Dr Bollmann, Skin Care Specialist, Anti-Aging Expert
Having meditated from a young age, I have long been a proponent of meditation for the best way to relieve stress. Now studies from Harvard are showing it's positive effects on bowel diseases that are stress related, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The troublesome symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may be alleviated by meditation. In a small study, researchers from two Harvard-affiliated hospitals looked at the effects of the relaxation response, a physiologic state that can be prompted by meditation, and found that it eased symptoms of both bowel disorders.
In addition, the study team reported that the practice of meditation actually altered expression of genes involved in inflammation, as well as those related to the body's response to stress, which is known to trigger symptoms of both disorders.
The nine-week study included 19 patients with IBS and 29 with IBD. The participants attended weekly training sessions for the relaxation response and were asked to practice what they learned at home for 15 to 20 minutes daily. Their symptoms, anxiety levels and pain were assessed when they joined the study, then again four and a half weeks later, and at the end of the nine weeks of the study.
The investigators also performed a follow up three weeks after the study ended, and found that the improvements in symptoms, anxiety levels and overall quality of life seen during the study persisted. They further reported that the study participants had become more resilient in dealing with pain. The investigators noted that a longer, larger trial is needed to confirm their findings.
We've known for some time that stress reduction using meditation, yoga, biofeedback or relaxation training can help ease IBS symptoms. I've long recommended stress reduction as a means of dealing with IBD. Breathing exercises can be especially helpful with this. I also recommend biofeedback, hypnotherapy and guided imagery to help counter stress, and as a means of using the mind/body connection to heal the gut.
Psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can help resolve emotional conflicts, which often exacerbate symptoms. The finding that influencing gene expression may be responsible for the positive changes seen in the new study suggests how powerful the relaxation response is.