Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2011; 34: 363–373


Background  Stress perception and GI-specific anxiety play key roles in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a widely available stress reduction course, which has not been evaluated for IBS.

Aim  To determine whether participation in MBSR is associated with improvement in bowel symptoms, GI-specific anxiety, and IBS-Quality of Life.

Methods  This is a prospective study of 93 participants in MBSR. We applied measures of Rome III IBS status, bowel symptoms (IBS-Severity Scoring System, IBS-SSS), IBS-Quality of Life (IBS-QOL), GI-specific anxiety (Visceral Sensitivity Index, VSI), mindfulness (Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire-FFMQ), and functional status (SF-8) at baseline and 2 and 6 months after enrolment.

Results  At 2 months, participation in MBSR was associated with small nonsignificant changes in IBS-SSS, IBS-QOL and VSI: d = −0.25, d = 0.08, d = −0.16, respectively. At 6 months, there was no significant change in IBS-SSS (d = −0.36); whereas for IBS-QOL and VSI there were significant improvements (IBS-QOL: d = 0.33, = 0.044; VSI: d = −0.40, = 0.014). For patients meeting Rome III IBS criteria (= 43), changes in IBS-SSS, IBS-QOL and VSI were not statistically significant, but there was a significant correlation between the change in VSI and the change in FFMQ across the three time periods (r = 0.33).

Conclusions  Participation in MBSR is associated with improvement IBS-related quality of life and GI-specific anxiety. Randomised controlled trials are warranted to further assess the role of MBSR for IBS symptomatology.