Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
38 Case Studies
30 Member Stories
29 Research

How can Yoga help IBS?

Do you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome and suffer from abdominal pain and diarrhea?  IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that affects motor and sensory functions of the GI tract which manifests due to the derailing of the brain-gut axis.  The exact physiology behind IBS is not well understood and have multiple factors associated with it. Some scientists believe that emotional stress exacerbates IBS symptoms. Other factors may include headache, fibromyalgia, and depression. There are many interventions already available for IBS, but the treatment of IBS without any medical intervention is what we want to explore. Yoga is one of the natural therapies that can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with IBS.


Stress is among the most frequent causes of IBS symptoms. Yoga can help you shut down stress by calming the nervous system, and, calm your irritated digestive system as well. For the best results, select postures that are available, not too ambitious. You don't need to fight to squeeze your body into positions which are more painful than calm. Make steady, smooth breath the attention of your practice; if your breathing is strained, it is going to fortify your stress and symptoms. Finally, be certain to include a relaxation pose at the end of your practice, and also think about starting your practice with comfort. This can send a clear signal to your body and mind it is time to slow down, let go, and change toward a recovery state.


Yoga may also help you endure uncomfortable sensations. If you have IBS, you've probably already learned to recognize the first signs of an episode. You could be vigilant for any change in feeling on your stomach and gut--the strain of the first twinge of cramping that warns you things may quickly get worse. Unfortunately, anxiety about gut feelings may actually intensify your symptoms. But if you breathe and remain with the feeling, your body learns to relax, in spite of intense feelings. You can learn to be with your symptoms at the exact same accepting mindful manner that you remain with the senses of a yoga pose. This can profoundly alter your experience of the pain and maintain a moderate episode from becoming acute.

What Yoga asanas are best for IBS?

List of Yoga Poses that may help alleviate IBS:


1. Knee-Nose pose/ wind relieving pose/Pawanmuktasana Nose To Knee

Lie on your back with your legs extended, and then slowly drawing your left knee up towards your chest. One can use their arms to pull the leg closer to the body. Hold the position for few minutes during which take several breaths and slowly release the leg on the floor. Carry out the same posture with another leg and repeat at least 3-5 times.

 Benefits- It helps strengthen the abdominal muscles and relieve gas and bloating.


 2.       Boat pose/ Paripurna Navasana  

Lie on your back on your yoga mat, then slowly lift your legs and hands together to a 60-degree angle, make sure your hands are touching your knees and your abdomen engaged. It looks like a V-shaped posture.  Hold the position for as long as you can, then release your feet to the floor. Repeat the posture three to five times.

Benefits- Helps engage your core, toning and tightening the abdomen.


 3.       Knees to chest pose/Apanasana – Bend both the knees towards your chest with the help of your arms around your leg while lying on the floor. Try to pull your knees closer to your torso, and take deep breaths. Hold the position for a count of three, and then release your head and shoulders back to the floor. Repeat the posture for at least 5 times.

Benefits – Relieves from bloating or gas, relax the promotee system, promotes internal healing of the entire tummy area. Thus it’s an effective pose of yoga for gut health.


4.       Cat/CowPose /Marjaryasana/Bitilasana- The name itself suggests doing either a cat or a cow pose. Start in a table-top position by kneeling on your knees and putting your both palms on the floor just like a four-legged animal. Take a deep breath while looking up towards the ceiling, simultaneously pressing your hips up toward the ceiling. This is a cow pose. While the cat pose is performed when you are exhaling, in which your head and shoulders are relaxed by bringing your head down between your arms as you tuck your pelvis under.

Benefits- One of the best yoga for inflammatory bowel syndrome and digestion. It helps relieve constipation, well for the digestive system and spinal column, aiding and supporting healthy and efficient digestion


 5.       Cobra pose/Bhujangasana- Lie on your stomach and placing your palms on the ground, aligned with your shoulders. Take a deep breath in, and use your core muscles to lift your shoulders and chest away from the floor as you look forward. On your exhale, release slightly, and on your next inhale, deepen the stretch as you rise taller.

Benefits- Cobra pose is yoga for leaky gut and digestion. It helps relieve constipation and intestinal gas. It is beneficial for spine congestion, abdominal and back muscles, and all together help in healthy digestion.


It has been found that Stretching and twisting of the abdomen would help in alleviating distension and pain in the abdomen. Similarly, research has also shown that trying Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal lock) and Kriyas like Agnisara (rigorous movement of the abdominal muscles), Basti (colon cleansing), and Viparitakarani that helps cleanse breath can offer deep local rest to the abdominal viscera and are considered very helpful for IBS patients. Pranayama and alternate nostril breathing can also help in harmonizing the autonomic nervous system, to calm down the mind. 

Scientific Studies in Yoga for IBS

Research has shown that patients suffering from IBS tend to have increased dominance of sympathetic activity that leads to abnormalities in their autonomic function and psychological profiles. Yoga practice focuses on balancing the autonomic nervous system by correcting the stress-induced decreased activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. Mind and body therapy like Yoga has proved to be effective in reducing stress and psychological disorders thus playing an important role in the onset and persistence of IBS. .


1. A randomized trial of yoga for adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome.[1].

The study aimed to identify the impact of yoga, its goodness as well as effectiveness on irritable bowel syndrome. Twenty-five adolescents aged 11 to 18 years with IBS were randomly assigned to either a yoga (n=14) or waitlist control group (n=11). The adolescents in the yoga group received hatha yoga and Iyengar yoga which focused on abdominal breathing and poses known as the cat, the bridge, the child, sitting twists and standing forward bend, all of which were accompanied by regulated deep relaxed breathing. The duration of yoga lasted for 4 weeks which consisted of the daily 1h instructional session, demonstration and practice. Both the groups were asked to complete a set of a questionnaire regarding gastrointestinal symptoms, pain, functional disability, coping, anxiety and depression before the intervention and after 4 weeks. 

The results were recorded and were found that Adolescents in the yoga group have lower levels of functional disability, lower anxiety, and less use of emotion-focused avoidance following the intervention than adolescents in the control group.  Thus Yoga holds a promising effect as an intervention for adolescents with IBS.


2. Randomized clinical trial: Yoga vs a low-FODMAP diet in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.[2].

The study included Fifty-nine patients diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. The patients were randomly assigned into two groups where one group was on yoga intervention whereas; other group received a low-FODMAP diet. The duration of the treatment was for 12 weeks. The yoga intervention group received traditional hatha yoga postures, yogic breathing techniques, yogic meditation techniques, including mantra meditation and yoga Nidra for a session of 75 minutes two times a week while patients in the other group received a total of three sessions of nutritional counseling. The primary outcome measure was to record a change in gastrointestinal symptoms. Secondary outcomes measured included changes in quality of life, health, perceived stress, body awareness, body responsiveness and safety of the interventions. The results were assessed on weeks 12 and 24.

The results were compared in both the groups where it showed a statistically significant effect in gastrointestinal symptoms for yoga and low-FODMAP diet at both 12 and 24, Comparable within-group effects occurred for the other outcomes.

Summary

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic experience of abdominal pain and digestive distress which reflects the intimate connection between the brain and the body. But yoga can relieve your symptoms by decreasing stress and teaching you how you can listen to your body. The symptoms indicate a problem in the digestive tract, but individuals with IBS show no physical harm to their stomach, intestines, or colon. Instead, the issue appears to lie in the way the nervous system actually communicates with the digestive system. Your digestive tract comprises hundreds of millions of nerve cells that have a continuous barrage of signs about the condition of your body, thoughts, and feelings. This makes your gut highly responsive to changes in your well-being, both psychological and physical.


Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy that consists of body postures, breathing exercises (Pranayama) and meditation, a practice to still the mind. Yoga has been to be effective in improving the symptoms of IBS. It is known to be a mind and body therapy that not only reduces stress and psychological distress but also promotes total relaxation. Breathing exercises like Sudarshan Kriya helps harmonize the body, mind, and emotions and helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress-related ailments. Whereas a Yoga module designed to cover the whole body with a particular focus on the abdominal region can boost the blood circulation, and strengthen the abdominal muscles helping alleviate the symptoms of IBS by like abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas. However, the effectiveness of Yoga in a clinical study is still inconclusive and more research on the underlying mechanisms is warranted.

References


1.  Vijaya Kavuri, 1, 2 Nagarathna Raghuram, 2 Ariel Malamud, 3 and Senthamil R. Selvan.  Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Yoga as Remedial Therapy.

2.  Yoga for Teens With Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Results From a Mixed-Methods Pilot Study.

3.     Schumann D1, Langhorst J1, Dobos G1, Cramer.H. Randomised clinical trial: yoga vs a low-FODMAP diet in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

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