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Weekly yoga sessions may be associated with a better quality of life for patients with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can be exacerbated by stress, a small study suggests.

People with ulcerative colitis have inflammation in the lining of the large intestine that can lead to symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pain. When symptoms are severe, patients may have sudden loose or bloody stools so often that it impairs their ability to navigate normal daily activities like going to school or work.

Researchers studied 77 ulcerative colitis patients who reported a reduced quality of life due to the disease even though their symptoms were clinically in remission. They randomly assigned participants to receive either 12 weekly yoga sessions or written self-care advice and found the yoga group had greater improvements in quality of life.

“It seems to be safe and effective, so it is surely worth trying yoga as an add-on to other evidence-based interventions at least for maintenance of remission,” said lead study author Dr. Holger Cramer, a researcher at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

“It definitely should not be used as a replacement but rather as an ancillary intervention,” Cramer said by email. “That’s how it was used in our study.”

Previous research has linked higher perceived stress levels to more severe ulcerative colitis symptoms, and other studies have also tied yoga to reduced stress in both healthy and sick people, researchers note in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

While there isn’t a standard treatment regimen that’s the same for all patients with ulcerative colitis, they may take a variety of different drugs to curb inflammation and achieve symptom remission. In more severe cases, they may need surgery to remove the colon and rectum.

At the start of the current study, patients had been in remission for at least four weeks and no longer than one…



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