Is Monks’ poo a secret path to happiness?

By Jill Dando News

Chinese researchers are excited about a possible link between long-term meditation, gut microbes and mental health.

The researchers, based at Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, were curious about mediation’s extensive effects on the gut.

The gut is thoughts to influence happiness levels through the level of serotonin. Some 70 per cent of this naturally occurring happiness chemical is produced in the gut.

Meditation already has good results with use on mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, traumatic stress, and eating disorders as well as chronic pain.


They recently unveiled their findings in General Psychiatry, a title published by BMJ but owned by the Shanghai Mental Health Center.

The team analysed stool and blood samples taken from 37 Tibetan Buddhist monks from three temples as well as samples from 19 more worldly residents living in the neighbouring areas.

The researchers’ analysis of the stools unearthed significant differences in the diversity and volume of microbes between the monks and their less spiritual counterparts.

As expected, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes species dominated the gut profiles of both groups.

But Bacteroidetes were significantly enriched in the monks’ stool samples – a whopping 29% by contrast with the 4% in the neighbours’ tummies.

The monks’ guts also had a whole load of Prevotella (42% versus 6%) and volumes of Megamonasand Faecalibacterium to boot.

“Collectively, several bacteria enriched in the meditation group [have been] associated with the alleviation of mental illness, suggesting that meditation can influence certain bacteria that may have a role in mental health,” write the researchers.

Meanwhile, the blood sample analysis revealed that several agents associated with a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, including total cholesterol and apolipoprotein B, were much lower in the monks.

“These results suggest that long-term deep meditation may have a beneficial effect on gut microbiota, enabling the body to maintain an optimal state of health,” they concluded.

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