Can yoga ‘treat’ IBS?

Can yoga ‘treat’ IBS?

If you’ve read my steps to managing irritable bowel syndrome, or tuned into my IBS podcast you’ll know that stress seems to play a big role in triggering digestive symptoms.

Managing stress isn’t the easiest gig though, so I was excited to read about a recently published study investigating the use of yoga as a treatment for IBS (I say ‘treatment’ because there’s no cure for IBS – so we’re looking at symptom management).

What was really interesting is that this study compared the effects of a 12-week yoga programme with the low FODMAP diet – which is currently one of the most effective ways to manage IBS symptoms.

In the study (carried out in Germany) 59 people with IBS were randomised to one of two treatment groups – either a low FODMAP diet (which involved 3 sessions with a dietitian), or 2 weekly sessions of hatha yoga with a yoga teacher. The yoga group was also encouraged to practice at home.

After 12 weeks, researchers measured changes in symptoms (self-reported) and quality of life. They found that there were statistically significant improvements in digestive symptoms and quality of life in BOTH groups… with neither group found to be more effective. However there were some small differences in the type of symptoms reported, with the low FODMAP group reporting less bloating and the yoga group experiencing slightly better reductions in anxiety.

Now – this is a very small study, and there are lots of potential confounders (we don’t know if the yoga group changed their diet for example, and there may have been some people who didn’t stick to the FODMAP diet strictly) but it’s a nice reminder of the benefits of tackling IBS from more than one angle.

From my clinical experience, I know that it can be easy to dismiss the impact of stress, but by doing so, you might be missing out a crucial part of the puzzle.

So, if you’re on a mission to manage IBS, it might be worth investing your time on the mat. Namaste!

 

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