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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

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Combo Treatment Best for IBS

New Approach Uses GI Specialist and Psychoanalyst Together

How to Treat IBS? continued...

Just two weeks ago, British researchers conducting one of the largest studies to date reported in the journal Gut that hypnosis could be an effective, long-term therapy.

In the psychotherapy used in the Gerson's study, "In essence, I inquired about how IBS was imbedded in the patient's life experience -- how it played out in their relationship life, their work life, their friendship life," says Mary-Joan Gerson, who with her husband also runs the Mind Body Digestive Center in New York City.

"From that we try to draw out possible coping strategies," she tells WebMD. "People tend to think of illness as something contained in their bodies. But there are reactive episodes of illness. You have to think about how you're living your life."

That's why, in addition to the psychotherapy, keeping a diary may have been helpful.

"If you are keeping a diary in which you can track your symptoms and conditions on a daily basis, you can also attend to what's going on in your life," says psychologist Edward Blanchard, PhD, a noted IBS expert who directs the Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders at the University of Albany.

He was not involved in the Gersons' research but designed the diary that their patients used. Last year, Blanchard headed his own study tracking which psychological treatments seemed most effective in reducing IBS symptoms.

That research, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, shows that cognitive and behavioral therapy aimed at modifying negative thoughts and actions; psychodynamic therapy focused on personal "insight" and linking present and past experience (such as that used by Mary-Joan Gerson); and hypnosis were most effective. Biofeedback and peer-run support groups were not found to be useful.

"If you're suffering from chronic IBS, you have to realize that is really is a mind-body experience," says Charles Gerson. "So if you want long-term relief, you're going to have to address those psychological issues."

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