Online therapy shows promise for irritable bowel


A new study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology has found that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who were given cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) found their symptoms were still considerably better six months after the therapy ended.

The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but stress and anxiety are thought to exacerbate symptoms. CBT is a form of psychological counselling that addresses the unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviour that contribute to IBS. However, therapy is expensive and not widely available.

Swedish scientists led by Brjann Ljotsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, randomly assigned 195 adults with IBS to either online CBT or an online stress management program. After 10 weeks of treatment both groups reported adequate relief from IBS and discomfort. But after six months 65% of the CBT group reported that their symptoms were still under control, versus only 44% of the stress management group.

Treatment in both groups included reading self-help texts and exchanging messages with the online therapist. This meant that the patients did not have to schedule weekly visits to a therapist’s office. The patients were taught to gradually expose themselves to things they feared would cause symptoms, in the knowledge that more often than not it was the fear itself causing the symptoms, not the activity (such as exercise or a certain food). The patients were also taught mindfulness techniques to help with their emotional reactions to symptoms.

However there are different forms of CBT, and scientists now need to find out which works better for IBS. Also, different techniques work better for different people, and stress management and exercise may work better for some. Older patients may not be too happy with online therapy, not being familiar with new technology – all the patients in this study were self-referred, indicating a particular motivation for online therapy.

See also this research report on CBT and IBS from Foods Matter.

Source: American Journal of Gastroenterology


Click here for more research on the management IBS


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