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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Got IBS? Study Says to Try a Little Mindfulness

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 29th 2011

painIrritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of those physical and emotional disturbances that physicians still scratch their heads at and almost everyone says, “It's stress.” Over the last 10 years there has been an exponential growth in clinically controlled studies that shows mindfulness training as a key intervention for stress reduction. So, it’s not surprising that a recent study found mindfulness training to provide statistically significant reductions in IBS symptoms.

In June, 2011, Susan Gaylord and her colleagues published “Mindfulness Training Reduces the Severity of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Women: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial” in The American Journal of Gastroenterology. Seventy five women were randomly assigned to either a support group or an 8-week mindfulness training group with a half day intensive. The results showed that on a 500 point scale, the support group showed a 30-point reduction in symptoms while the mindfulness group showed a 100 point reduction with 50 points being statistically sign cant.

Why does this work?

Whether IBS stems from stress or is just exacerbated by stress may be like a chicken or the egg scenario. The reason mindfulness training is helpful is based on the latter. When someone has a physiological symptom, the mind goes into overdrive to try and find ways to “fix it.” So what happens? We add stress onto the physiological symptom making it worse.

With mindfulness training, we learn how to come down from our worried minds and relate to the difficult feeling in a less reactive way. So while the pain may still be there, it’s no longer exacerbated by the anxious thoughts. Thus, the reduction in severity of symptoms.

It’s really not rocket science; it’s just a very practical and more skillful way to relate to our discomfort in life.

It’s also not a panacea. I’m guessing, mindfulness training by itself will not “cure” IBS. Maybe a person’s IBS stems from other factors in life that also need to be addressed. Connecting with a community can be extremely healing, good exercise, better sleep or if necessary medical intervention at times.

However, mindfulness training continues to show us that it is a wise way of life that holds tremendous benefits.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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