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Meditation Eases Flatulence and Other Symptoms of IBS

What the Study Showed
How It was Done
Why It's Important

What the Study Showed

A well-known form of meditation called the relaxation response, developed in 1975 by Harvard's Dr. Herbert Benson, may offer relief to people who suffer from a constellation of gastrointestinal symptoms known as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. In a study conducted by researchers at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany, significant improvements in flatulence, belching, bloating, and diarrhea were noted in study participants using the meditation technique. The findings were reported in a 2001 article in Behavioral Research Therapy.

How It was Done

Sixteen adults with the primary symptoms of IBS were randomly assigned to either a six-week meditation regimen or six weeks of symptom monitoring. Patients in the treatment group were taught the relaxation response meditation method, and asked to practice it twice a day. Those who meditated were compared to a control group of people with IBS who simply had their symptoms monitored during the test period. Those in the "wait list" or control group, received treatment after the completion of the study.

All the study subjects were asked to keep a daily diary of their symptoms, and composite scores showing improvements were calculated after two weeks. At the end of three months, researchers noted significant improvements for flatulence, belching, bloating, and diarrhea in the meditation group. Constipation symptoms were also eased, although not to the same degree.

Why It's Important

For people who have severe gastrointestinal problems, including flatulence, this easy-to-learn form of meditation may be an effective self-help treatment. The results of this small study indicate that tapping into the mind-body connection may offer significant relief for GI symptoms caused by IBS. The relaxation response method of meditation is described by Dr. Herbert Benton in his book The Relaxation Response.

Source: Keefer, L, Blanchard EB. The effects of relaxation response meditation on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome: results of a controlled treatment study. Behav Res Ther 2001 Jul;39(7):801-811


Date Published: 04/30/2002
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