This 1 Ancient Technique Soothes an Irritated Gut

By on May 14, 2015
Practicing yoga, meditation, or engaging in a long prayer session all have one thing in common–it helps us reach a deep rest called the relaxation response. Now researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital say initiating this response could reduce the severity of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, two common types of gastrointestinal disorders.

Braden Kuo, M.D., a researcher from the Gastrointestinal Unit in the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Medicine, explains below.

“Our results suggest exciting possibilities for further developing and implementing this treatment in a wider group of patients with gastrointestinal illness,” says Kuo, who co-wrote the report for PLoS One, a health journal. “What is novel about our study is demonstration of the impact of a mind/body intervention on the genes controlling inflammatory factors that are known to play a major role in IBD and possibly in IBS.”

What Researchers Discovered

Both irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease are important due to the same symptoms they produce, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and changes in bowel function. They’ve also both triggered by stress, according to recent research, leading scientists to their most recent finding.

Working with other researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Kuo had 48 adults participate in a 9 week stress reduction program, aimed at lowering stress levels that could worsen these health conditions. 19 of the participants had irritable bowel syndrome whereas 29 of them had inflammatory bowel disease. During the program, researchers had them undergo weekly relaxation response training sessions while having them do daily self-taught relaxation response sessions for 20 minutes a day at home.

Evaluating them before, during, and after the course, researchers found that these sessions dramatically reduced symptoms associated with the disease, as well as anxiety. In turn, the participants also reported a significant improvement in their quality of life.

For researchers, these results were nothing short of remarkable.

“One interesting clinical impact was a decrease in both IBS and IBD patients in what is called pain catastrophizing–a negative cognitive and emotional response to pain or the anticipation of pain,” says John Denninger, M.D., Ph.D., co-author of the study and a researcher from the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital. “In other words, participants became more resilient in the face of the pain they were experiencing. But before we can offer a program like this to patients with these disorders, we’ll need to conduct a longer, randomized trial with a control group and enough participants for statistically significant results.”

While chances are your local healthcare provider won’t offer this treatment anytime soon, there’s a lesson to be learned here: De-stressing is good not only for your mind, but for your gastrointestinal health as well. To reap these rewards yourself, consider taking up yoga, meditation, or even self-guided prayer to help your body heal.

Readers: What have you tried to de-stress your body?

How Relaxation Response May Help Treat Two Gastrointestinal

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