Research shows that mindfulness and meditation practices can reduce the inflammatory markers that are characteristic of irritable bowel diseases (IBD).
By Dawn Flemming
There is an undeniable link between mental health and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). For many seniors, as they age their stresses in life may increase and it may complicate their digestive health.
Researchers and practitioners have been looking at how mindfulness training and meditation practices can help with IBD symptoms.
One study found a positive effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs on IBD. On a eight weekly group MBSR intervention for people suffering from IBD, the study concluded that
MBSR participants had greater reductions in anxiety and depression scores, as well as improvement in physical and psychological quality of life. They also had higher scores on a questionnaire measuring various aspects of mindfulness–for example, awareness of inner and outer experiences.
The effects were not just short term. The study showed that
Six months later, MBSR participants still had significant reduction in depression and improvement in quality of life, with a trend toward reduced anxiety. The patients were highly satisfied with the mindfulness intervention.
This was a very important finding as stress, anxiety and depression have been directly linked to IBD. The Harvard Gazette cites a study that shows that meditation practices reduce disease-related symptoms of IBD:
Both in patients with IBS and those with IBD, participation in the mind/body program appeared to have significantly improved disease-related symptoms, anxiety, and overall quality of life, not only at the end of the study period but also three weeks later.
How is this happening? The study continues:
“Indeed the relaxation response reduced the expression of a number of genes directly linked to the key inflammatory processes of IBD. While the mechanisms behind IBS are less well-defined, they most likely involve stress response, which also could be improved by relaxation response practice.”
There are many free and low-cost meditation groups across America and Europe. If you are in the US, some insurance companies include free meditation support groups for their members. If these are not possible or not convenient, there is always the option of using digital apps that can teach you meditation. A good app that we would recommend is Headspace by Andi Puddicombe.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.