People with digestive system disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) could benefit more from psychological therapy provided online or over the phone than standard treatments.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that is specially designed for people with digestive system disorders could relieve the symptoms more effectively than current medications, a study has found.
UK researchers show that a course of CBT over the phone or web-based sessions could hugely reduce the severity of IBS symptoms and improve patients’ lives.
IBS, a gastrointestinal disorder, affects 10 to 20 percent of people, impacting their quality of life, relationships and work.
Ongoing symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal pain can shatter patients’ mental health and lead them to anxiety and depression.
Psychological therapies, especially face-to-face cognitive–behavioural therapy, have been shown to decrease these symptoms and improve patients’ lives by changing unhelpful beliefs and improving coping skills.
Dr Hazel Everitt, the study’s first author, said:
“We previously knew that face-to-face CBT sessions could be helpful for treating IBS and this type of treatment is recommended in the National Institute for Clinical Excellence’s guidelines.
However, in my experience as a GP, I have found that availability is extremely limited.”
The study included 558 patients who had already tried different IBS treatments but didn’t see any improvement.
After a year of the phone or online CBT, participants saw a great reduction in severity of symptoms, improvements at work and quality of life when compared to those who only had their usual IBS treatment.
Dr Everitt siad:
“The fact that both telephone and web based CBT sessions were shown to be effective treatments is a really important and exciting discovery.
Patients are able to undertake these treatments at a time convenient to them, without having to travel to clinics.”
Professor Rona Moss-Morris, who developed a self-management version of CBT for IBS, said:
“The most important next step is for these tailored CBT treatments to be made more widely available.
Professor Trudie Chalder and I are currently training NHS therapists at pre-existing Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) services, so that more people suffering from IBS can access these treatments quickly.
We are also working with a commercial partner to bring web-based CBT to the NHS and other parts of the world.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the journal of Gut (Everitt et al., 2019).