Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

 In Naturopathic News

Node Smith, ND

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder affecting 10 – 20 per cent of people. Abdominal pain, bloating and altered bowel habit significantly affect patients’ quality of life and can force them to take days off work.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tailored specifically for IBS

New research has shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tailored specifically for IBS and delivered over the telephone or through an interactive website is more effective in relieving the symptoms of IBS than current standard care. These results could make a real difference to patients with IBS who currently have very limited access to CBT in a resource constrained NHS.

The research was led by Dr Hazel Everitt, Associate Professor in General Practice at the University of Southampton. Dr Everitt comments: “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 guidelines. However, in my experience as a GP, I have found that availability is extremely limited.”

Largest study of its kind

In the largest study of its kind, researchers at the University of Southampton and King’s College London carried out a trial involving 558 patients who had ongoing significant IBS symptoms despite having tried other IBS treatments for at least a year. Rona Moss-Morris, Professor of Psychology as Applied to Medicine and Trudie Chalder, Professor of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from King’s College London, developed the IBS specific CBT programmes, which both involve 8 treatment sessions but differing amounts of therapist input.

The findings

The findings, published in the journal GUT, show that those who received either form of CBT was more likely to report significant improvement in severity of symptoms and impact on their work and life after 12 months of treatment compared to those who only received current standard IBS treatments.

Dr Everitt added: “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.”

The most important next step

Professor Moss-Morris 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.”

From the University of Southampton


Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and associate editor and continuing education director for NDNR. His mission is serving relationships that support the process of transformation, and that ultimately lead to healthier people, businesses and communities. His primary therapeutic tools include counselling, homeopathy, diet and the use of cold water combined with exercise. Node considers health to be a reflection of the relationships a person or a business has with themselves, with God and with those around them. In order to cure disease and to heal, these relationships must be specifically considered. Node has worked intimately with many groups and organizations within the naturopathic profession, and helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic Revitalization (ANR), which works to promote and facilitate experiential education in vitalism.

Node Smith graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in 2017, and is currently licensed as a naturopathic physician in Oregon and working towards becoming licensed in Saskatchewan, Canada as well.

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