Yoga’s stress reduction helps alleviate IBS
12/17/08 01:46 PM
Loc: Seattle, WA
Yoga's stress reduction helps alleviate IBS
By SARAH AVERY
The ancient practice of yoga is increasingly finding a new following — among doctors and medical researchers who are working to prove its benefits for a variety of illnesses.
Researchers at University of North Carolina Hospitals are studying yoga's benefits for people with irritable bowel syndrome. Doctors at Duke University in Durham, N.C., recently completed a study showing that yoga provided significant help for postmenopausal women with early breast cancer.
And in eastern North Carolina, an oncologist sees improvement in his patients who take yoga classes. He has written a book about the importance of mindfulness.
"There's been an explosion of data using yoga as a treatment option," said Shelley Wroth, an obstetrician at Duke Integrative Medicine and a yoga teacher. She said studies have found that yoga helps people suffering diseases such as hypertension, anxiety, arthritis, chronic back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, stress, depression, diabetes and epilepsy — among others.
"It shows so much promise," Wroth said.
A recent study at Duke involved breast cancer patients who were experiencing severe hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. Because of their illness, they were prohibited from taking hormone replacement therapy, so yoga was proposed as an alternative. The study found significant improvement among the women in the study who took yoga classes, compared to another group of women who did not.
"There's a lot of reactions to stress that exacerbate the menopausal symptoms," said Laura Porter, co-author of the Duke study. "Yoga — the physical poses and the more cognitive aspects of it — dampens the stress reactivity."
But even as the science establishes yoga's benefits, less is known about why it is helpful. Porter and others postulate that the practice reduces stress through stretching poses, practiced breathing and meditation. For people battling illness, stress reduction may pack extra potency.
"A lot of our diseases have some sort of origins in stress and the stress reaction," said William Frey, who is leading a yoga class at Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, N.C., as part of a UNC-Chapel Hill study among patients with irritable bowel syndrome. "By taking care of stress, you're starting to eliminate some of the diseases that are caused by it."
Frey said he began offering yoga eight years ago through his university's Integrative Medicine program.
"There was some concern we might be bringing spiritual elements into a very clinical setting," Frey said. "Getting the word out was difficult — so much else was going on that was scientifically based, this was pushed off. But as people have seen its staying power, and see the results and research, there's beginning to be more respectability."
Yoga's legitimacy has increased with interest by the National Institutes of Health, which now funds studies on yoga and its effect on diseases. But some skepticism remains — in the medical profession and among patients.
Gioia O'Connell, a 54-year-old breast cancer survivor from Apex, N.C., said she wasn't sure that yoga would help her. Her main hesitation was that yoga stemmed from Eastern roots, and she worried it was incompatible with her Christian faith. Still, she signed up this summer as part of the study at Duke.
"I have to tell you, it was energizing," O'Connell said. After being diagnosed with cancer in 1994 and undergoing a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and rounds of daily drugs, she felt wrung out. "It helped with stiffness, aches and pains. And the breathing really did help my energy level. That's what I deal with, being a cancer survivor, the fatigue."
Sources: PubMed; Duke University
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Heather is the Administrator of the IBS Message Boards. She is the author of Eating for IBS and The First Year: IBS, and the CEO of Heather's Tummy Care. Join her IBS Newsletter. Meet Heather on Facebook!
Edited by lctuscher (09/26/14 03:13 PM)