As if we need more reason to love yoga, research suggests that the ancient practice may reduce symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
So what is it that’s good about yoga for IBS? The evidence is unfolding, but it isn’t all new. The postures, breathing and meditative techniques of yoga have long been linked to digestion, stress and anxiety, and overall wellbeing.
Cause and treatment of IBS
IBS is a gut condition that impairs normal bowel function. The actual cause of IBS is not well understood. However, infection; poor diet; food intolerance; emotional stress; and medications are all accepted as worsening IBS symptoms. Due to this, nutrition (including the low-FODMAPs diet), exercise, medication and emotional support are all interventions currently used to manage IBS.
IBS and stress
The 1 in 5 Aussie’s affected by IBS experience poor quality of life, disruption with day-to-day activities and strained relationships. So, it is unsurprising that IBS sufferers experience a higher rate of psychological disorders, including stress and anxiety. The gut-mind connection is thought to play a big role in IBS. Due to this, stress management is essential to reduce gut issues.
For some, stress may be the primary trigger of their IBS symptoms, while for others, it is simply a co-factor alongside factors such as FODMAPs sensitivity.
Yoga as an IBS intervention
Many a yoga devotee will tell you of the positivity and calm yoga can bring to your life!
Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and psychological issues in various populations, and increasing research is showing its positive role in IBS. The physical postures and controlled breathing of yoga may have the potential to improve both physical and mental issues. As a result, this may reduce the symptom burden and improve quality of life for IBS sufferers.
Recent study: Low-FODMAPs VS Yoga
A 2017 study compared use of the well established low-FODMAPs diet to practicing regular hatha yoga in reducing IBS symptoms. They found minimal differences between the two groups.
However, what they did find is that BOTH the low-FODMAPs diet and yoga may be effective in reducing gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, health, anxiety, depression and stress for patients with IBS.
The authors also found that yoga may enhance body awareness and responsiveness. Importantly, this might reduce occurrence of disordered eating. Since undergoing the low-FODMAPs diet can be restrictive, it is important to encourage balanced and mindful eating, and yoga may be a useful tool.
While further research could solidify the evidence for the benefits of yoga in IBS, we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending giving the practice a go. Whether you join a local class or practice at home, yoga is a fantastic for the body and mind!
In saying that – there’s no one size fits all approach to managing stress. If yoga isn’t for you, try meditation, breathing exercises, walking, swimming, other exercise, or whatever works for you! Even if you don’t have IBS, taking care of your gut and managing stress is essential for your health and wellbeing.
By: Ellie Wiltshire
Image sourced from Pinterest.
Fond, G, Loudou, A, Hamdani, N, Boukouaci, W, Dargel, A, Oliveria, J, Roger, M, Tamouza, R, Leboyer, M, Boyer, L 2014, Anxiety and depression comorbidities in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): a systematic review and meta-analysis, vol. 264, no. 8, pp. 651-660
Kuttner, L, Chambers, C.T, Hardial, J, Israel, J, Israel, D.M, Jacobson, K, Evans, K 2006, A randomized trial of yoga for adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome, Pain Research and Management, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 217-223
Schumann, D, Langhorst, J, Dobos, G, Cramer, H 2017, Randomised clinical trial: Yoga vs a low-FODMAP diet in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/apt.14400/full>