Top 5 reasons you need Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for your IBS

What is IBS? 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is an incredibly common disorder, impacting 10-20% of the world’s population and up to 45 million people in the United States alone. Although the exact causes are unknown, experts believe it results from how the gut, nervous system, and brain interact. IBS can significantly negatively impact a patient’s quality of life. Still, there are a lot of strategies to help reduce or even eliminate its influence on patients’ lives. Today we’re going to talk about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how it can help patients with IBS. 

Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work for IBS? 

So let’s get right to it: Yes, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works for IBS. This treatment option focuses on a psychosocial approach to help patients learn how tomanage their symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has many beneficial effects if approached correctly. 

If you have IBS, you can practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in as little as 10 minutes a day with the FDA-cleared Mahana IBS app. The app uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in all the ways we’ll dive into today. Many who have used it have reported a decrease in the severity of their symptoms and an uptick in their overall management and lifestyle. Of course, a prescription is needed, so check with your doctor if you’re interested!

Ready? Let’s dive in! 

Here are five key reasons why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might be right for you or your loved one suffering from IBS. 

Reason #1 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy educates 

As a lifestyle medicine doctor, I firmly believe in the need for more education when it comes to my patient’s health. Writing a prescription and sending a patient on their way is not my style; it just tends to lead to relapse and continued health issues down the line. IBS is a much more complex disorder than many realize, and there are many myths about it, which is why IBS patients need to seek high quality education. Unfortunately, there is tons of misinformation online, some of which can be harmful. 

By understanding the mind-gut connection and the cycle of IBS and mental health, you will see more profound meaning in your treatment methods and have a better chance of taking control of your symptoms and life. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy educates you on a personal level, meaning it works for all types of IBS, helps you to identify your triggers, and teaches you the skills needed to manage the disorder day-to-day and through flare-ups. 

Through education comes healing.  

With the Mahana IBS app, you can complete a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program in under 90 days and achieve long-term results. Patients who completed the program reported sustained outcomes. In addition, the app gives you access to education and treatment you know you can trust. 

Reason #2 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy addresses the mindset 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy addresses patients’ negative mindsets and fears surrounding IBS. Understandably, symptom-related anxiety, hypervigilance, and catastrophizing are all standard thought processes that IBS patients face. Due to the unpredictability of IBS symptoms, patients become incredibly uneasy and hypervigilant about “what could happen” and often imagine the worst. The stress of these thought processes leads to even more anxiety and worsens symptoms. Cognitive restructuring skills help patients identify these unhelpful thought patterns and adopt new ways of thinking. 

That’s also one of the best parts of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – it’s non-intrusive. It’s a complementary treatment plan that fits into whatever treatment avenues you’re already pursuing. 

Reason #3 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy provides actionable coping techniques 

Patients with IBS often avoid social situations and live in fear that they will pass gas at a party or feel an uncontrollable urge to use the restroom and not be anywhere near one when they need it. This creates significant stress and symptom-related anxiety and often leads to avoidance and “safety” behaviors. As mentioned before, these emotional responses can also contribute to symptom severity. It’s a problematic cycle that IBS patients have to face every day. Cognitive behavior therapy equips patients with actionable techniques to bring peace of mind and empower them to take control of their symptoms, including: 

  • Relaxation strategies – Since stress and tension lead to increased symptoms, helping the patient to relax is critical. These techniques are aimed at regulating patients’ autonomic arousal. The parasympathetic nervous system is engaged through diaphragmatic breathing. This can help with pain and normalize gut motility. The patient’s awareness of their physical tension is also a focus, and muscle relaxation and guided imagery are standard techniques to address it. 
  • Problem-solving skills – Problem-focused coping is a technique used by those suffering from IBS. There is a problem at hand, and they want to fix it. Unfortunately, since IBS symptoms are unpredictable, this method is very discouraging. By implementing emotion-focused coping strategies like acceptance, diaphragmatic breathing, cognitive restructuring, exercise, and social support, patients can shift from a “solution-focused” approach to a self-management approach to help them better cope. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is potentially helpful for everyone. Its ease of use is unmatched in Mahana’s self-guided program. It fits into your schedule in less than 10 minutes daily.

Reason #4 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy encourages exposure techniques 

As discussed earlier, avoidance is common in those who have IBS. Sometimes, the stresses of going out, including ensuring easy restroom access, discourage them from going. Exposure therapy techniques help patients to face the scenarios they’re most worried about, like long road trips or eating out. In addition, strategies to reduce fear of GI sensations and the behaviors that follow (like stomach tightening) and keeping track of their urges and patterns will challenge the patient’s misperceptions about the “urgency” of symptoms and bring them a sense of control. 

Reason #5 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is backed by data 

In a recent study, clinically significant IBS improvement was noted over 24 months in patients undergoing two forms of CBT, telephone and online. All patients received usual treatments (if any), including the controls who did not undergo CBT. The phone group showed that 84 of its 119 participants (71%) improved, as well as 62 of the 99 (63%) participants for online CBT, versus – 48 of 105 participants (46%) in the control group. 

That’s great news! Beyond that, decades of research by gut-trained psychologists went into the Mahana IBS app development. 

Ready to get started? 

While difficult, an IBS diagnosis doesn’t mean that you have to give up all of the activities that you love. Finding ways to adapt is vital, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a great option. Forget a lack of available therapists, virtual sessions, or insurance hurdles. With Mahana, there’s no need to wait months for a gut-directed treatment provider or meet on your schedule. Try Mahana today. In the primary clinical trial, 63% of patients had a clinically meaningful response to treatment. As mentioned previously, it works in conjunction with your current treatment plan. There are no known side effects to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is an effective and proven prescription treatment for managing IBS. 

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with IBS and need help managing symptoms? Do you think you might be suffering? I am here for you, and there are a lot of other doctors out there as well that can help. I encourage you to talk to your doctor or contact me for a consultation

Dr. Mendez is a paid consultant of Mahana Therapeutics, the company that offers the Mahana IBS app.


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