The effects of relaxation response meditation on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome: results of a controlled treatment study

Laurie Keefer, Edward B Blanchard
Behavior Research and Therapy

In this study, Herbert Benson’s (1975) Relaxation Response Meditation program was tested as a possible treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Participants were 16 adults who were matched into pairs based on presence of Axis I disorder, primary IBS symptoms and demographic features and randomized to either a six week meditation condition or a six week wait list symptom monitoring condition. Thirteen participants completed treatment and follow-up. All subjects assigned to the Wait List were subsequently treated. Patients in the treatment condition were taught the meditation technique and asked to practice it twice a day for 15 minutes. Composite Primary IBS Symptom Reduction (CPSR) scores were calculated for each patient from end of baseline to two weeks post-treatment (or to post wait list). One tailed independent sample t-tests revealed that Meditation was superior to the control (P=0.04). Significant within-subject improvements were noted for flatulence (P=0.03) and belching (P=0.02) by post-treatment. By three month follow-up, significant improvements in flatulence (P<0.01), belching (P=0.02), bloating (P=0.05), and diarrhea (P=0.03) were shown by symptom diary. Constipation approached significance (P=0.07). Benson’s Relaxation Response Meditation appears to be a viable treatment for IBS.

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