Ulcerative colitis patients who practiced hatha yoga for 12 weeks experienced reductions in disease activity and saw significant improvements in their quality of life and mental health, according to a presentation at the recent Digestive Disease Week conference held in San Diego.
The presentation was based on results from a single randomized and controlled clinical trial, where researchers investigated how three months of hatha yoga (a practice of physical yoga postures) impacted disease activity and quality of life for people with ulcerative colitis. The 90-minute yoga sessions were performed once a week. The outcomes were compared to a control arm of patients, who were given written self-care lifestyle advice for people with ulcerative colitis in clinical remission but with impaired quality of life. Outcomes were assessed at weeks 12 and 24 by blinded evaluators.
A significant portion of total participants (20% to 61%) “report the use of complementary and alternative medicine due to their IBD [inflammatory bowel disease], one of which is yoga,” Jost Langhorst, MD, from the department of integrative gastroenterology at University Duisburg-Essen in Germany, said in his presentation, according to a news release. Other alternative approaches include familiar physical postures, breathing exercises, deep relaxation and meditation, with the purpose of achieving “a comprehensive lifestyle and stress reduction interaction.”
The primary outcome of the study was disease-specific quality of life; secondary outcomes included generic quality of life, perceived stress, anxiety and depression, positive and negative affects, disease activity, self-efficacy, fecal inflammation markers and laboratory parameters.
Of the 77 patients enrolled (75% women, mean age of 45 years), 39 were randomly assigned to practice yoga and 38 to the control group. The yoga group showed significant improvements, specifically: improved disease-specific quality of life; physical quality of life, anxiety, depression, and self-efficacy at 12 weeks when compared to controls. These beneficial changes were maintained through 24 weeks. Additionally, yoga patients showed significant improvements in disease activity, mental quality of life, positive affect, perceived stress and self-efficacy when compared to the control group at 24 weeks.
“A 12-week yoga intervention for patients with ulcerative colitis improved quality of life and mental health, and influenced the colitis activity score. The effects persisted for at least 3 months after the end of the intervention, so yoga has potential as a complementary intervention for patients with ulcerative colitis,” Dr. Langhorst concluded.
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