Our immune systems work overtime to keep us healthy and healed. Science shows that meditation benefits the immune systems and helps keeps it in tip-top shape. But what about an immune system that has been greatly debilitated, like an HIV patient?
Not only do HIV patients have to cope with having a terminal illness, they also suffer an array of sickness and lowered quality of life due to the effects of the virus. In turn, this causes a lot of stress, which weakens an already impaired immune system.
Researchers at UCLA looked closer at the immune systems and stress levels of HIV-positive patients. They focused on and measured the CD4+ T lymphocytes, which coordinate immune activity and defense. Stress can rapidly diminish the CD4+ T cell count. After eight weeks of meditation, participants reported no loss of CD4+ T lymphocytes, whereas the control group who did not meditate, showed a significant drop in CD4+ T cell counts. Follow-up research confirmed the results, which demonstrate that mindfulness meditation can slow the progression of HIV.
Lead study author David Creswell said, “This study provides the first indication that mindfulness meditation stress-management training can have a direct impact on slowing HIV disease progression. The mindfulness program is a group-based and low-cost treatment, and if this initial finding is replicated in larger samples, it’s possible that such training can be used as a powerful complementary treatment for HIV disease, alongside medications.”
Another study, conducted by a University of Wisconsin-Madison research team in 2003, found that participants who completed eight weeks of meditation training developed a significantly larger amount of antibodies to a flu vaccine and had increased brain activity compared with study participants who did not meditate. The findings showed that meditation had lasting positive change in the immune system and brain activity up to four months after the end of meditation training.
HIV medications can have unpleasant side effects, which increase blood pressure and stress. A regular regimen of a mindfulness meditation practice can counter help the side effects. Meditation is not a cure-all for HIV-positive patients, however, the benefits enhancing a mind-body connection can greatly aid in the reduction of stress, improved immune system, self-assertiveness and increased emotional health. Altering one’s mindset can have a positive snowball effect and alter the toll the virus can take mentally, emotionally and physically.
Meditation is a cost and side-effect free addition to HIV therapies. Not only does is slow the progression of the virus, it helps the immune system build antibodies and increase positive behaviors. No matter the age of the patient, meditation as HIV therapy can support those who find themselves unable to cope, or even hopeless. Alongside other benefits, it heals the inner self so the outer self can manage and continue to enjoy a better quality of life.
Note: Specifically, with regards to medical issues, always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Web site.
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