Irritable bowel syndrome is the most frequent gastrointestinal disorder. Lifestyle may help cure this disorder and a team of researchers wondered what effect yoga practice might have compared to a low-fodmaps diet. Fodmaps are sugars, in particular oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and fermentable polyols, which, in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, are not digested and absorbed in the small intestine and, once passed into the colon, are fermented by bacteria present in this part of the intestine. We talk about this issue with Dr. Federica Furfaro, gastroenterologist at Humanitas.
The study and the positive results
Fifty-nine patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome were divided into two groups and monitored in two different 12-week programs: some patients were involved in a two week yoga program, while others were given a low Fodmaps diet after nutritional counseling. By assessing changes in quality of life, health, perceived stress, body awareness, body responsiveness and safety of interventions, it was found that patients with irritable bowel syndrome could benefit from both yoga and a low-fodmaps diet, as both groups showed a reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms. Further research is certainly needed into the mechanisms behind both interventions, as well as into the potential benefits that such patients could have from their combined use.
The word of the specialist
“I think this research is interesting – commented Dr. Furfaro. About 60% of patients with irritable colon syndrome report that some foods increase their symptoms, but in fact, eliminating these foods from the diet (especially those high in FODMAPs) often only partially solves their problems. Considering that according to some theories irritable colon syndrome is also partly caused by visceral hypersensitivity and psychosocial factors and considering that yoga seems to reduce stress induced by reduced activity of the parasympathetic system, yoga could improve the symptomatology of these patients. In fact, it has already been shown that yoga can reduce psychophysical stress, but in other types of subjects.
“In this study – continued the specialist – the authors compared the low-FODMAPs diet and yoga practice, evaluating, through standardized tests, the effect that these two interventions have on irritable colon syndrome. They showed that, for patients, there are no significant differences in quality of life, health, stress perception, body awareness, and there are no differences in diet safety profile versus yoga. With both interventions, in particular, patients showed an improvement of these parameters within the tests. It is likely that a combination of the two practices could further improve the quality of life of these patients, and moreover remembering one type of intervention, for example diet, is not always decisive for their symptoms”.