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National Stress Awareness Day 2022

National Stress Awareness Day 2022

Why do I prescribe meditation? - Dr Liza Thomas-Emrus

My favourite thing about being a GP is getting to know my patients and finding out what has led to the problem in the first place, then working with them to find a solution.

I practice lifestyle medicine as part of my routine patient management in the NHS.

Lifestyle medicine is empowering patients with tools to improve their health and wellbeing through lifestyle changes. This is backed by scientific evidence. My particular area of interest is in using meditation and it’s power to heal.

Through my lifestyle medicine workshops and regular general practice, I have been prescribing meditation to patients for a variety of medical conditions.

This includes heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic pain, fibromyalgia and IBS as well as mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Patient feedback is fantastic and most conditions seem to improve with regular practice over an 8 week period.

There is considerable excitement in the scientific community regarding the emergence of more and more evidence supporting meditation as an effective healing tool. Better quality research is being conducted therefore making it more reliable.

8 weeks of daily practice seems to lead to the best outcomes and this is why I usually recommend a trial of this duration for patients as a starting point. Most patients however, want to continue with meditation as they feel so much better for it.

Meditation leads to measurable changes in the brain and body. It results in neuroplasticity (the development of new nerve cells in the brain) and so the brain’s ability to develop and change structurally.

There is better emotional regularity, more positivity as well as improved memory. Great news for those concerned about conditions such as dementia. Benefits are also seen within the body right down to cellular level.

Telomeres protect chromosomes, which carry our DNA and reduce in length with cell replication and ageing. The telomerase enzyme is linked with improved cell longevity through its ability to maintain the telomere.

Meditation results in significant greater activity of this enzyme. This essentially means we do not age as quickly or become prone to disease so early. No more looking old and haggard when stressed!

Changes are also seen in select biomarkers of the immune system. There is improved immune system function and less stress response. In one study, meditation was even shown to be better than exercise in it’s ability to improve our immune system against the cold virus!

It is also effective in improving blood pressure, reducing heart rate and breathing rate and helping us feel calm. Most people are aware it improves conditions such as anxiety, depression and stress. It has also been shown to be beneficial in patients with cancer and chronic pain. I believe that it can be useful as part of the management of any health problem.

I do find that I am prescribing less pharmaceuticals as patients favour the option of trying meditation instead. It isn’t that I am anti-medicine, of course not, I just like to offer a low risk, no side effect option to patients and let them choose. As I say to patients, medicines are always there as a back up or to complement the lifestyle interventions.

Hopefully I can spread the message that meditation can be a tool for everyone to benefit from.

Given the low cost and low risk of harm it is an exciting possibility that meditation can be implemented in anyone’s life and result in vitality and longevity.

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