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4 Non-Diet Ways To Reduce Crohn's/Colitis Symptoms

Written by
Brittany Rogers, MS RDN
November 4, 2022

Here are 4 evidence-based activities that may help reduce symptoms in people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 

1. Gut-directed hypnotherapy

Gut-directed hypnotherapy is a form of medical hypnosis in which a person is guided into a relaxed, focused state of awareness about their gastrointestinal tract.

In this hypnotic state, people are asked to think about/visualize the improved health and function of their bodies which can lead to a therapeutic effect.

Gut-directed hypnotherapy has been shown in research studies to prolong periods of remission in patients with inflammatory bowel disease and decrease the likelihood of flares1,2.

Another study showed that a single 50-minute hypnosis session may decrease markers of inflammation in ulcerative colitis patients3.

2. Pelvic floor physical therapy

The pelvic floor is a collection of muscles at the bottom of the pelvis that support your bladder, bowel, and sex organs.

Working with a pelvic floor physical therapist to strengthen and activate these muscles while in remission has been shown to improve symptoms in 68% of IBD patients who experience difficulty with bowel evacuation and 80% of IBD patients with fecal incontinence4.

3. Exercise

Exercise has been shown to decrease fatigue and improve quality of life in people with inflammatory bowel disease in remission.

In a recent study, 22 IBD patients in remission who completed a 12-week exercise program including 3x 1-hour workouts per week reported significant improvements in their level of fatigue and quality of life at the end of the study compared to the beginning5.

Another study of 306 IBD patients in New Zealand showed that higher levels of physical activity were associated with lower levels of fatigue in patients with active disease and in remission6

For more info on exercise and IBD, check out our post on everything you need to know about exercise and IBD

4. Mindfulness-based therapy

Mindfulness-based therapy has been shown in studies to reduce stress, depression, and improve quality of life in people with inflammatory bowel disease7.

Another study showed that a mindfulness-based therapy program administered over 6 months improved inflammatory markers in people with IBD8.

Mindfulness-based activities include walking meditations, body scans, breathing exercises, and yoga. 

References

  1. Keefer L, Taft TH, Kiebles JL, Martinovich Z, Barrett TA, Palsson OS. Gut-directed hypnotherapy significantly augments clinical remission in quiescent ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Oct;38(7):761-71. doi: 10.1111/apt.12449. Epub 2013 Aug 19. PMID: 23957526; PMCID: PMC4271841.
  2. Szigethy E. Hypnotherapy for Inflammatory Bowel Disease Across the Lifespan. Am J Clin Hypn. 2015 Jul;58(1):81-99. doi: 10.1080/00029157.2015.1040112. PMID: 26046718.
  3. Mawdsley JE, Jenkins DG, Macey MG, Langmead L, Rampton DS. The effect of hypnosis on systemic and rectal mucosal measures of inflammation in ulcerative colitis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Jun;103(6):1460-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2008.01845.x. Epub 2008 May 28. PMID: 18510607.
  4. Khera AJ, Chase JW, Salzberg M, Thompson AJV, Kamm MA. Systematic review: Pelvic floor muscle training for functional bowel symptoms in inflammatory bowel disease. JGH Open. 2019 Jun 24;3(6):494-507. doi: 10.1002/jgh3.12207. PMID: 31832550; PMCID: PMC6891014.
  5. van Erp LW, Roosenboom B, Komdeur P, Dijkstra-Heida W, Wisse J, Horjus Talabur Horje CS, Liem CS, van Cingel REH, Wahab PJ, Groenen MJM. Improvement of Fatigue and Quality of Life in Patients with Quiescent Inflammatory Bowel Disease Following a Personalized Exercise Program. Dig Dis Sci. 2021 Feb;66(2):597-604. doi: 10.1007/s10620-020-06222-5. Epub 2020 Apr 1. PMID: 32239380.
  6. Fagan G, Osborne H, Schultz M. Physical Activity in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Cross-Sectional Study. Inflamm Intest Dis. 2021 May;6(2):61-69. doi: 10.1159/000511212. Epub 2021 Feb 24. PMID: 34124177; PMCID: PMC8160568.
  7. Ewais T, Begun J, Kenny M, Rickett K, Hay K, Ajilchi B, Kisely S. A systematic review and meta-analysis of mindfulness based interventions and yoga in inflammatory bowel disease. J Psychosom Res. 2019 Jan;116:44-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2018.11.010. Epub 2018 Nov 14. PMID: 30654993.
  8. González-Moret R, Cebolla A, Cortés X, Baños RM, Navarrete J, de la Rubia JE, Lisón JF, Soria JM. The effect of a mindfulness-based therapy on different biomarkers among patients with inflammatory bowel disease: a randomised controlled trial. Sci Rep. 2020 Apr 8;10(1):6071. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-63168-4. PMID: 32269278; PMCID: PMC7142151.
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