I’m a new fan of meditation. In January, I began setting aside 5 minutes a day to breathe deeply and clear my mind, and I have to admit that it’s worked wonders for my stress levels. I’ve also noticed a significant decrease in the (stress-related) aches and pains I’d been dealing with for a long time, and my sleep has also improved. I am hoping to work up to 10 minutes, gradually—It amazes me to think that even 5 minutes seemed impossible just six months ago.

Another great thing about meditation: It doesn’t cost anything and can be practiced virtually anywhere. It’s already saved my ass/sanity more times than a cup of coffee or— who are we kidding—a glass of wine would have.

A recent study shows that mindful meditation may also be helpful in treating Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS). IBS  is a common chronic illness thought to stem from a genetic predisposition and can be triggered by stress, a gastrointestinal infection, or GI surgery. Symptoms, which can be mild to severe, include abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea and constipation. IBS should not be confused with Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, which is a more serious condition.

75 women between 19 and 71 years old (average age ~ 43 years) were randomly divided into two groups. One group participated in a mindfulness meditation training session and the other in a traditional support group, both for eight weeks. Participants rated the treatments’ potential benefit/”credibility” about equally.

At the end of the eight weeks, the meditation group had a 26.4 percent reduction in “overall severity of symptoms” compared to a 6.2 percent reduction in the support group. By the end of three months, the disparity persisted as improvement increased to a 38.2 percent reduction in symptoms for the meditation group vs. a 11.8 percent reduction for the therapy group, the study found.

You can read more about this study here.

It’s a small study, but the results are pretty striking. As a culture, we spend so much time and money on medications and invasive procedures without always considering alternative or complementary treatment options. Seriously, if we were taught to meditate each day from an early age, the world would be a very different place with, perhaps, very different health issues. Just some food for thought.

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