IBS & The Gut-Brain Connection

11th April 2019

Ground-breaking research carried out by the University of Southampton alongside King’s College London explored the link between the gut and the brain, evaluating whether Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can provide relief by phone or via a website for Irritable Bowel Sydrome (IBS) sufferers.

IBS effects up to 20% of people and symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation, all of which can significantly affect quality of life and could force patient’s to take days off work.

 

As the largest study of its kind, the trial involved 558 patients, all with significant IBS symptoms. Researchers developed two IBS specific CBT programmes, one over the phone and a web-based one, all with 8 treatment sessions but differing amounts of therapist input.

The findings show that those receiving either form of CBT were more likely to report significant improvement in severity of symptoms and impact on their work and life after 12 months of treatment (compares to those that received current and standard IBS treatments).

In addition, the study found that the telephone/web based CBT sessions were shown to be effective treatments. This important and exciting discovery allows patients to undertake treatments at a time convenient to them, without having to travel.

"There's no other way of putting it: this trial has changed my life. I'd had symptoms for as long as I can remember, but was diagnosed officially around the age of 13. Everything used to revolve around my IBS, not by choice but through fear of being caught out by my symptoms. Now, at 31 years old, I barely think about it because I'm symptom-free 98% of the time. I admit I was sceptical at first, because I couldn't see how changing my mindset could have a direct affect on my bowel habits, but I was surprised to notice improvements within the first couple of weeks. 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 in this trial gave me real control in a healthy, manageable way. I can't thank the researchers enough for exploring the potential of this treatment for IBS. I hope many more people are given the opportunity to benefit from it."

Laura Day - A patient who took part in the trial

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