If you’re one of the 10% to 15% of people who suffer from Irritable bowel syndrome ( IBS ), meditation could help you to reduce the cramping, pain, bloating and other issues of the condition.
As a mindfulness instructor, I’ve seen how bringing acceptance and awareness to IBS can help to improve quality of life and reduce the symptoms of these all too common issue.
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Guided Meditation For IBS
- Sit with good posture. Your back should be straight but relaxed. Gently lower your chin to lengthen your spine. Close your eyes.
- Breathe mindfully in through the nose and out through the mouth. Simply observe the breath moving around your body. If thoughts or feelings arise, just let them come and go as they will. Continue to observe your breath for a minimum of 28 breaths. Research shows that mindful breathing in this way will reduce stress. In turn, it will calm the stomach and reduce gastrointestinal symptoms.
- By now, you should be feeling relaxed (if not, just continue to meditate on your breath). When you are feeling relaxed, focus your mind on the sensation of relaxation. How does it feel in the body to be relaxed? Meditate on that feeling.
- Observe the physical sensations in your body. Perform body scan meditation. You will notice physical sensations in your body. When these sensations occur, do not react to them. Simply let any sensations come and go as they will, while you continue to focus on breathing. By continuing to a) focus on breathing, and b) not react to physical sensations, you relax your body and mind, and this will help with IBS.
Research shows that meditation can indeed help with IBS.
Researchers studied 15 men and 53 women with IBS. Participants practised an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction class.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a program created by Jon Kabat Zinn. It is typically done in an eight-week program and aims to reduces stress levels.
The majority of the study’s participants observed a reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms for up to three-months following the study. Quality of life also improved, with markedly less anxiety and stress.
Researchers state that the most important benefit of mindfulness meditation for IBS was the participant’s new ability to focus on the present moment. Participants were able to act with awareness instead of being misguided by stress and anxiety.
Kirsten Tillisch, MD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, says that by meditating, people with IBS can improve their quality of life without medication.
“This study shows that people with irritable bowel syndrome can have significant improvements in their symptoms and quality of life without medication or diet change, just by participating in a mindfulness-based stress reduction class,” said Tillisch. “Further, it implicates a specific aspect of mindfulness as particularly important: acting with awareness.”
Acting with awareness is one of the core aspects of mindfulness. Many people act automatically without thought. This can be especially true when stressed or anxious. By practising mindfulness meditation, we become more aware of the present moment. This helps us to act with awareness. And in turn this helps with IBS.
“It appears that by improving this moment-to-moment awareness in their daily actions, people with irritable bowel syndrome feel better,” said Tillisch, “possibly because [it] keeps the brain from going back to old fears or worries.”
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison