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If you suffer from IBS, this approach can help treat symptoms

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Psychotherapies for IBS

People suffering from IBS or irritable bowel syndrome often have difficulty controlling symptoms. Now researchers have found therapies that do not include taking medication can have a long-lasting effect. An added perk is that the treatments can save patients money.


What scientists found is that psychotherapies can help reduce symptoms of IBS. The disorder affects seven to 16 percent of the U.S population. The effect of psychological interventions can last six to twelve months, which was previously unknown.

IBS symptoms respond to psychotherapy

According to an analysis published online in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology the short-term benefit of psychological intervention for IBS was previously known.

Authors from Vanderbilt University looked at a variety of interventions that connect mind to body including relaxation, hypnosis and cognitive therapy.

The study is the first to show the effects of psychotherapy for quelling symptoms of IBS can last for months after therapy has ended.

Senior author Lynn S. Walker, professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said in a media release, "We found that the moderate benefit that psychological therapies confer in the short term continue over the long term."

Walker added IBS is a chronic condition and there is no good medical treatment. The finding that is the result of an analysis of 41 clinical trials from different countries included more than 2,200 patients.

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Kelsey Laird, a doctoral student in Vanderbilt's clinical psychology program who is the study's lead author says psychological therapy can break the vicious cycle of stress and anxiety associated with the bowel disorder that in turn leads to worsening symptoms of IBS,

Online therapy can lower IBS treatment cost

The researchers also noted hypnosis,cognitive therapy or relaxation treatments can be conducted online or in person with the same results, which can mean significant cost savings for patients..They also discovered the same outcomes no matter how many sessions were conducted. All of the psychotherapies were equally effective.

Irritable bowel syndrome can cause symptoms of cramping and bloating requires long-term management. No one knows what causes IBS. Dietary management of symptoms is also important, but foods that trigger symptoms can vary between patients.

Recent research suggests symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be worse for men, compared to women.

Unlike Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, the condition does not lead to changes in the bowel tissue. Weight, loss, bleeding from the rectum and worsening pain are all indications that you should see a physician.

Laird says his next study will investigate the effect of psychological therapies on patient's ability to go to school, attend social functions, go to work and "so on". Have you tried any of the mentioned therapies for treating IBS? If so, share your experience for others.

Mayo Clinic