How Consistent Meditation Affects the Biochemistry of the Stress Response

 Photo credit: http://upliftconnect.com/brain-changes-when-you-meditate/

Photo credit: http://upliftconnect.com/brain-changes-when-you-meditate/

Meditation allows the body and mind to enter a relaxed state. In this relaxed state alpha brain waves are active, the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) is stimulated for the ‘rest and digest’ response (The PSNS is activated due to the CO2 receptors in the aorta walls. High levels of CO2 result in ‘fight or flight’, whereas low CO2 levels trigger the PSNS. Controlled breathing in meditation contributes to low CO2 levels) and the Endocrine system stops releasing stress hormones into the bloodstream and regulates hormones for other processes.

A consistent meditation practice of being in this relaxed, ‘rest and digest’, non-stress state is able to alter our biochemistry in the following ways:

  • An increase in GABA, a neurotransmitter that sends chemical messages through the brain and the nervous system, and is involved in regulating communication between brain cells. Low levels of GABA can be linked to anxiety, mood disorders, difficulty sleeping and chronic pain. If meditation is able to increase GABA levels then consistent practice can potentially assist with these conditions.

  • Increase in DHEA to help build lean muscle, improve bone density, control cholesterol levels, fight fatigue and improve production of important sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen.

  • Increase in Melatonin to help regulate sleep/wake cycles.

  • Increase in Serotonin to improve mood and behaviour.

  • Increase in Endorphins (a neurotransmitter) to help us deal with pain and stress.

  • Decrease in Cortisol: resulting in increased wound healing; improved digestion; increase in leukocytes; improved short term memory; increased blood flow to skin; support bone formation; decrease blood pressure; support the production of hormones and neurotransmitters.

  • Decrease in catecholamines (norepinephrine and epinephrine) will decrease the stress response and increase a person’s ability to cope with negative stimuli. This decrease will also lower blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, blood sugar and increase insulin.

  • Increasing neuroplasticity of the brain with mindfulness, intentions and wholesome thoughts.

  • Promotes immune function: increases antibodies and decreases inflammation.

  • PSNS responses: Increased sense of rest and tranquility; increased short term memory; decreased pulse and blood pressure; increased digestion; support the immune system; increased near vision and decreased blood sugar.

What else do you need to convince you! :)

 

By Alyssa McLeod

 

References

The American Chiropractor. 2010. Meditation: Biochemistry & Research. [ONLINE] Available at:http://theamericanchiropractor.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/RecineMeditation_Biochemical_Research.pdf. [Accessed 11 August 2016].

WebMD. 2016. GABA: Uses and Risks. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/gaba-uses-and-risks. [Accessed 11 August 2016].

Mayo Clinic . 2016. Meditation: Take a stress-reduction break wherever you are [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858. [Accessed 11 August 2016].