. Longer telomeres are correlated with a longer lifespan and shorter telomeres are associated with a shorter lifespan. Studies have shown that meditation can preserve telomere length and reduce cellular stress.
4. Lowered anxiety.
There have been many studies showing that meditation helps to reduce anxiety. But how exactly does it work? Well, the part of our brain activated with feelings of anxiousness is known as the posterior cingulate cortex. When anxiety is calmed the anterior cingulate cortex is activated. MRI’s show us that meditation actually activated this area of the brain.
5. Regulated mood.
Research has shown that meditation is just as effective – if not more effective – than mood-altering medications for improving depression and anxiety. Plus, meditation has no potential side effects! Meditation can increase brain gray matter volume in the right angular and posterior parahippocampal gyri areas of the brain that control our mood.
6. Better attention and focus.
Do you have trouble paying attention or have ADD-type symptoms? Regular meditation is associated with more activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the angular cingulate cortex, the areas of the brain responsible for memory and focus.
7. Less cognitive decline.
Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to regenerate itself by making new neural connections. This slowly decreases over time but meditation can increase the thickness of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This helps to slow down cognitive decline and preserve neuroplasticity.
8. Stabilized blood pressure.
A randomized control trial published in Hypertension found that a type of meditation, known as transcendental meditation, can lower blood pressure.
9. Reduced stress levels.
If you’re stressed, raise your hand. Well, meditation is a natural stress reliever and there’s no “woo-woo” or esoteric reason behind it. Scientific studies have shown that meditation can positively regulate the area of the brain that controls stress, known as the subiculum area of the hippocampus. No crystals necessary.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Associate (JAMA) found that an average of 2.5 hours of meditation per week can be enough to reap consistent health benefits. That equates to only 21 minutes a day! Think about how much time we waste on social media. Certainly, we all have 21 minutes to spare in honor of our health.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.