Harvard study reveals how a relaxation and mindfulness intervention improves Gastrointestinal Disorders



A pilot study demonstrates that a relaxation mind body program can improve quality of life for people suffering from IBS or inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease). Within 9 weeks participants reported less pain, less anxiety and less symptoms associated with these conditions. A very interesting aspect of the study was the analysis of gene expressions in relation to the biological pathways that are involved in IBS/IBD. The result show how the body responses in a way that improves the overall condition.

“The program was multidimensional and included daily elicitation of the RR using a variety of methods (including breath focus, single-pointed focus, imagery, contemplation, yoga, and mindful awareness); cognitive reappraisal skills, health enhancing behaviors, and the promotion of optimism and acceptance. Sessions 1–4 focused on developing an understanding of stress physiology and the physiology of the RR, its relationship to the digestive system, and developing a regular practice of eliciting the RR. Sessions 5–9 included information on lifestyle behaviors and the development of cognitive skills to cope with stress. Throughout the course of treatment, participants were asked to elicit the RR at home each day for 15–20 minutes.” (Kuro et al , 2015)

Abstract Study below (you can download the paper for free see link at bottom of post)


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can profoundly affect quality of life and are influenced by stress and resiliency. The impact of mind-body interventions (MBIs) on IBS and IBD patients has not previously been examined.


Nineteen IBS and 29 IBD patients were enrolled in a 9-week relaxation response based mind-body group intervention (RR-MBI), focusing on elicitation of the RR and cognitive skill building. Symptom questionnaires and inflammatory markers were assessed pre- and post-intervention, and at short-term follow-up. Peripheral blood transcriptome analysis was performed to identify genomic correlates of the RR-MBI.


Pain Catastrophizing Scale scores improved significantly post-intervention for IBD and at short-term follow-up for IBS and IBD. Trait Anxiety scores, IBS Quality of Life, IBS Symptom Severity Index, and IBD Questionnaire scores improved significantly post-intervention and at short-term follow-up for IBS and IBD, respectively. RR-MBI altered expression of more genes in IBD (1059 genes) than in IBS (119 genes). In IBD, reduced expression of RR-MBI response genes was most significantly linked to inflammatory response, cell growth, proliferation, and oxidative stress-related pathways. In IBS, cell cycle regulation and DNA damage related gene sets were significantly upregulated after RR-MBI. Interactive network analysis of RR-affected pathways identified TNF, AKT and NF-κB as top focus molecules in IBS, while in IBD kinases (e.g. MAPK, P38 MAPK), inflammation (e.g. VEGF-C, NF-κB) and cell cycle and proliferation (e.g. UBC, APP) related genes emerged as top focus molecules.


In this uncontrolled pilot study, participation in an RR-MBI was associated with improvements in disease-specific measures, trait anxiety, and pain catastrophizing in IBS and IBD patients. Moreover, observed gene expression changes suggest that NF-κB is a target focus molecule in both IBS and IBD—and that its regulation may contribute to counteracting the harmful effects of stress in both diseases. Larger, controlled studies are needed to confirm this preliminary finding.

Link here


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