I talk about inflammation a lot because it is an underlying contributing factor to most, if not all, chronic disease. Addressing inflammation is an important part of getting to the bottom of your health concerns. Improving digestive health is one major way to quell inflammation because the gut is the main source of it. There is another contributor to inflammation, however, that precedes even poor gut health—stress.
That’s right, even if your digestive health is in tip-top shape, stress will still have a negative effect on digestion, and will trigger silent inflammation. That’s why I always include stress reduction as an integrated part of the health journey. The body and mind are intricately woven, each affecting the other. So today, let’s consider the very real beneficial effects of a stress-relieving mind-body technique that relieves inflammation—mindfulness meditation.
Specifically, mindfulness-based stress reduction involves continuously focused attention on the breath, bodily sensations, and mental content while seated, walking, or practicing yoga. In a recent, carefully-controlled study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, two types of stress reduction techniques were used: mindfulness-based stress reduction and a health enhancement program.
The health enhancement program offered similar activities as the mindfulness-based approach, only it did not involve mindfulness itself. For example, participants in the health enhancement program engaged in physical activity, the mindfulness group did a walking meditation. This helped to determine whether it was the mindfulness itself, or simply the physical activity that had a beneficial effect on inflammation.
Both techniques were found effective for the reduction of stress, but the mindfulness-based approach was more effective at reducing stress-induced inflammation. “The mindfulness-based approach to stress reduction may offer a lower-cost alternative or complement to standard treatment, and it can be practiced easily by patients in their own homes, whenever they need,” stated the researchers.
Here is a link to some free guided meditations offered by the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. (These are not related to the study, but are produced by a reputable organization.) Take some time out of your daily routine to incorporate these techniques. The benefits of mindfulness practices are many.