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Mindfulness Meditation And Our Immune System: Connected Or Just A Hypothesis

 May 25, 2022

The human immune system is made up of some special and unique cells, organs and chemicals that fight infection (microbes). The key components of the immune system are: antibodies, complement system, white blood cells, spleen, lymphatic system, thymus, and the bone marrow. Our immune system's ability to fight against pathogens is reduced under stressed conditions. That is the reason we became more susceptible to infections. Corticosteroid, a stress hormone, can suppress the immune system effectively. Stress can also have an impact on the immune system by raising blood pressure and increasing strain upon the blood system due to the increase in heart rate. Despite our whole efforts, stress is often a part of life, something that many people have simply used to it. Psychological stress which triggers a fight-or-flight response, and prompting CRH hormone and the production of catecholamine in many parts of the human body, which ultimately disturbs the inside microbiota (Dr. MacLeod).

Treatment and management of stress in modern medicine: Because stress manifests as a function of the brain and body, both of which are essentially chemically driven systems. There are a lot of treatment options available that can be used to aid in the process of stress relief and prevention. Physicians may prescribe you a range of medications to address specific stress-related symptoms. eg. sedatives (also referred to as tranquilizers, hypnotics, and anxiolytics), antidepressants, and beta-blockers have all been used to help people cope with stress. But these treatments have a variety of side effects in the system like sleepiness, fatigue, dizziness, confusion and blurry vision.

Although there is direct evidence that stress-related immuno-suppression can increase vulnerability to disease in animals (Dr. Shakhar, Dr. Sheridan). Due to the redundancy in the components of the immune system, stress-induced immune changes also have clinical consequences. The data supports an up regulation of natural immunity, as reflected by increased number of natural killer cells in peripheral blood, and potential down regulation of specific immunity, as reflected by decreased proliferative responses.

Need for Alternative Solutions/Therapies: Various medications used in the management of Stress and anxiety eg. Sedative (CNS depressant) medications, Buproprion (BuSpar), Antidepressant medications and Beta Blockers have multiple side effects. These effects are more related to habits, interactions with other therapy or some hindrance in day to day activity. There is a serious need for such a conditions which can help individual with improving the immune system. Complementary therapies such as yoga, meditation, dietary supplements, and other ancient therapies may also help individuals to cope with the symptoms and issues of certain mental health conditions and improve their quality of life. Integrative therapies like yoga, acupressure, meditation and acupuncture can also help in the reduction of stress and related symptoms. These types of techniques are gaining acceptance in the community as research demonstrates their positive health benefits and effects (John Hopkins).

Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness meditation has attracted increasing cultural and scientific interest during the past few decades. Mindfulness is a particular quality of attention and awareness that can be cultivated and developed through meditation.

Mindfulness is an intrinsic and modifiable capacity of the human mind and it is most commonly defined as the awareness that comes out by paying alertness and attention on purpose. A systematic framework and process which is represented by meditation for cultivating mindfulness can be developed by sustained practice. In earlier days, mindfulness has been called “the heart” of Buddhist techniques of meditation and It always been the core of the teachings of the Buddha (Dr. Thera).

Time to adapt the ancient techniques: Acute stressors (lasting minutes) were seems to be associated with potentially adaptive up regulation of some parameters of natural immunity and down regulation of some functions of specific immunity (Dr. Miller). mindfulness-based interventions are clinically efficacious and designed studies are now building the foundation for future growth. Meditation can also help to regulate the stress responses. It maintains a healthy gut-barrier function through suppressing chronic inflammation states. So it was suggested that the integration of meditation into conventional health care and wellness models would help in many ways, from immune system improving to gut microbiota. That will ultimately influence the overall wellbeing and daily routine life. Meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) are the therapies which are proven to help and manage anxiety and depression. Mindfulness mediation is also associated with changes in select immune system processes which are involved in inflammation, specific immunity, and the biological aging (Dr. David Black). 

Various studies based evidence supports the idea that meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction are beneficial for managing mood disorders, and experts recommend it.

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