Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Meditating with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS and meditation

Someone recently wrote to tell me that she suffers extreme embarrassment when meditating with other people, because her IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) causes a lot of intestinal gurgling. She becomes self-conscious about these noises, finds that the anxiety about them dominates her meditations, and has been so upset at times that she’s left the meditation room in tears. Also, her anxiety around making noise actually causes her condition to get worse.

I can appreciate her anxiety. I think we’ve all had times when we’ve been self-conscious about bodily noises (gas, swallowing, coughing, etc.), but to have it be more than an occasional thing must be very hard indeed.

If you’re affected by similar problems, I’d suggest letting people know that you have IBS and that it’s going to cause some noise if that’s at all possible. Just telling people that there’s a medical problem will probably help relieve some of the anxiety. Possibly you could ask the person leading the meditation to make an announcement. Any compassionate meditation instructor will be able to frame what they say in terms of practicing acceptance, etc.

To give other people the opportunity to practice patience or lovingkindness as they sit with any noise they may hear is an act of generosity. Don’t assume it’s a problem for them. I’ve had people flee the meditation room because they’ve had a cough and didn’t want to disturb people, when actually no one was disturbed — except perhaps being disturbed by the fact that another person hasn’t trusted them to be able to handle a bit of noise. So please do trust people. Give them the chance to learn to handle sitting with noise. You’ll be doing them a favor.

It may at first seem embarrassing to tell people you have a medical condition, but there’s no more shame to it than in having a cough, and you probably wouldn’t feel ashamed about letting people know you have a cold and that you’ll probably be coughing during a sit. You’ll get used to telling people this, so although it may be hard at first, it’ll get easier.

Meditation actually helps IBS sufferers. Three months after a group of IBS sufferers took an eight-week meditation course, 38.2% of them reported a reduction in severity of their IBS symptoms, according to a study carried out by Susan Gaylord, PhD, of the University of North Carolina’s program on integrative medicine. At the core of mindfulness is learning simply to observe our experience, without reacting to it with aversion or clinging. So if there is noise, or even pain, we simply notice those as sensations. If we notice ourselves tensing up or becoming anxious, we simply note that too, but we let go of the tension and let the anxious thoughts pass without getting caught up in them.

I remember some times I had problems with loud swallowing, and that has the same dynamic as my correspondent described — the more anxious you are about it the worse it gets. I got around this by trying to swallow as loudly as I could. For some reason it’s hard to swallow loudly on purpose. You might try something like that with your bowel sounds, if IBS is a problem for you. Now I know the intestines are not under conscious control, but if you pretend they are and give them permission to be as loud as they want (You go, intestines!) then that reassurance will help them to be more relaxed, and then they’ll be quieter. Also, if you’re almost defiantly trying to make noise, then the whole issue of being embarrassed about it becomes less important.

The practice of lovingkindness and self-compassion would also be helpful. First, start with your shame. Locate where in the body you feel the shame most strongly, and say “May you be well; may you be at ease.” Part of you is hurting, and it needs comfort and reassurance.

Do the same with your intestines. Show them love and reassurance like you would for a baby that had gas pains. Place a hand on your belly and say, “I know you’re struggling, but I’m here for you. I love you and I want you to be well.”

Have you been in the situation this person described? What’s worked for you?

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Meditation relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome severity, randomized study finds

David Wild: Mindfulness meditation is as much as four times more effective than group support in relieving the severity of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, according to research presented at the 2011 Digestive Disease Week meeting. Patients with IBS who participated in eight weekly meditation sessions and meditated daily at home experienced residual symptom relief three months after ending treatment.

Lucinda A. Harris, MD, who was not involved in the study, said the research confirms that modalities like mindfulness need to be integrated into a holistic approach to treating IBS, which also …

Read the original article (free registration required) »

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Mindfulness meditation eases Irritable Bowel Syndrome, study finds

Reuters: A therapy that combines mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga may help soothe symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that, of the 75 women with the digestive disorder involved in the study, those assigned to “mindfulness training” – a type of meditation – saw a bigger improvement in their symptoms over three months than women who were assigned to a support group.

The study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, suggests that the mindfulness technique should be an option for treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), researchers said.

“This randomized, controlled trial demonstrated…

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Mindfulness meditation might ease irritable bowel syndrome.

Ellin Holohan: A simple meditation technique can help ease the torment suffered by people with a chronic bowel disease, a new study has found.

The research, done at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that women with irritable bowel syndrome who practiced “mindful meditation” had more than a 38 percent reduction in symptoms, far surpassing a nearly 12 percent reduction for women who participated in a traditional support group.

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

One of the study authors said the practice, based on a Buddhist meditative technique, “empowers” patients to deal with an illness that is difficult to treat.

“It’s not easy to treat IBS [irritable bowel syndrome], even with the best standard medical approaches,” said study co-author Olafur Palsson, an associate professor, clinical psychologist and research in the gastroenterolgoy department at the university. “It’s chronic and, over time, it’s hard to treat because it is complicated.”

Mindful 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 around the country offer the mindfulness meditation training program.

The technique takes discipline to learn, but “becomes second nature after a while,” said Palsson, adding, “this is not a clinical treatment, it’s more educational.”

The findings were to be presented Saturday at Digestive Disease Week meeting in Chicago. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary Read the rest of this article…

because it has not been subjected to the scrutiny that typically accompanies publication in medical journals. In addition, the number of participants in the new study was small, and the findings need to be confirmed in larger studies.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common chronic illness that can start as early as adolescence and become a lifelong condition. Symptoms include abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea and constipation. Cases range from mild to severe. It differs from inflammatory bowel disease, a more serious condition with a similar name.

In the United States, the disease is more common in women and about one in six people has the condition, according to the National Institutes of Health. 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 diarrhea. Patients are advised to avoid drinks and foods that stimulate the intestines, such as alcohol, caffeinated beverages, some grains, chocolate and milk.

But the disease varies from one person to another, and one regimen does not help everyone, according to health officials.

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 eight weeks.

Ahead of time, the groups rated the treatments’ potential benefit, or “credibility,” about the same, the study said.

But at the end of eight weeks, the meditation group had a 26.4 percent reduction in “overall severity of symptoms” compared to a 6.2 percent reduction in the support group. By the end of three months, the disparity persisted as improvement increased to a 38.2 percent reduction in symptoms for the meditation group vs. a 11.8 percent reduction for the therapy group, the study found.

The study authors also noted that mindful 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 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.”

Halpert said she was surprised that both groups rated the potential benefit of the treatment option they were to receive equally.

“You can call it the placebo effect or whatever you want, but you have to believe in a treatment for it to work,” said Halpert. “It’s interesting that people would think it [mindfulness training] would have the same benefit as a support group.”

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