Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has got to be one of the most miserable disorders a person can have. I should know because I have it. If you have IBS, you know exactly what I am talking about. The constant tummy churning, the non-stop gas and unsightly bloating is enough to send any sufferer running for the hills!
Let’s be honest – when IBS comes a knock’n, the party’s over. This means canceling dates, rescheduling dinner plans and for many folks, avoiding intimacy.
Who really wants to shag when you’re blow’n up like a Macy’s Day float?
If you are unfamiliar with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, here’s a quick, non-medical definition. IBS is a digestive disorder that is commonly characterized with abdominal pain, discomfort, intermittent diarrhea and constipation (or both).
Sounds fun, huh?
IBS is Common
What you may not know is that IBS is a common gastrointestinal problem. The research suggests that anywhere between 10-15% of the population in the United States may suffer from this condition and that 2 out of 3 cases appear in women.
It is important to state however that IBS impacts both genders, making it an equal opportunity party crasher.
Celebrities with IBS
Even President Kennedy is thought to have suffered from this irritating disorder.
Cause of IBS
The exact cause of IBS continues to elude medical scientists. Some researchers think there may be a genetic component while other IBS investigators feel the condition is more complex.
Stress and IBS
Stress alone does not appear to be the singular cause of IBS however, because of the connection between the brain and the digestive tract, it is thought that stress can trigger and exacerbate symptoms.
Mindfulness for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The results appear to be promising, with a measurable reduction in symptoms for individuals who make MBSR a part of their daily and weekly ritual.
Mindfulness is type of therapy that is all about bringing our awareness, meaning our entire awareness, into the “here and now”.
To break it down further, a “mindfulness” approach involves using all of our five senses to focus exclusively on “this moment” in time, thereby allowing us to become free of stressful, negative thoughts, which can be caustic to the mind (and tummy).
Consult with Physician
After talking with your physician about your IBS, you may want to consider mindfulness therapy as part of a comprehensive approach to dealing with your spastic colon.
Does this sound corny – maybe too “New Age” for you? That’s OK because you have nothing to lose. The best part of mindfulness is that it’s free. What’s more, it’s relaxing and even kind of fun!
What follows are 3 easy mindfulness techniques to think about.
1. Guided Imagery
Lay on a flat surface. Close your eyes and clear your mind. Visualize something pleasant, such as a sandy white beach set against turquoise blue ocean waters. Allow yourself to hear seagulls flying overhead. Feel a warm, soft wind blow against your cheeks.
While you are still in your pleasant place, take your right hand and gently touch your belly, making circular motions. Think to yourself: “I am in my calm place of healing”. Try this for five minutes every day.
2. Breathing Exercises
Engage in deep breathing exercises that include elements of guided imagery. A popular one that some people find helpful is floating on a cloud.
The idea is to escape your immediate thoughts and to focus on the here and now. Breathing exercises help us to become more centered and as a result, less anxious.
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
PSR is a 25-cent term used to describe a technique where a person learns to monitor and ultimately control muscular tension. It’s a great way to work through stress and a powerful mindfulness technique.
The AMSA has a great, step-by-step “walk-through” of how to do PMR for beginners. This might be something you wish to consider as part of your daily ritual to work through IBS.
If you think you may have IBS, you need to talk to your medical doctor for an evaluation. There are a number of treatments available that can help to alleviate symptoms. As of this moment in time, there is not cure for IBS.
If you have already been diagnosed with “irritable bowel” and are looking for complimentary, alternative approaches to your existing treatment regime, mindfulness may be just the thing you are looking for. Educate yourself on the concept of mindfulness so you can learn about the various benefits.
Potential resources include your therapist, yoga instructor, medical doctor or holistic physician. Engaging in exercise and physical activity, such as strength training, can help with anxiety and different forms of depression, which are thought to influence IBS symptoms.
Speaking for myself, I’ve lived with IBS for years and know all too well how this disorder can negatively impact your life. It an’t fun folks. But with proper stress management, dietary changes and a positive attitude, symptoms of IBS can be more manageable.
So go ahead and reach for your life goals. The next time IBS comes a knock’n, get mindful on it! Can you dig it?
[Photo Credit: SCD Lifestyle]