Meditation helps us relax, but that’s not its only benefit. People who meditate can lower their blood pressure, improve their circulation and increase their overall feeling of well-being.
But research shows that meditation may relieve IBD and IBS symptoms, according to a pair of studies conducted in the past few years on the link between stress and digestive issues.
Relaxation training resulted in significant impact on symptoms
In one study, conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, researchers found that taking part in a training program that elicited the relaxation response had a significant impact on IBD and IBS symptoms.
The relaxation response is a state of deep rest brought on by practices such as meditation. As Braden Kuo – one of the authors of the report – noted, past studies have asked where meditation may relieve IBD and IBS symptoms and found that stress management can help patients in the short term.
“What is novel about our study is demonstration of the impact of a mind/body intervention on the genes controlling inflammatory factors that are known to play a major role in IBD and possibly in IBS,” Kuo told the Harvard Gazette in 2015.
The study looked at 48 people – 19 with IBS and 29 with IBD – who took part in a program focused on reducing stress, improving cognitive skills and learning healthy behaviors.
In addition to the weekly relaxation response training, the participants were asked to practice relaxation response elicitation at home for up to 20 minutes each day.
Three weeks after the study ended, both the IBS and IBD programs appeared to have significantly improved disease related symptoms, less anxiety and a better quality of life.
Positive effects found after mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques
Another study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in 2011, looked at the effects of meditation on stomach issues.
In the study, conducted at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, researchers assigned 75 women with IBS into two groups. Some of the women spent eight weeks with a group for mindfulness-based stress reduction, while the rest spent that time with an IBS support group.
At the end of the eight weeks, the women who spent time in the stress reduction group saw a greater reduction in IBS symptoms than the women in the support group.
The researchers found that this reduction lasted more than three months after the study concluded.
How do I meditate?
Meditation may relieve IBD and IBS symptoms, but how does one go about meditating?
Don’t worry. It’s not that difficult. Here’s a good starter exercise:
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Don’t try to control your breathing, just breathe normally.
- Focus on how you breathe, and how your body moves with each breath. Pay attention to your chest, shoulders and belly.
- Don’t try to control the pace or intensity of your breathing. If you find your mind wandering, refocus on your breathing.
- Keep this up for two to three minutes to start before trying it for longer periods.
Meditation – and other forms of relaxation – can help you manage your digestive troubles. So can we.
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