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Mindful Meditation Might Ease Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Date:5/9/2011

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- A simple meditation technique can help ease the torment suffered by people with a chronic bowel disease, a new study has found.

The research, done at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that women with irritable bowel syndrome who practiced "mindful meditation" had more than a 38 percent reduction in symptoms, far surpassing a nearly 12 percent reduction for women who participated in a traditional support group.

Moreover, meditation helped reduce psychological distress and improved quality of life, the study found.

One of the study authors said the practice, based on a Buddhist meditative technique, "empowers" patients to deal with an illness that is difficult to treat.

"It's not easy to treat IBS [irritable bowel syndrome], even with the best standard medical approaches," said study co-author Olafur Palsson, an associate professor, clinical psychologist and research in the gastroenterolgoy department at the university. "It's chronic and, over time, it's hard to treat because it is complicated."

Mindful meditation helps practitioners relax by focusing on the moment, paying attention to breathing, the body and thoughts as they occur, without judgment.

"It's a different way of using the mind and being aware," said Palsson. He noted that more than 200 hospitals around the country offer the mindfulness meditation training program.

The technique takes discipline to learn, but "becomes second nature after a while," said Palsson, adding, "this is not a clinical treatment, it's more educational."

The findings were to be presented Saturday at Digestive Disease Week meeting in Chicago. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary because it has not been subjected to the scrutiny that typically accompanies publication in medical journals. In addition, the number of pa
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