"Mindfulness" may ease irritable bowel symptoms

Jun 29, 2011, 2:38 p.m.

It also makes sense that mindfulness training would help people with IBS, according to Chiaramonte. "Part of the problem in IBS," she explained, "is the attention people give to the physical discomfort, and what the mind then does with that."

With mindfulness training, the goal is to help people become aware of what they are feeling, but then "let it go" instead of ruminating, and potentially making the physical symptoms worse.

There are still questions about the role of mindfulness in managing IBS, though.

Larger trials, including ones that recruit men as well, are needed, according to Chiaramonte.

There's also the fact that "mindfulness" can be learned in many different ways -- at your local yoga or meditation center, or through a book or CD, for example.

This study looked only at the specific technique of mindfulness-based stress reduction -- a program developed by researchers at the University of Massachusetts in 1979.

To best replicate the therapy given in the study, Chiaramonte noted, a person would have to take a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, which is widely available worldwide, including at some medical centers. It's usually given in the form of an eight-week program of classes, at a cost of between $300 and $500.

"This study doesn't tell us if learning mindfulness in other ways would work," Chiaramonte said.

On the other hand, she added, for people who are interested, buying a CD or taking a meditation class would be a low-cost, low-commitment way to give mindfulness a go.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/lfYimf American Journal of Gastroenterology, online June 21, 2011.

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