Sunday, May 15, 2011

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION MAY EASE IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME

Research done at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has found that women with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who practised mindfulness meditation had more than a 38 per cent reduction in symptoms, far surpassing a nearly 12 per cent reduction for women who participated in a traditional support group.

Moreover, mindfulness meditation helped reduce psychological distress and improved quality of life, the study found.

One of the study authors said mindfulness meditation "empowers" patients to deal with an illness that is difficult to treat.

IBS is a common chronic illness, affecting the large intestine (colon), that can start as early as adolescence and become a lifelong condition. Symptoms include abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhoea and constipation.

Cases of ISB range from mild to severe. The condition differs from inflammatory bowel disease, a more serious condition with a similar name.

IBS is generally more common in women - affecting women roughly twice as much as men. Though IBS can occur at any age, it most commonly begins in the 20s or 30s. About one in 6 people has the condition in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. (In Australia the figure is said to be one in 5.) The condition is believed to stem from a genetic predisposition and is triggered by stress, a gastrointestinal infection or gastrointestinal surgery.

Treatments include anti-spasmodic medications to relax the colon, and drugs to reduce constipation and diarrhoea. Adding fibre to the diet can improve symptoms of constipation, though not usually other symptoms of IBS.

A high-fibre diet means a regular breakfast of bran, muesli or other high-fibre cereal plus 3 or 4 pieces of fruit during the day, and a generous intake of vegetables with main meals, all washed down with plenty of water.

Patients are advised to avoid drinks and foods that stimulate the intestines, such as alcohol, caffeinated beverages, some grains, chocolate and milk. However, one regimen does not help everyone, according to health officials.

Here is a short but helpful video on controlling IBS symptoms:



"It's not easy to treat IBS, even with the best standard medical approaches," said study co-author Dr Olafur Palsson, an associate professor, clinical psychologist and research in the gastroenterolgoy department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It's chronic and, over time, it's hard to treat because it is complicated."

Mindfulness meditation helps practitioners relax by focusing on the moment, paying attention to breathing, the body and thoughts as they occur, without judgment.

"It's a different way of using the mind and being aware," said Palsson. He noted that more than 200 hospitals across the United States now offer a mindfulness meditation training program.
For the study, 75 women between 19 and 71 years old, with an average age of nearly 43 years, were randomly divided into two groups. One group participated in a mindfulness meditation training session and the other in a traditional support group, both for 8 weeks.

Ahead of time, the groups rated the treatments' potential benefit, or "credibility," about the same, the study said, but at the end of 8 weeks, the meditation group had a 26.4 per cent reduction in "overall severity of symptoms" compared to a 6.2 per cent reduction in the support group. By the end of 3 months, the disparity persisted as improvement increased to a 38.2 per cent reduction in symptoms for the meditation group versus a 11.8 per cent reduction for the therapy group.

The study authors also noted that mindfulness meditation was inexpensive and widely available.

One expert praised the research results as original and powerful.

"It's a small sample, but I'm impressed. It's not so easy to do this with treatments that are not well-defined," said Dr Albena D Halpert, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Boston University Medical School. "There have been other studies that looked at psychological treatment options, but this is the first looking at mindfulness, and the results are robust."

This blog sets out a simple form of mindfulness sitting meditation.


For further information


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