Irritable bowel syndrome

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Last updated: March 31, 2019

Irritable bowel syndrome, abbreviated IBS, is manifested by intestinal muscles contracting at a slower or faster rate than normal. The disorder also goes by the terms nervous or spastic colon. The large intestine’s peristaltic movements transmit messages to the brain, creating an urge for bowel movement.  This translates to constipation, sudden diarrhea, gassiness, cramping and pain.

IBS does not lead to damage of internal organs, but it definitely causes telling suffering, discomfort and anxiety. Of all the gastro-intestinal disorders known today, IBS is the commonest, affecting about thirty percent of the global population. Research reports have unearthed the fact that women undergo greater IBS suffering during their menstrual cycles, suggesting a correlation between reproductive hormones and IBS (ABC of Yoga, 2009). With respect to aliments, triggers of the disorder include alcohol, carbonated drinks, caffeine, chocolate, milk products and fatty foods; the underlying cause is unknown. Medicine and strict diet changes offer a bit of relief, but do not effectively address the other major trigger, stress (Health & Yoga Infoplace, 2007). This is where yoga, a spiritual practice form ancient India comes in.

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The aim of yoga is to connect mind and body, creating a condition of harmony and balance.Yoga TreatmentAccording to S. A. Nezezon, M.

D., a staff physician and yoga teacher at the Himalaya International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, Honesdale, Pennsylvania, stress often leads to bowel flare-ups in people suffering from IBS disorder. His suggestion in combating stress is a daily regimen of breathing exercise, poses and meditation, the pillars of yoga. It is arguably the most helpful reliever, given its capacity to alleviate anxiety, stress and the pain associated with chronic illness. A study of twenty male individuals suffering from IBS revealed a significant breakthrough in IBS treatment.

It compared the use of yoga with the administration of loperamide, a drug used in connection with diarrhea. Even though both treatment paths resulted in reduced symptoms, the group that took up yoga exhibited greater improvement in terms of lower avoidance behavior and less anxiety. In addition to these findings, the effect of yoga on the nervous system efficiently addresses the brain-gut link and at its slow pace removes eliminates risks associated with runners’ diarrhea. Moreover, yoga has the capacity to reduce the propensity of gaining weight, a welcome reality to people whose high food sensitivities prevent them from following certain diets (Bolen, 2008).

Poses that are easy to assume include sukhasana, the easy pose, which facilitates spine straightening, ultimately slowing down body metabolism, keeping the mind still and fostering inner tranquility. Bidalasana, the cat pose, teaches people to initiate movement from the body’s center as well as coordination of breath and movement. The dog pose improves spine flexibility, stretching the hips as well as the lower and middle back. The net effect is body rejuvenation and a higher resistance to back problems. Pavanamuktasana, the wind-reliving pose facilitates the removal of excess gas from the stomach, relieving the burden on the digestive system.

Alice Christensen, the founder and director of the AYA (American Yoga Association), insists on breathing exercises whenever stress attacks are in the offing. The type of breathing associated with yoga is deep, making use of the diaphragm. Yoga fosters a habit slow, deep breathing with the effect of serenity and calmness. During bouts of stress, the diaphragm freezes, causing shallow breathing. This takes place involuntarily and contributes to the manifestation of IBS symptoms.

As per yogic science, the diaphragm doubles up as the heart’s seat of intelligence and the soul’s window.Yoga develops the diaphragm’s elasticity, allowing one to handle stress better, be it physical, emotional or intellectual. This is an aspect of control, vital in the management of irritable bowel syndrome. High levels of mental stress increase the possibility of having mental problems, which in turn leads to physical problems. Muscular stress comes in the form of the accumulation of lactic acid, causing stiffness. Allied to this, there is a build up of toxins in joints thus restricting movement. Yogic movements importantly stretch muscles and expand joints to improve circulation and drain toxins away.

This is another form of stress relief. Studies have shown that stress and pressure bring on symptoms of IBS. There is no clear proof that stress directly causes IBS, but it definitely makes the situation worse (, 2008). Meditation also proves very useful in this respect as it assists in clearing the mind, teaching one relaxation at will.

She also proposes a variation of yoga poses as a way of maintaining interest in the treatment, in addition to strengthening various body parts. Dr Nezezon advocates for not less than one relaxation pose in a person’s day to day routine.The asana (yogic posture) known as jathara parivartanasana embodies the wholesome effects of yoga in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

‘Jathara’ means stomach, and ‘parivartanasana’ translates to turning around, or rolling about. Asanas used either twist, stretch or compress a person’s abdominal area, bringing awareness to that part, focusing and defocusing to give deep rest to the intra-abdominal organs. This captures the element of control mentioned elsewhere in this discussion. Persons suffering from IBS need to avoid a good number of the loosening practices characteristic of standing positions. The emphasis should be on inverted postures.

The asana mentioned has the effect of reducing excess body fat, at the same time toning and eradicating sluggishness of the pancreas, spleen, and liver. Jathara parivartanasana strengthens the intestines and cures gastritis. Regular practice of this asana keeps abdominal organs trim and relives catches and sprains around the hip and the lower back. The fact on display here is that exercise is vital for sufferers of IBS syndrome as it increases body strength, boosts one’s immune system and reduces the likelihood of other disorders and diseases occurring (Health & Yoga Infoplace, (2007).ConclusionIn the long run, yoga improves not only physical fitness, but also mental fitness, promotes relaxation and gives people a control over their health and well being. In addition to the benefits and effects discussed, yoga also improves sleep patterns, stabilizes digestion and offers great relief from the pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation associated with irritable bowel syndrome (, 2008). This treatment option reduces and in some cases prevents the occurrence of menstrual cramps, nullifying the link between reproductive hormones and spastic colon disorder.

As is the case with commonly employed stress relief and management techniques, the more one practices yoga, the greater the improvement made (Vorous, 2009). In conjunction with better diet and improved lifestyle conditions, IBS treatment becomes cheaper, more effective and has absolutely no side effects, an aspect of conventional medication. Moreover, yoga is enjoyable and can people can indulge in it in the comfort of their own homes.

References:ABC-of-Yoga, (2009), Yoga for Heartburn and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Accessed on             16th Feb. 2009 from        heartburn-and-ibs.aspBolen, B., B., (2008), Yoga for IBS, Accessed on 16th Feb.

, 2009 from    & Yoga Infoplace, (2007), Yoga for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Accessed on 16th             Feb.

2009, from, H. V.

, (2009), Yoga for digestive Health and IBS, Accessed on 16th Feb. 2009, from, (2008), Fitness Articles: Yoga and Stress, Accessed on 16th Feb. 2009           from


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