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Behavioural therapy eases bowel troubles

Some patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experience a rapid improvement with behavioural therapy, with the benefits lasting for several months.

Behavioural therapy eases bowel troubles

Some patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experience a rapid improvement with behavioural therapy, with the benefits lasting at least for several months.

Individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome have bouts of abdominal cramps, bloating and changes in bowel habits - diarrhoea or constipation, or sometimes alternating episodes of both. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown, but there are some triggers - such as particular foods, larger-than-normal meals and emotional stress.

Conventional drug therapy has its limitations and there is an urgent need to develop efficacious and efficient treatments that teach patients behavioral self-management skills for relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and associated problems. Cognitive behavioural therapy aims to help people with irritable bowel syndrome to recognise their triggers and learn practical ways to manage them.

To look out for ways which could help relieving irritable bowel syndrome, researchers followed 75 people diagnosed with IBS (86% female) without any other co-existing gastrointestinal disease. The researchers made the participants attend either a 10 weekly sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy or four therapy sessions spread out over 10 weeks. At the first therapy session in both groups, participants were given the task of self-monitoring - keeping close track of their symptoms, the circumstances under which they occurred, and their thoughts, feelings and physical responses before and after the flare-ups.

The study showed that 30 percent of the participants reported adequate relief of abdominal pain and bowel symptoms within the first four weeks of the cognitive behavioural therapy. Of these rapid responders, nearly all maintained  improvement for three months following cessation of  their therapy sessions  In comparison, of the 50 study patients who had not shown  rapid improvement, only 28 percent were considered treatment responders at the three-month mark.  The findings also revealed that self-monitoring might have helped some patients quickly gain some control over their symptoms.

The researchers concluded that cognitive behavioural therapy is a very promising treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), providing short-term relief from IBS symptoms largely unresponsive to conventional therapies.
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