IF you have IBS, you might feel it in your belly – but its route causes might be in your mind.
That’s the conclusion of a new study which has found that irritable bowel disease can be better treated with mental therapies than drugs.
Getty – Contributor IBS treatment should start with the brain and not the gut
Scientists have found that cognitive behavioural therpay (CBT) can vastly improve symptoms.
CBT is a talking therapy that aims to teach people how to overcome certain behaviours and ways of thinking.
And sufferers don’t even have to chat face to face – phone and online chats work just as well.
Up to 20 per cent of people have the gut condition, which can cause belly pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
Normally, sufferers are given laxatives, medicines to control diarrhea and antispasmodic drugs.
Mind over matter
Although IBS is a physical condition of the bowl, a new trial by scientists at Southampton and King’s College London universities has suggested that it can be treated using psychological tactics.
Docs looked at 558 people who had either had a course of CBT or standard medication.
Those who had CBT had their sessions conducted over the phone or online, rather than in person.
Lead researcher Dr Hazel Everitt, from the University of Southampton, said: “The fact that both telephone and web-based CBT sessions were shown to be effective treatments is a really important and exciting discovery.
Help from afar
“Patients are able to undertake these treatments at a time convenient to them, without having to travel to clinics.”
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) currently recommends CBT for patients whose IBS symptoms have persisted for 12 months despite medications and lifestyle advice.
But mental health services are stretched as it is, so there’s a worry that IBS patients come pretty low down the pecking order for therapy.
The scientists say that the priority now should be to make CBT more available to people with IBS.
They’re currently training a group of NHS therapists to deal with IBS cases.
Scientists have been convinced for a while now that there’s a link between the gut and brain.
Harvard Uni says that a troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain and send signals to the gut.
When you think of eating something particularly delicious, your stomach starts to release acids in anticipation for digestion – even before you’ve put something in your mouth.
So it stands to reason that dealing with the mind aspect might have some impact on the gut.
Laura Day was one of the IBS patients who took part in the study and she said that it had changed her life.
“I’d had symptoms for as long as I can remember, but was diagnosed officially around the age of 13.
What is CBT?Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help change the way you think and deal with thoughts and behaviours.
It’s usually used to treat anxiety and depression but it cna be used for other issues too.
It helps you to break down overwhelming problems into smaller, more manageable ones.
A therapist can also help you to change negative thought patterns.
It’s not about the past, but is used to deal with current issues.
As well as IBS, it’s also been proven to be effective in treating chronic fatigue syndrome.
Treatment usually lasts for up to 20 sessions, lasting for up to an hour at a time.
During the sessions, you’ll work with your therapist to break down your problems into their separate parts, such as your thoughts, physical feelings and actions.
IBS is a common condition that affects the digestive system.
There’s no cure and we don’t really know what causes it, but as this trial proves, there are effective ways of keeping symptoms at bay.
Symptoms can include:
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“Now at 31 years old, I barely think about it because I’m symptom-free 98 per cent of the time.”
“I’ve spent my whole life avoiding certain foods, restaurants and situations thinking I was controlling my IBS when I was actually adding fuel to the flame.
“The CBT techniques I learned and the information I was given on this trial gave me real control in a healthy, manageable way.”
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