Training in meditation and other mindfulness techniques brings lasting improvements in mental health and quality of life for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, according to researchers.
Anxiety, depression, and decreased quality of life are common in patients with IBD, noted the study authors in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.
“Our study provides support for the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of a tailored mindfulness-based group intervention for patients with IBD”
They evaluated a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programme tailored for patients with IBD – defined as either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
The study included 60 adults with IBD for 11 years on average, of which 24 had active disease at the time of the study. Half of the patients agreed to receive an intervention and the remainder did not, said the researchers.
The MBSR intervention consisted of eight weekly group sessions plus a daylong intensive session, led by an experienced instructor. It included guided meditations, exercises designed to enhance mindfulness in daily life, and group discussions of challenges and experiences.
Participants were also encouraged to perform daily “mindfulness meditation” at home.
Ratings of mental health, quality of life, and mindfulness were compared to those of the patients who chose not to participate in the intervention.
The researchers said MBSR participants had greater reductions in anxiety and depression scores, as well as improvement in physical and psychological quality of life.
They also had higher scores on a questionnaire measuring various aspects of mindfulness – for example, awareness of inner and outer experiences.
Six months later, MBSR participants still had significant reduction in depression and improvement in quality of life, with a trend toward reduced anxiety, said the study authors, adding that the patients were highly satisfied with the mindfulness intervention.
The new results show that the MBSR approach is feasible and well-accepted by patients with IBD, said the researchers.
They suggested that training patients in mindfulness practices to follow in daily life could lead to significant and lasting benefits, including reduced psychological distress and improved quality of life.
However, the researchers acknowledged that their findings were limited by the fact that the study did not assess the impact on measures of disease activity, including IBD flares.
Senior author Dr David Castle, a psychiatrist at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, said: “Our study provides support for the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of a tailored mindfulness-based group intervention for patients with IBD.
“More research is needed to demonstrate the clinical benefits of mindfulness techniques–including whether they can help to reduce IBD symptoms and relapses,” he said.