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Mindfulness-based stress reduction improves distress in two different chronic illnesses

Kristin A Zernicke, Linette Lawlor-Savage, Joshua Lounsberry, Lihong Zhong, Philip K Blustein, Tavis S Campbell, Linda E Carlson.


Background: Distress is well recognized as endemic in cancer populations: less is known about distress in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Purpose: This study compared distress between individuals with IBS (n=51) and those with cancer (n=147) participating in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Methods: Patients completed mood and symptoms of stress questionnaires pre- and post- MBSR intervention as well as at 6-month follow-up. Results: The IBS group demonstrated higher baseline total symptoms of stress and more muscle tension, sympathetic nervous system arousal, and neurological/GI symptoms. They also had higher baseline tension/anxiety scores on the mood measure. While both groups decreased significantly post-MBSR on total stress symptoms and mood disturbance scores, the IBS group showed a small increase in stress symptoms between post-program and 6-month follow-up. Conclusions: These findings highlight the high levels of distress associated with IBS, and support evidence that MBSR may be beneficial in reducing both IBS and cancer related distress.

Key words: Mindfulness Meditation, Cancer, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, MBSR

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