It might sound far-fetched, but a team of scientists has recently discovered that patients who suffer from two difficult-to-cure gut disorders could ease symptoms if they meditated and did yoga.
The study showed that using meditation as an intervention in both mind and body changed specific genetic signals which trigger symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or irritable bowel disease (IBD).
Patients who picked up yoga classes and spent time meditating regularly for at least two months found the disease-related symptoms were significantly alleviated.
Researchers found enough evidence supporting the practice of stress-relieving meditation, which seemed to curb the activity of certain genes that cause patients with IBS or IBD to experience inflammation and other immune system issues.
The team observed 20 patients with IBS and 30 patients with IBD during the study. All of them were asked to take part in a nine-week program which taught focused meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga.
According to the study’s report published in LiveScience journal, the 50 patients were part of a 1.5-hour group session each week, as well as continuing to practice the same mind-and-body activities at home for 15 to 20 minutes every day.
Before the patients started the program, researchers assessed their symptoms and collected blood samples for genetic analyses – an initial baseline that was then the reference for the midway follow-up.
However, what this study lacked was a separate control group of participants who wouldn’t practice these activities and would serve as comparison.
All patients reported at the end of the study a significant improvement in their symptoms, a personal conclusion that was supported by a genetic analysis of their blood.
Co-author of the study Manoj Bhasin, director of bioinformatics at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said it was impressive to see the impact mediation had on the genetic pathways corresponding to the two gut disorders.
There was a giant gap, however, in the genetic changes experienced by IBD patients (1,000 genes were reshaped) than in participants suffering from IBS (only 119 genes). Both groups experienced a suppressed activity of an inflammation-related gene, according to the results.
Researchers pointed that medication or other similar activities have a powerful effect on stress and inflammation. Both groups of patients reported less inflammation and better response to stress following relaxation techniques.
Even though a study including a control group would offer even more accurate results, researchers are confident meditation can be used as alternative treatment for both IBS and IBD.
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