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Harnessing the Mind to Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Date:2/16/2008

Cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis may help ease symptoms, research shows

FRIDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- When drugs and dietary changes don't provide relief from the pain, bloating and other unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, patients may want to try a different approach.

Recent studies show that using one's own thoughts in a process called cognitive behavioral therapy may help ease symptoms. Likewise, using hypnosis to visualize the pain and imagine it seeping away can be a powerful treatment strategy, too.

"Research indicates that the probability of achieving benefits is excellent with either approach, even for patients who haven't improved from standard medical care," said Olafur S. Palsson, a clinical psychologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders.

As many as 45 million Americans may have irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders reports. Sixty percent to 65 percent of IBS sufferers are women.

In addition to pain and discomfort, people with IBS experience chronic or recurrent constipation or diarrhea -- or bouts of both. While the exact cause of the condition isn't known, symptoms seem to result from a disturbance in the interaction of the gut, brain and nervous system, according to the foundation.

Doctors generally advise patients to avoid certain foods that may exacerbate symptoms. Several different medications may be recommended for relieving abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation. But these approaches don't always provide adequate relief.

"For some people, medications and dietary changes are the perfect match, but most of our patients -- the great, great majority of patients -- have not responded to medications and dietary changes," said Jeffrey M. Lackner, assista
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