Background Advancements in research have confirmed that gut microbiota can influence health through the microbiota–gut–brain axis. Meditation, as an inner mental exercise, can positively impact the regulation of an individual’s physical and mental health. However, few studies have comprehensively investigated faecal microbiota following long-term (several years) deep meditation. Therefore, we propose that long-term meditation may regulate gut microbiota homeostasis and, in turn, affect physical and mental health.
Aims To investigate the effects of long-term deep meditation on the gut microbiome structure.
Methods To examine the intestinal flora, 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed on faecal samples of 56 Tibetan Buddhist monks and neighbouring residents. Based on the sequencing data, linear discriminant analysis effect size (LEfSe) was employed to identify differential intestinal microbial communities between the two groups. Phylogenetic Investigation of Communities by Reconstruction of Unobserved States (PICRUSt) analysis was used to predict the function of faecal microbiota. In addition, we evaluated biochemical indices in the plasma.
Results The α-diversity indices of the meditation and control groups differed significantly. At the genus level, Prevotella and Bacteroides were significantly enriched in the meditation group. According to the LEfSe analysis, two beneficial bacterial genera (Megamonas and Faecalibacterium) were significantly enriched in the meditation group. Functional predictive analysis further showed that several pathways—including glycan biosynthesis, metabolism and lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis—were significantly enriched in the meditation group. Moreover, plasma levels of clinical risk factors were significantly decreased in the meditation group, including total cholesterol and apolipoprotein B.
Conclusions Long-term traditional Tibetan Buddhist meditation may positively impact physical and mental health. We confirmed that the gut microbiota composition differed between the monks and control subjects. The microbiota enriched in monks was associated with a reduced risk of anxiety, depression and cardiovascular disease and could enhance immune function. Overall, these results suggest that meditation plays a positive role in psychosomatic conditions and well-being.
- Psychosomatic Medicine
- Mental Health
- Healthy Lifestyle
Data availability statement
Data are avaliable upon reasonable request.
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YS, PJ and TX contributed equally.
Contributors YS contributed to analysing the data and drafting the manuscript. PJ and UA participated in the drafting of the manuscript. TX participated in sample collecting. DC and JC are responsible for summarising all data and revised the final menuscript.
Funding This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 81571326 (2021-TX-004), 81671336, 81501153); Chinese ‘111 Project’ (grant B08020); Shanghai Jiao Tong University art and science Grants (grant 14JCRZ05); Startup funding of Shanghai Mental Health Center (grant 2017-kyqd-01); Personnel Training Program of Shanghai Mental Health Center (grants 2018-FX-02, 2021-QH-04); National Key R&D Program of China (grant 2017YFC0909200); and Excellence Journal Project in China (grant C-198).
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.