Mind Body Program

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The mind-body approach to IBD offered by the Benson-Henry Institute at the BWH Crohn’s and Colitis Center is a comprehensive program that maximizes the body’s innate potential to heal itself. IBD can profoundly affect quality of life and is influenced by stress and resiliency.

The mind-body program we use reduces the negative impact of stress through a variety of evidence-based techniques to create awareness of personal responses to stress and learn adaptive skills. Our treatment philosophy integrates care to include medications, surgical procedures, and these self-care strategies.

We believe we have developed a program that truly changes lives.

What will I learn?

  • Develop skills in a variety of techniques that elicit the relaxation response
  • Understand the link between stress and its impact on your physical and emotional health
  • “Turn off” your own stress response through new behaviors and attitudes
  • Appreciate the role of positive thoughts and beliefs in mind-body healing
  • Reduce symptoms

What are the benefits?

People with a variety of stress-related conditions have participated in Benson-Henry program.  When people complete the program and practice the skills, they report reduced frequency of GI symptoms, including abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation, reduced fatigue, and improved sleep.

Additional benefits include improved interpersonal relationships, stress management skills, and spiritual well-being

What is the relaxation response?

The relaxation response is an innate physiological state that is the opposite of stress, or the “fight-or-flight” response. Many studies have shown that if you elicit the relaxation response on a regular basis, you can counteract the harmful effects of an activated stress response which underlies a wide range of disorders, from hypertension to insomnia and diabetes to aging itself.

There are many ways to elicit the relaxation response, including meditation, yoga, tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, and breathing exercises.

The shared element is focusing on a word, sound, phrase, repetitive prayer or movement and breaking the train of everyday thought.

Today, the scientific community is increasingly interested in the physiologic underpinnings of the relaxation response and in understanding the body as a series of complex interactions among thoughts, the body, and the outside world. Our experience of, and response to, stress is an essential aspect of these interactions. We now know that using mind-body techniques is often the most effective and safest way to reduce stress, promote health and prevent stress-related illness. The field of mind-body medicine is based on the recognition that beliefs, thoughts, and feelings can have a profound effect on the body, and vice versa.

Healers throughout millennia have recognized the importance of the interaction between mind and body.

Is there any evidence to support Mind/Body programs?

A growing number of studies have shown mind-body approaches to be effective in reducing symptoms. Here are a few of them:

  • A randomized controlled study of women with IBD who participated in a mindfulness-based mind–body program showed improvements in symptom severity and health-related quality of life, as well as reduced distress. The benefits lasted for at least three months after the mind–body program was over.
  • A study of ulcerative colitis patients found that hypnosis—which elicits the relaxation response that’s the goal of many mind–body techniques—reduced inflammation.
  • A study of IBD and IBS patients who participated in a mind–body program found the program improved quality of life and reduced pain and anxiety. Effects were seen on a genetic level: genes associated with inflammation and stress-related pathways were less active in the mind–body patients.

What other disease does this benefit?

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Anxiety-related Symptoms (such as palpitations, shortness of breath)
  • Headaches
  • Skin problems
  • Pain
  • Sleep disorders
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Mild/moderate depression
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Fatigue
  • Asthma-related symptoms
  • Allergy-related symptoms
  • Any disorder complicated by stress