Opinion: Anil K. Rajvanshi 
Meditation can help subside inflammation
Sunday, May 6, 2018

Inflammation is the body’s first line of defense. Anytime we have disease or injury, body heals it by producing inflammation. Increase in blood flow and white cells at the injury site produces redness, swelling, heat and pain. Inflammation is therefore like a fire burning inside the body.  
 
Stress which causes emotional pain also induces inflammation and sets off the same chain of events as infection or injury. Thus emotional and physical pain have similar characteristics  and affect the body in a similar way.   
 
One of the biggest causes of inflammation in body is obesity which is a result of modern day lifestyle caused by poor eating habits and stress.  Body fat stores large quantities of cytokines – a chemical which allows increased blood flow to inflamed parts of the body and helps in triggering the immune system to fight the disease. Large amount of body fat allows cytokines to seep out and produce low level inflammation. Scientists believe that fat in large amounts is an inflammatory tissue! 
 
Most of the times inflammation is automatically doused by body healing itself. However sometimes the switch which helps in shutting it off goes haywire. This leads to chronic inflammation and can sometimes lead to cancer. Inflammation caused because of stress and emotional pain takes longer to heal. 


Chronic inflammation whether strong or of low level affects the brain and leads to depression. Many of the classical symptoms of inflammation like tiredness, malaise, loss of appetite and waning interest in things look a lot like depression. It seems that with inflammation and pain the whole brain is focused on resolving it and with time this process slowly starts zapping the energy resulting in loss of interest. 
 
Till recently this interconnection between inflammation and depression was not known and so the psychiatrists used to treat depression by giving patients antidepressant medicines (based on trial and error) but somehow it often did not help. A chance discovery of the use of psychedelic drug psilocybin (a key component of magic mushroom) to treat depression also resulted in finding a cure for inflammation! 
 
This clearly established the mind-body connection and showed the principle of equivalence where cause and effect are interchangeable. Thus inflammation led to depression and cure for depression also cured inflammation.  
 
Psychedelic drugs work by depressing the areas in the brain which give rise to ego. Besides they also help increase the connectivity in other parts of the brain. Thus these drugs allow the whole brain to work together which results in melting of boundaries between self and the world. These effects are very similar to those observed in Samadhi or deep meditation. 
 
Samadhi dissolves the ego and focus on a single thought for a long time results in Sanyam which allows all parts of the brain to work together. This results in experiences where the yogi feels that he/she has melted into Universal Consciousness. The major difference between the experiences from psychedelic drug and meditation is that the former cannot be controlled whereas experiences from meditation and Samadhi can be.       
 
Inflammation message from the body to the brain is transferred through blood via the release of certain chemicals produced during pain. The reverse information – from brain to the inflammation zone, I feel, is transferred by the vagus nerve. Vagus nerve is the information highway of body which passes messages to and fro from the brain to different parts of the body.   
 
Though the exact mechanism of how the psychedelic drugs help in reducing inflammation is not known, but scientists have recently discovered that after taking the drug some receptor molecules are released both in the brain and in different parts of the body and which help in fighting inflammation.    
 
Scientists have also discovered that inhalation of a very small amount of psychedelic drugs can have a dramatic effect both for curing depression and inflammation. Inhalation allows the drugs to be transferred directly to the brain via the olfactory lobe – which lies above the nose and the low potency of medicine shows that it works like homeopathic medicines. 
 
Patanjali in his yoga darshan clearly states that yogic powers can also be obtained by the use of drugs. This is probably the first such reference anywhere regarding the use of psychedelic drugs for mind expansion and helping the body. 
 
Thus the stress of modern life which fuels inflammation causing pain and misery can be cured by meditation and sanyam. It can douse the body fires leading to healthy mind and body and creates happiness.   

(The writer is director, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute. Views expressed are personal)

 

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