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Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have taken a new approach to ease irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): through meditation and yoga. Susan A. Gaylord and her colleagues at UNC randomly picked and assigned 75 women with IBS into two groups: one group to undergo mindfulness” training while the other group attended support sessions.

The mindfulness training consisted of meditation, yoga and “body scanning” techniques that helped people focus on a particular body area to detect muscle sensation or tension. In three months, Ms. Gaylord and her team found out those women who had mindfulness training fared better than those in the support group.

Dr. Delia Chiaramonte of the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Medicine agreed that the mindfulness technique could present a new way for people to manage their IBS symptoms, adding that it is 100 percent safe. “I think people with IBS should learn mindfulness skills,” she said.

Symptoms of IBS include abdominal cramps, constipation, bloating and diarrhea. Treatment may range from diet changes to anti-diarrhea medicines or constipation laxatives. Regular exercise also helps relieve IBS symptoms. Psychological therapy and counseling is also used in instances where IBS is triggered by anxiety or other unhealthy thinking patterns.

Dr. Chiaramonte added that the “mindfulness training versus the support group” test was well-designed to address criticisms of mind-body therapy techniques. It was revealed that the women from both groups were equally expectant of getting better. Yet it was the mindfulness training group that fared better than the women from the support group.

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