Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) isn’t easy, but the stress (and the symptoms) involved may be lessened with mindfulness meditation.” – Andrew Weil
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder with worldwide prevalence rates ranging from 9–23%. In the U.S. the rates generally in the area of 10–15% affecting between 25 and 45 million people. IBS is not life threatening but it is very uncomfortable producing changes in bowel movement patterns, bloating and excess gas, and pain in the lower belly. It is also a major source of absenteeism both at work and in school. IBS is also associated with a marked reduction in the individual’s health quality of life, with disruption of the physical, psychological and social routines of the individuals. At present, there are no known cures for IBS and treatments involve symptomatic relief, often with fairly radical dietary changes.
It has been shown that meditation and yoga can help relieve IBS symptoms but there is a need for more research, particularly of the long-term effectiveness of mindfulness on the symptoms of IBS. In today’s Research News article “Long Term Effects of Mindfulness on Quality of life in Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” See:
or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:
Zomorrodi and colleagues recruited adult (average age = 34) participants who had been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They randomly assigned them to either receive treatment as usual or treatment as usual combined with an 8-week, once a week for 2 hours, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The participants were measured for health quality of life before, and after treatment and were followed-up 2 months later.
They found that the MBSR group had a clinically significant (25%) improvement in their health-related quality of life that was sustained at the 2-month follow-up whereas the treatment as usual group showed no improvement. Hence mindfulness training improves the physical, psychological and social impact of IBS on the lives of the patients. These results are important as they show a sustained, relatively long-term improvement produced by MBSR treatment. Many studies only report improvements measured immediately after treatment. A treatment that is effective only as long as it is being actively administered is of limited usefulness, while one that lasts well beyond the actual time of treatment is much more valuable.
It is not known exactly how mindfulness training improve the health-related quality of life in IBS patients. It can be speculated, however, that the training, by focusing the patient on the present moment reduces the worry and catastrophizing about the future that usually accompanies disease. This would allow the patient to focus only on their current physical state and not amplify the symptoms with worry. In addition, mindfulness training is known to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Stress is well known to exacerbate disease states. So, stress reduction would tend to improve the symptoms of IBS and improve the health-related quality of life.
So, improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with mindfulness.
“compared to the control group, participants in the mindfulness training group improved on IBS-related quality of life and gastrointestinal-specific anxiety, depression, and general functioning.” – Mindful
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Zomorrodi, S., Rasoulzadeh Tabatabaie, S. K., Azadfallah, P., Ebrahimidaryani, N., & Arbabi, M. (2015). Long Term Effects of Mindfulness on Quality of life in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 10(2), 100–105.
Objectives: This study aimed to investigate the long-term effects of mindfulness-based therapy on improving life quality of patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
Method: This was an experimental study including 24 patients (12 from each group) with IBS syndrome were selected based on the ROMEIII criteria and were randomly placed in the test and control groups. In both groups, the scales of the IBS-QOL34 Questionnaire were applied as assessment tool. Experiment group was subjected to the MFT (mindfulness-based therapy), while the control group received no intervention. After the two-month follow up, both groups were once again evaluated through the IBS-QOL34 scales.
Results: There is not significant difference between trial and control group in starting of the study in demographic and quality of life status. The findings of covariance analysis revealed that the difference between the experiment and the control groups at follow-up was significant (p = 0.01). The results showed that the MFT has long-term effects on the life quality of patients suffering from IBS.
Conclusion: The MFT could be considered as a new, effective and stable method in psychotherapy, particularly in psychosomatic disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.