New scientific research has proven the positive effects of meditation on stress [READ: Best Meditations For Stress].
Stress is the single most common health problem in the world, and is one of the primary causes of diseases, including six of the biggest killers: cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide .
The endocrine system is essential for the management of stress. When we are stressed, the hypothalamus (nuclei connecting the brain to the endocrine system) signals the pituitary gland to produce hormones, which then signal the adrenal glands to increase the production of cortisol.
Despite the growing research into the benefits of meditation, there has been little research into the effect of meditation on the endocrine system.
New research conducted by at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland and Victoria University in Melbourne sought to address that gap. A team of researchers reviewed a large number of previously conducted studies to examine the effect of meditation on the endocrine system and how this relates to stress.
Published in the journal Cell Press, the research highlights a connection between meditation and the endocrine system, and a subsequent relationship between meditation and stress.
Dr Chantal Ski [Queens School of Nursing], states, “Through the comprehensive literature review, we found that there is a clear link between meditation and stress reduction.…“We focused on studies that analysed how meditation affected the endocrine system and a number of interconnected systems that regulate stress, such as the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Thyroid (HPT) axis and the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone (RAA) system.”
Study lead Dr Michaela Pascoe [Victoria’s Institute for Health and Sport], adds, “This work shows that meditation influences the regulation of the HPA axis, which may reduce stress levels… Another key finding was linked with the HPT axis [the hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis, part of the neuroendocrine system that regulates metabolism and responds to stress]. This is particularly associated with depression and anxiety.”
Pascoe tells THE DAILY MEDITATION that these findings suggest that yoga and meditation influence the HPA axis to varying degrees.
Though the research is limited, it also suggests that the “meditation may influence the RAA system, corresponding with improved well-being and changes in hormonal stress.” (The RAA system is responsible for the regulation of blood pressure, electrolytes and fluid balance).
At a time when stress is on the rise, so too is meditation. The practice has increased in popularity threefold in five years, research suggests. Dr Ski states that further research is required to determine the most beneficial types of meditation for stress management.
Dr Ski states that precisely how meditation leads to biological responses is as yet unclear, and that more research is required to determine this.