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Meditation as a tool to calm microglia?

Jesse2233

Senior Member
Messages
1,942
Location
Southern California
I'm going to tread very lightly here as I firmly believe that ME is a biomedical disease. You very likely cannot cure HIV, MS, or cancer with mediation alone and the same is very likely true of ME

Also many people with ME will be unable to meditate given neurological symptoms. I am often in that place myself

And of course many people with ME meditate for years without significant changes to their core symptoms

This post in no way is meant to support the biosocial or central sensitization models of ME or take focus away from biomedical studies and interventions.

--------------

I came across an interesting study today linking meditation to regulation of the anterior cingulate (AC) which in turn modulates both the peripheral sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the central locus coeruleus (LC) norepinephrine systems.

The integrated norepinephrine systems form the principal neuromodulatory system, a homeostatic system regulating in multiple ways the activity of both neuronal and non-neuronal (astrocytes and microglial) cells (O’Donnell et al., 2012) to adapt the state of both the body and the brain for optimal functioning in changing environments.

I'll leave further parsing of the neurological mechanisms of action to better informed posters.

The reason this study was interesting to me is because many, if not most, of the recovery stories I've read include a form of mediation or purposeful relaxation practice (caveat being that many mediation / Gupta / ANS Rewire / DNRS recovery stories are likely misdiagnosis or exaggerations).

I've also spoken with many recovered / vastly improved patients (in real life and over PMs on PR) who undoubtably had classic Ramsay ME and used some sort of mindfulness practice (including programs like DNRS and ANS Rewire) as a cornerstone of their protocol (along with biomedical treatments).

Could it be coincidence? Of course, there are obviously no good double blind longitudinal studies here. And do other physiological benefits of mediation like stress reduction, lowered BP / HR, and lowered cortisol play a role? I'm sure they do. But I've been racking my brain to tie a link between mediation and elements of core ME neuroinflammation, and this study may be a clue.

Or I may be grasping at straws, but I'd be curious to hear the thoughts of others.
 

aaron_c

Senior Member
Messages
691
I used to meditate a lot--like two hours a day or so, for years. I did it both before and after I became ill. After a month on retreat in the Colorado high desert I would always feel much better, but now I wonder how much of it was the environment (no mold, perhaps?), how much of it was the meditation, and how much of it was just being around a bunch of other people who were meditating? One year I decided that since I felt so good after meditation retreats that maybe I should just meditate all the time at home. I did it for six months before a respiratory infection caused a worsening of cognitive symptoms and made meditation essentially impossible. But I can say that spending most of my free time meditating while at home did not have the same effect as being on retreat.

Meditation probably helped with a few cognitive symptoms a little--although not a lot. Depending on why I would get better on retreats it could also have made a small impact on my physical energy for a few days. But all in all it was not the fix I was hoping it would be. The results never snowballed, they just seemed to top off at fairly modest levels. Days when I can meditate and have nothing but time on my hands modest gains are better than nothing. But it's a bitter pill to swallow, as I once expected a lot more.
 

dangermouse

Senior Member
Messages
430
I've had a go at meditation. I've tried a few different styles and duration. I can't say that it made any difference for the better. Sometimes it wasn't a particularly pleasant experience. I don't do it now and I feel glad (can't explain why), I think it became a chore. I tried it and it really wasn't for me.
 

Snowdrop

Rebel without a biscuit
Messages
2,933
I think anything we do routinely has the capacity to affect brain function. My understanding is that this is how we interact with our environment-- the plasticity of the brain and all that.

You are right to expect it to be different for those of us who are ill (I mean broadly not just ME). But particularly with ME we are not certain what is broken but it's very possible the physical parts of the brain necessary for meditations effects (which can be positive or negative) are quite possibly broken.

I think any noticeable difference in functioning (however you might measure that) would take a great deal of commitment of time and consistent over a long period of time. You are right again to point out that probably no one with ME could muster this level of commitment.
 
Messages
2,158
I've tried meditation and relaxation CD's using various methods including breathing, visualisation mantras etc. I found most of them fairly soothing and relaxing when I was pretty relaxed anyway, and absolutely impossible when 'tired but wired' which is most of my waking ME state. My ME brain ends up fighting the process and it makes me more stressed instead of relaxed. And I kept losing concentration - so it's not for me. I even tried the Gupta program from their DVD's. It seemed utter nonsense to me. The relaxation sessions were the best bit, the rest seemed ridiculous - lots of positive thinking etc. with stock phrases to repeat. Gave up pretty quickly.

I suspect for those who can meditate it may help with things like reducing stress related PEM and helping sleep, so in that way may contribute a bit towards stabilising and enabling other concurrent treatments to work better, but I've never seen any evidence meditation can effect physical illness to the extent of bringing about recovery.
 

aaron_c

Senior Member
Messages
691
You are right again to point out that probably no one with ME could muster this level of commitment.

Until some cognitive symptoms got worse for me I was able to muster that commitment. I'm sure it helped that I had been doing it before and knew from experience what I might be able to achieve...I think without that context it might have been just too much work for too little gain.
 

Silence

Senior Member
Messages
102
Location
Northern CA
For me, I find that the concentrative types of mediation actually make me feel more wired and awake. There was a time where I would meditate for hours while laying in bed. And for the next 3 days I couldn't even get 3 hrs of sleep.... It was a nightmare. I tried doing it again, and the same thing happened. Anything that causes me to focus my attention or hone in on something for prolonged periods require me to use more energy than I have. There were some benefits to this type of mediation though- I could control my emotions more, and I could control urges that I would otherwise habitually do on a daily basis without being aware of doing them - like not using the internet when my brain is fried, or just having enough control or willpower to stay in bed when I know I am in a crashed state instead of getting out of bed and walking around because I feel restless.

But the opposite is true for me. The type of meditation where I just let my mind wander and let it flow where it wants to will make me calmer and more tired. Kind of like daydreaming.

On the other hand, It took me a long time to understand what it truly means to watch the breath without trying to control it, or recognizing when I was thinking I was watching the breath, like imposing a thought on the actual experience of breathing.
 

ghosalb

Senior Member
Messages
136
Location
upstate NY
There are many types of meditation...I was taught by a meditation teacher who used to be an oncologist which means he knows or understands how our cells function and can understand all the literature on scientific meditation studies...He also studied little bit about CFS after meeting me....he customized a simple relaxation type meditation for me knowing how sick I was and what I can and can not do (I am 2-3 activity level, sick for 20-25 years)...It helped me immediately and now I do it only when I am feeling really bad physically or emotionally stressed....It helps me (calm down and/or more energy) almost every time. Few times when I am really wired, I have problem doing it correctly but he told me that just the effort is good enough....whenever I am able to do it correctly, it feels so good or relaxing that I want to do it for as long as I can.....he asked me to do it lying down or in a reclined position on the couch, whatever is comfortable for me...only for 10-15 minutes at a time for 3 times a day before eating...it is the type where I chant a particular word under my breadth while I let my thoughts go wherever it wants to go...purpose is not to focus or concentrate but to relax our brain or mind...if our brain is relaxed or rested during meditation, then we can focus much better when we do want to focus on any tasks (these are his words)...it is not a cure but it clearly helps when I need it.
 

Lolo

Senior Member
Messages
306
Location
AUS
I had a regular mediation practice when I was mild but then went to moderate + and just couldn't do it anymore. And now I don't want to do it because it would be just another boring thing in my day. But I must say Holosync meditation did help me. I would just put the headphones on and go to sleep. (Or should I say appeared to help ;))

I vaguely remember of a well known Buddhist nun who practiced many hours a day and she got CFS.

So I don't think it helps people recover. It is impossible to know if the same people would have improved if they had not meditated. But I definitely believe in avoiding stress and stressful situations.
 

Jesse2233

Senior Member
Messages
1,942
Location
Southern California
vaguely remember of a well known Buddhist nun who practiced many hours a day and she got CFS

Yes Pema Chodron, she gradually improved
In 1994, she became ill with chronic fatigue syndrome but gradually her health improved. During this period, she met Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche and took him as her teacher.[1] That year she published her second book, Start Where You Are[1] and in 1997 her book, When Things Fall Apart.[1]No Time to Lose, a commentary on Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, was published in 2005.[citation needed] That year, Chödrön became a member of The Committee of Western Bhikshunis[10] Her most recent book, Practicing Peace in Times of War, came out in 2006.[11] In 2016 she was awarded the Global Bhikkhuni Award, presented by the Chinese Buddhist Bhikkhuni Association of Taiwan.[12]
 
Messages
93
Location
PA/NJ
I have tried meditation a couple of times over the last few years. I usually turn to it in times of extreme stress. It is more of a coping mechanism for me. I have such precious little energy right now I just can't see myself using it for meditation. sometimes I think about giving it a try but if I have energy and free time I'd rather practice the guitar and sing a song.
 

62milestogojoe

What's a forum then?
Messages
221
Location
UK
I'm going to tread very lightly here as I firmly believe that ME is a biomedical disease. You very likely cannot cure HIV, MS, or cancer with mediation alone and the same is very likely true of ME

Also many people with ME will be unable to meditate given neurological symptoms. I am often in that place myself

And of course many people with ME meditate for years without significant changes to their core symptoms

This post in no way is meant to support the biosocial or central sensitization models of ME or take focus away from biomedical studies and interventions.

--------------

I came across an interesting study today linking meditation to regulation of the anterior cingulate (AC) which in turn modulates both the peripheral sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the central locus coeruleus (LC) norepinephrine systems.



I'll leave further parsing of the neurological mechanisms of action to better informed posters.

The reason this study was interesting to me is because many, if not most, of the recovery stories I've read include a form of mediation or purposeful relaxation practice (caveat being that many mediation / Gupta / ANS Rewire / DNRS recovery stories are likely misdiagnosis or exaggerations).

I've also spoken with many recovered / vastly improved patients (in real life and over PMs on PR) who undoubtably had classic Ramsay ME and used some sort of mindfulness practice (including programs like DNRS and ANS Rewire) as a cornerstone of their protocol (along with biomedical treatments).

Could it be coincidence? Of course, there are obviously no good double blind longitudinal studies here. And do other physiological benefits of mediation like stress reduction, lowered BP / HR, and lowered cortisol play a role? I'm sure they do. But I've been racking my brain to tie a link between mediation and elements of core ME neuroinflammation, and this study may be a clue.

Or I may be grasping at straws, but I'd be curious to hear the thoughts of others.
Meditation/breathing as in slow movement Tai chi with Chi Gung breathing has been effective for me in producing an increased sense of well-being for a day following practise.

I don't know of any kind of scientific basis for this but the base of Tai chi is to produce, harness and store 'chi' or energy.I started following easy moves on the TV (Youtube)by an American guy called Jake Mace and was so encouraged by results that saving energy and pacing carefully enables me to go to a local school on a Saturday morning and participate in the beginner Tai Chi class. Excellent rehab. Been at the school since November last year.
 

Lolo

Senior Member
Messages
306
Location
AUS
I bought the Spring Forest Qi Gong DVD set and I found it too tiring to do, even though Master Lim claims it is healing people. And besides that it's boring.
 
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