Irritable Bowel Syndrome Breathing Exercises
Symptom Relief for IBS through Breathing and Meditation
Relief Report 029: Can Meditation and Breathing Exercises Help Your IBS?To get clear on your Triggers, download our checklist here https://stephanieclairmont.com/triggerchecklist
Posted by Stephanie Clairmont, RD on Wednesday, February 14, 2018
In today’s world, it seems that stress is running high. People’s busy lifestyles and schedules don’t allow them to have time to relax and take time for themselves. But in order to keep up, this means that “me-time” is more necessary than ever! Meditation is a great way to take some of that much needed downtime and really connect with yourself. Did you know that meditation can also help calm your digestion and IBS symptoms? Today I invite you to dive deeper into meditation with me as I explain what meditation is, how it is helpful for IBS symptoms and how to incorporate it into your own life!
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Breathing Exercises: What is Meditation?
Meditation seems to be a growing trend these days, but the term is sometimes used loosely and can get lost in all the hype. Lots of people are talking about it, but do you really know what it’s all about? Meditation is a great way to take the time to reconnect to yourself and really let go of all of life’s daily struggles. It is important to recognize the things that you are going through, acknowledge them, and let them go. Meditation does just this — it forces you to sit with your problems and work through them in order to be more at peace. During meditation, your focus is inwards – on yourself and your breath.
The overall goal of meditation is to get your mind to another state of consciousness that is different from the normal everyday waking-state. This “state” seems daunting, but it isn’t hard to get to with a little practice. While meditation is associated with certain religions and spiritualities, it’s not just a religious practice. Meditation can be practiced by anyone and everyone, anywhere you want!
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Breathing Exercises: How Can Meditation Help?
Stress, a trigger of IBS symptoms for many people, is something that everyone experiences in different magnitudes. Stress is a key trigger that impacts gut health and IBS. Stress seems to worsen IBS, and IBS seems to make people stressed, so what do you do? As you may know, relaxing can help you manage your stress levels. Focusing on your breath through the practice of meditation can help to break the IBS-stress cycle by helping you focus on staying calm, relaxed, and connected with yourself.
So what is this IBS-stress relationship all about anyways? The “brain-gut connection” is how the brain and the digestive system communicate, and it is how stress can affect your IBS. In response to a stressor, which could be a change in job, relationship troubles, or sickness, there are complex interactions that can cause symptoms to show up or make existing symptoms worse. Meditation allows you to let go of worries about the past and the future which decreases overall stress. Also, it increases your self- and body-awareness which helps you to figure out what you need to be your healthiest self. This awareness can help to identify your triggers, which in turn will greatly decrease your IBS symptoms. If practiced regularly, this skill could be helpful in improving calmness in your everyday life, which can reduce your stress response to situations that previously caused physical or emotional distress.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Breathing Exercises: What Does the Research Say?
A study published in the Public Library of Science has some very interesting findings when it comes to meditation, mindfulness and IBS. This study looked at patients with IBS and IBD, and introduced something called a relaxation response-based mind-body intervention. Woah, woah, woah, that was a lot of words! Let me break it down for you. This intervention is basically an approach that uses different methods of relaxation such as meditation, breathing awareness, guided imagery, and yoga. These techniques are used to calm down the nervous system and help with reducing stress. In this study, patients with IBS or IBD were shown to have decreased anxiety, decreased pain related to their symptoms, decreased severity of symptoms, and an increased quality of life! Even more interestingly, the mind-body intervention appeared to be related to changes in a specific gene related to stress-regulation. This might suggest that doing things such as regular meditation could help to improve symptoms of IBS and IBD, and even influence how our bodies are genetically programmed to respond to stress. How cool is that!
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Breathing Exercises: Techniques for IBS Symptom Management
The idea of practicing meditation can lead people to being lost and not knowing where to begin. There are so many things that you can do and ways that you can practice meditation. I’d love to spark your interest in meditation and help you figure out what methods speak to you and work for you. I’ve outlined a few techniques that are easy to do, but could also be very beneficial to kick start your meditation practice.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Breathing Exercise
Breathing is a great way to calm yourself and your digestive system down. You can do breathing exercises at anytime and anywhere. If you start to feel stressed, take five minutes to connect with your breath. Here is a short exercise to get you started with breathing meditation:
- Place your hand just above your belly button, allowing you to feel and be aware of abdominal breathing.
- Close your eyes and become aware of your natural breathing.
- Take a long, deep breath in, breathing into the belly and not the chest (you should feel your hand rise as you do this).
- Exhale and then begin this sequence: Breathe out slowly, counting to 7 through the mouth, contracting the belly, then breathe in a small breath to the count of 4 through the nose, raising only the belly (not the chest), then pause to the count of 4 and then breathe out counting again to 7 through the mouth slowly, while contracting the belly.
- Repeat this for 3-4 belly breaths.
That’s it! That’s all you need to do. The counting allows you to really slow down your breath and let go of any thoughts you may have floating around in your mind. There is no single right way to do this, so do whatever you feel is right for you and however often you need it. Taking just a few minutes to do a breathing exercise during a stressful event could drastically improve your day!
Visualization is exactly what it sounds like. It is done by visualizing yourself in a place, situation, or state of feeling and focusing on it. The most common method is to imagine yourself in a peaceful, relaxing place, away from your stressors. Picturing yourself in a situation may actually trick your body into think that you are in a similar situation, and it can also help to reduce your stress by bringing you back to a place of calmness. This calmness can help control stress, and manage IBS symptoms.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This method of meditation or mindfulness takes a little bit more time and skill to do, but can be very helpful in managing your symptoms. It involves tensing and relaxing your muscle in a sequence that goes from the your head all the way down to your toes. You can actually use this method in combination with breathing techniques to get into a really deep relaxation that may have even more benefits on your mind and digestive system. Here is a brief outline of what this practice would look like:
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and relax, letting go of any thoughts of your to-do list or what is going on in your day.
- Tense up and squeeze the muscles in your forehead for about 3 seconds and relax them.
- Next, close your eyelids and squeeze them shut for a count of 3, and relax.
- Repeat this sequence of tensing and relaxing for all the muscles in the body next moving to the nose, jaw, face, neck, shoulders, different parts of the arms, hands, chest, back, abdomen, buttocks, upper legs, lower legs, feet and finally your toes.
- Feel the impact of how relaxed your body is and focus on your breath for as long as you wish.
Mindfulness meditation is one of the types of meditation that can be a little more loosely interpreted since it doesn’t have a guided structure to it. This type of meditation is also referred to as mindfulness-based stress reduction. You can practice this in any comfortable seated position, with your eyes closed, breathing at a normal steady pace. With this type of meditation, you acknowledge what’s going on in your present life, pay attention to all of the feelings you have based on that situation, and assess your thoughts on the subject, all without judgement. As your thoughts begin to wander, bring your attention back to your breath and try not to become frustrated. It’s almost as if you’re training your brain to not act with judgment when things happen to you that are out of your control. It allows you to become aware of yourself and this can greatly help you deal with IBS symptoms and reduce the stress that triggers them.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Breathing Exercises: How to Get Started
Incorporating meditation into your daily routine can be as easy as focusing on your thoughts and breathing for just 5 minutes a day. Or you can decide to make it a longer meditation experience, whatever fits into your schedule!
You can practice meditation in many different ways. Take a few minute in the morning to practice breathing techniques, or when you feel yourself becoming stressed, try visualizing yourself in the ideal situation and relax. You could also test out progressive muscle relaxation after a yoga practice, or before you go to bed, and really get your body feeling fully relaxed. Or, simply practice mindfulness meditation and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings without judgement on a day-to-day basis.
All of these techniques contribute to reducing your stress and helping you to live your best life with fewer symptoms. Stress is one of the many triggers that leads to IBS symptoms, but by connecting to your mind and body, you can become more aware of these triggers. To help you figure out what your other triggers may be and how to manage them, join me in the CLAIRITY Program.
Wishing you much love & wellness,