Week 1: Understanding irritable bowel syndrome

Week 4: Healthy thinking, healthy self

Week 5: Balancing activity and reclaiming your life

Week 6: Maintaining your gains and staying well

Mindfulness for irritable bowel syndrome

Although it can sometimes feel relaxing, this is not the aim of mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about paying attention to the present moment, without judgement. This can help to reduce anxiety, making it less likely you will be worried by past hurts or future fears. Given that the topic this week is stress management, mindfulness deserves a place. Bringing mindfulness practice into your daily routine is another strategy to help you manage the challenges of daily life without feeling overwhelmed. 

Mindfulness allows you to be present and engage fully in what you’re doing. This often involves being able to sit with and tolerate your emotional and physical discomfort. When we allow discomfort to come and go naturally, it tends to lessen in intensity. Struggling with discomfort, on the other hand, tends to make it worse. Mindfulness practice allows you to pay attention to your reality without getting caught up in unhelpful thoughts about it. It also helps you learn that you can experience feelings without having to react to them. 

Mindfulness has been linked to symptom reduction in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Specifically, it has been found to decrease the intensity and severity of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and reduce the impact they have on daily functioning. It has also been linked with fewer psychological symptoms (including anxiety) and better overall quality of life. As you’ll see below, adding mindfulness practice into your daily routine can be relatively simple, but it has the potential to create powerful change.

Here are a few examples of how mindfulness may help with irritable bowel syndrome:

  • Mindfulness helps you manage stress and anxiety, which play a role in maintaining your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
  • Mindfulness can reduce tension and help you better manage irritable bowel syndrome-related pain.
  • Mindfulness can help you let go of unhelpful or worrisome thoughts that worsen your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
  • Mindfulness makes you less emotionally reactive and better able to tolerate your physical symptoms. 
  • Mindfulness can cause physical changes in the brain and body that alter inflammation and the stress response. This can have an indirect effect on your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.