Meditation is gaining more attention from all over. Especially scientists who are now continuing to study the extensive benefits of meditation.
We can see why with meditation being known to create whole brain synchronization, decreasing inflammation, and even improving the gut-brain axis.
What Role The Nervous System Plays In Your Immunity
Stress is at the forefront and is one of the main culprits that lower the immune system and increases our susceptibility to getting colds. This is partially due to how stress affects our autonomic nervous system.
Our autonomic nervous system is comprised of two parts. Those would be the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. These work to help regulate the body’s hormone production as well as its function.
The parasympathetic nervous system is ideally the prominent mode your body should be in. This is known as the rest and digest mode and it is here that your body repairs itself and nonessential function are able to happen such as digestion and sexual function.
Now you may be thinking, digestion is nonessential? Well, let us explain the other half of the autonomic nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system. This system is your body’s response to a perceived threat.
This sympathetic nervous system is responsible for your “fight-flight-or-freeze” mode. When you need to get out of a situation or defend yourself this is the mode that is activated to save your life.
This mode floods your body with hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Then of course to get you to safety, you can see why the sympathetic nervous system then suppresses all nonessential functions such as digestion, the reproductive system, and the immune system.
This is a great function to have when it is working optimally, but where we run into trouble is that our society has skyrocketing levels of stress. This means out sympathetic nervous system is dominant and our body begins to pay the toll for it.
Learn more about how meditation relaxes the nervous system here.
Fortunately, this is where meditation comes in. Meditation helps in a multitude of ways from reframing how we perceive stress physiologically to stimulating many relaxation responses in the body.
Meditation Effects For Boosting Immunity
Though we are going to hone in on what meditation can do for immunity! First, it rewires how the brain perceives stress. Therefore, our body can stay relaxed rather than be incorrectly triggered to defend itself.
This starts in the brain at the amygdala, which emotionally perceives information, then it can communicate that as a threat to the rest of the body. A study was performed looking at the gray matter of the amygdala after an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction MBSR course.
The study looked at healthy yet stressed individuals. The results showed a direct decrease in the gray matter of the amygdala that directly correlated to a decrease in stress as well, therefore reducing the body triggering fight-flight-or-freeze mode chronically.
Meditation has even been shown to affect gene expression and create a shift to increase genes related to fighting viral infections. This was shown in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the University of California at San Francisco, who studied how meditation affects gene expression.
If you want to get started with your meditation practices, try our beginner’s guide to vipassana meditation here.