Meditation Alters Gut Microbes for Better Health

Meditation Alters Gut Microbes for Better Health


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“In calming your stress response, meditation can help prevent the slowed digestion speed, altered gene expression, intestinal permeability, and disruptive changes to gut microbes caused by stress.” – Crystal Star


Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders are the most common disorders of the gastrointestinal tract in the general population. The most common disorder in this group is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders can involve the esophagus, stomach and/or intestines and are disorders of function (how these structures work), not structural or biochemical abnormalities. Estimates vary, but about 25% of people in the United States have one of these disorders. The conditions account for about 40% of GI problems seen by doctors and therapists.


The cause(s) of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders are not known. But emotion dysregulation is suspected to be involved. It is clear that psychological stress exacerbates the illnesses and anxiety amplifies the symptoms. This suggests that mindfulness or the lack thereof may be involved as mindfulness is known to be helpful in reducing the psychological and physical responses to stress and mindfulness is known to improve emotion regulation. In addition, contemplative practice has been shown to improve the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.


The GI tract contains intestinal micro-organisms, flora, bacteria, that have major effects throughout the body through the bacteria-intestinal-brain axis. This can affect overall health. So, it would make sense to investigate the relationship of meditation practice with intestinal micro-organisms.


In today’s Research News article “Long-Term Vegan Meditation Improved Human Gut Microbiota.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ) Jia and colleagues recruited healthy long-term (over 3 years) vegan meditators and a group of omnivore nonmeditators. The groups were equivalent in gender, age, BMI, and most of the blood biochemical and blood routine indicators. Fecal samples were collected and subjected to 16S rDNA sequencing which measures bacteria present.


They found that the two groups were equivalent in fecal microbial diversity. The majority of the bacterial fell into 4 divisions, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and Proteobacteria. Of those divisions the vegan meditators had significantly higher levels of Firmicutes and significantly lower levels of Actinobacteria, and Proteobacteria. They further found that there were 14 bacteria types that distinguished the groups with the vegan meditators having significantly higher levels. These bacteria types are associated with improved immunity, reduced inflammatory responses, changed intestinal endocrine activity, improved colon health, and reduced likelihood of colon cancer.


It should be kept in mind that the groups were naturally occurring groups and there was no random assignment. So, the groups might differ for reasons other than meditation and diet. In addition, the groups differed in both meditation and type of diet. It cannot be determined whether meditation or the vegan diet or the combination of both was responsible for the differences in intestinal bacteria. Nevertheless, the results suggest that a vegan diet and meditation may alter the intestinal flora to improve health.


So, meditation alters gut microbes for better health.


During stress, an altered gut microbial population affects the regulation of neurotransmitters mediated by the microbiome and gut barrier function. Meditation helps regulate the stress response, thereby suppressing chronic inflammation states and maintaining a healthy gut-barrier function.” – Ayman Mukerji Househam


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Jia, W., Zhen, J., Liu, A., Yuan, J., Wu, X., Zhao, P., Zhao, L., Li, X., Liu, Q., Huang, G., & Xu, A. (2020). Long-Term Vegan Meditation Improved Human Gut Microbiota. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2020, 9517897.




Meditation has been widely used for the treatment of a variety of psychological, cardiovascular, and digestive diseases as well as chronic pain. Vegetarian diets can effectively prevent hypertension, metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, and certain cancers. Meditation and vegetarian diets have been recognized as components of a healthy lifestyle and have therefore attracted more people around the world. Meditation can help regulate overall health through the neural-endocrine-immune network. Changes in dietary habits can affect the composition of the intestinal flora, which in turn affects human physiology, metabolism, nutrition, and immune function through the bacteria-intestine-brain axis. Here, we aimed to investigate the effect of long-term meditation and vegan diet on human intestinal flora.

Materials and Methods

The present study used 16S rDNA sequencing technology to detect the differences in intestinal flora between 12 healthy vegan subjects receiving long-term meditation training and 12 healthy omnivorous subjects who never received any meditation training.


The results showed that, compared with the subjects in the omnivorous healthy control group who had never received any meditation training, the intestinal flora structure in the people who followed the long-term vegan meditation practices changed significantly. The intersection set between the results of the LEfSe analysis and the Wilcoxon rank sum test includes 14 bacterial genera. These 14 genera are defined as the dominant genera, and the AUC value was 0.92 in the ROC curve, which demonstrates that the 14 genera can be used as a biomarker to distinguish the two groups. Three beneficial bacteria genera (Bifidobacterium, Roseburia, and Subdoligranulum) were significantly enriched in the meditation group with a threshold of 4, according to the LDAs. The functional prediction of differentially enriched intestinal flora showed that the metabolism of tyrosine, propionate, niacin, and nicotinamide in the intestinal micro-organisms in the meditation group was significantly reduced compared with those in the control group, while the biosynthesis of flavones, flavone alcohols, butosin, and neomycin; flavonoid-mediated oocyte maturation; cytoskeleton protein pathways; and antigen processing and presentation were significantly enhanced.


These results indicate that long-term vegan meditation plays a positive role in improving the body’s immunity and adjusting endocrine and metabolic levels, enabling the body to be in a state of good health.


Improve the Health and Well-Being of Patients with Functional Dyspepsia with Mindfulness

Improve the Health and Well-Being of Patients with Functional Dyspepsia with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“mindfulness-based cognitive therapy reduces symptoms of functional dyspepsia and increases quality of life of the patients.” – Sobhan Pur Nik Dast


Functional Dyspepsia involves abdominal pain. Bloating, and nausea without a clear physical cause. It is often accompanied with anxiety. It is one of the most common digestive problems and affects 10% to 20% of the population. There is no cure. The symptoms are most frequently treated with over-the-counter medications such as antacids or anti-gas medications or even antidepressants. Stress is known to exacerbate dyspepsia. So, lifestyle changes are often recommended to reduce stress.


Mindfulness trainings have been shown to improve the physiological and psychological responses to stress and to reduce anxiety. They have also been shown to improve other digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). So, it is reasonable to investigate whether mindfulness training might be effective for functional dyspepsia.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a mindfulness-based therapy that focuses on changing the thoughts and emotions that precede problem behaviors, as well as by solving the problems faced by individuals that contribute to problematic thoughts, feelings and behaviors. In DBT five core skills are practiced; mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, the middle path, and interpersonal effectiveness. It is not known if functional dyspepsia can be effectively treated with DBT.


In today’s Research News article “Comparison of dialectical behavior therapy and anti-anxiety medication on anxiety and digestive symptoms in patients with functional dyspepsia.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ) Tavakoli and colleagues recruited adults diagnosed with functional dyspepsia and continued them on antacid medication (pantoprazole ) and randomly assigned them to one of three groups, receiving either 8 weekly 2.5 hour sessions of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), an antianxiety medication (sertraline), or no further treatment. They were measured before and after treatment for dyspepsia symptom severity and anxiety.


They found that after treatment the group that received Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) had the greatest significant reduction is dyspepsia symptom severity with the anti-anxiety medication group second and no significant improvement in the no-treatment group. They also found that after treatment the group that received anti-anxiety medication had the greatest significant reduction is dyspepsia symptom severity with the DBT group second and no significant improvement in the no-treatment group.


These are interesting results that suggest that Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is effective for the treatment of the symptoms of functional dyspepsia including anxiety. But anti-anxiety medication is better at reducing anxiety levels. Since the mindfulness training of DBT does not require drugs with significant side effects, it would appear to be the preferred treatment for functional dyspepsia.


The mechanism by which DBT improves functional dyspepsia were not studied. Functional dyspepsia, however, is thought to be produced or exacerbated by stress. Mindfulness training is known to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. So, it is likely that DBT reduces stress effects thereby improving functional dyspepsia.


So, improve the health and well-being of patients with functional dyspepsia with mindfulness.


Meditation works at all levels to aid the digestive process, making it one of the most effective natural remedies for indigestion.” – Beeja


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Tavakoli, T., Hoseini, M., Tabatabaee, T., Rostami, Z., Mollaei, H., Bahrami, A., Ayati, S., & Bijari, B. (2020). Comparison of dialectical behavior therapy and anti-anxiety medication on anxiety and digestive symptoms in patients with functional dyspepsia. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 25, 59.




Functional dyspepsia is a common chronic digestive disorder. The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of dialectical behavior therapy and anti-anxiety medication in patients with functional dyspepsia.

Materials and Methods:

The present study was a randomized, controlled clinical trial with sixty patients who were suffering from functional dyspepsia that identified by the ROME III criteria. Patients were divided into three groups by using pre- and posttest design, including Group A (dialectal treatment and pantoprazole), Group B (anxiolytic drug treatment and pantoprazole), and Group C (no intervention, only pantoprazole were used). The Beck Anxiety Inventory and the patient assessment of Gastrointestinal Symptom Severity Index Questionnaire were completed by the patients after receiving the written consent. Finally, the data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences software version 20.


There was a significant improvement in the severity of dyspepsia after intervention in all three groups. The greatest decrease in the severity of functional dyspepsia was observed in the dialectical behavioral therapy group as compared to the other groups (Group A: −15.4 ± 6.61, Group B: −3.85 ± 2.77, and Group C: −7.8 ± 4.02; P = 0.001). Furthermore, the Beck Anxiety Inventory scores were statistically significantly improved in all three groups (Group A: −5.75 ± 2.53, Group B: −7.3 ± 3.19, and Group C: −2.60 ± 1.5; P = 0.001). There was a positive correlation between the change in dyspepsia score and change in anxiety score across different intervention groups (r = 0.55; P < 0.001).


Dialectical behavioral therapy can be effective in reducing anxiety and improving the dyspepsia symptoms in patients with functional dyspepsia compared to anti-anxiety medication or conventional therapy. Therefore, communication between the physicians and psychologists and psychiatrists can have positive effects on the treatment of these patients.