Yoga, relaxation and meditation may ease symptoms for irritable bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Irritable bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are two distinct digestive conditions but stress can exacerbate both conditions. Because there is no cure for IBD or IBS, patients must rely on lifestyle modifications to manage their symptoms.
Research shows following a careful diet, avoiding certain pain relievers and not smoking can prevent digestive flare-ups. More recently, experts claim stress is a key trigger for IBD and IBS and suggest patients increase stress management skills to keep their symptoms at bay.
A 2013 study found two months of yoga and regular meditation can relieve complications from IBD and IBS by suppressing genes that cause inflammation. Researchers examined 29 patients with IBD and 19 patients with IBS. The participants engaged in yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises for nine weeks and attended weekly group sessions. After assessing patient symptoms before, during and after the study, as well as genetic analysis, the study team reported an improvement in symptoms at the conclusion of the study.
Patients with IBD experienced significantly more genetic altering than patients with IBS. Relaxation practices altered 1,000 genes in patients with IBD, compared to 119 gene alterations in IBS. The findings suggest meditation and yoga provide more measurable benefits in relieving symptoms of IBD.
IBS is a common functional disorder that affects about one in four Americans. Although IBS shares many similar symptoms with IBD like abdominal cramping, constipation, diarrhea and urgency to move bowels, IBS is considered a disorder and not a disease.
Unlike IBS, IBD is a gastrointestinal disease. It causes chronic inflammation in the digestive tract and can lead to severe complications like malnutrition, weight loss, joint pain and increased risk for colon cancer. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Although no one knows what causes IBS and IBD, scientists are beginning to understand more about how to control these conditions. And learning more about the mind-body connection could help researchers identify how biological pathways can be altered to counteract stress and reverse hypertension, metabolic disorders and even aging.
Relaxation and meditation may contribute a host of benefits that are not fully understood. What is clear, however, is that reducing stress heals the body. Whether or not you suffer from IBS or IBD, you can enhance whole-body wellness by practicing stillness, relaxation, yoga, mindfulness or prayer.
So, during this holiday season of hectic to-do lists and high expectations, take time to give yourself the gift of rest and relaxation.
If you or a family member is experiencing bowel changes or discomfort, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist. Even slight changes in bathroom habits could indicate a serious underlying condition. Our fellowship-trained gastroenterologists are accepting new patients and look forward to helping you improve your digestive health, so call today. Click here to get a list of GI treatment centers in your area.