A study recently published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases revealed that training in mindfulness-based techniques such as meditation can offer lasting improvements in the quality of life and mental health for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). The study is entitled “A Controlled Study of a Group Mindfulness Intervention for Individuals Living With Inflammatory Bowel Disease”.
IBD is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract that has been associated with a decreased quality of life, anxiety and depression. Such psychological distress may aggravate IBD symptoms and help trigger disease flare-ups.
In the study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness, acceptability and feasibility of a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention for IBD patients in comparison to conventional treatment. In total, 60 IBD patients (average age of 36 years) were enrolled in the study, from whom 33 underwent an eight-week mindfulness-based intervention and 27 the control, treatment-as-usual therapy. The mindfulness-based intervention consisted of weekly group sessions and a daylong intensive session led by an experienced instructor, and it offered guided meditations, group discussions and exercises designed to enhance mindfulness in daily life.
The primary outcomes of the trial were the patient’s quality of life, mindfulness and psychological distress (namely in terms of anxiety and depression). Patients were assessed at baseline, immediately after the intervention, and six months later.
Researchers found that compared to conventional treatment, patients in the mindfulness-based intervention group had significantly greater improvements regarding anxiety and depression scores, mindfulness, and quality of life after the intervention. These improvements were still observed six months after the intervention, and patients reported being highly satisfied with the mindfulness intervention.
“This work reinforces the interaction between physical and mental aspects of functioning, and underscores the importance of addressing both aspects in all our patients” noted the study’s senior author, Dr. David Castle, a psychiatrist at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, in a news release.
The research team concluded that a mindfulness intervention in patients with IBD is an effective, feasible and well-accepted practice that offers clinical, long-lasting benefits regarding the patient’s quality of life, mindfulness state and psychological distress.
“Our study provides support for the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of a tailored mindfulness-based group intervention for patients with IBD,” concluded the research team.
The team suggests that further studies should explore and demonstrate the benefits of mindfulness techniques in the IBD patient population, especially in terms of disease symptoms, relapses and flare-ups. “A larger adequately powered, randomized study with an active control arm is warranted to evaluate the effectiveness of a mindfulness group program for patients with IBD in a definitive manner,” it concludes.