Researchers Publish First Guide to Psychotherapies for IBS and Other Gut Conditions

A recent “Best Practice Update” in the medical journal Gastroenterology recommends that gastroenterologists incorporate brain-gut psychotherapies into routine gastrointestinal (GI) care. The article provides guidance about how physicians can talk to patients about how the brain and gut are intimately connected.

CHICAGO – Three members of Chicago-based metaMe Health’s Science Advisory Board co-authored a first-of-its-kind “Best Practice Update” for Psycho-gastroenterology in the January issue of the medical journal Gastroenterology. In the article, Dr. Laurie Keefer, Dr. Olafur Palsson, and Dr. John Pandolfino point to evidence showing that chronic digestive diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), cannot be disentangled from their psychological context. They recommend that gastroenterologists incorporate brain-gut psychotherapies into routine gastrointestinal (GI) care. The article provides guidance about how physicians can talk to patients about how the brain and gut are intimately connected.

According to the report, researchers have learned that the brain and the gut are much more closely connected than was previously thought. The brain plays a big role in keeping the functioning of the gut healthy. Here, the term “gut” refers to the entire digestive tract. Unfortunately, this normal brain-gut communication can sometimes go wrong when something disturbs the brain or the nervous system for an extended time, such as substantial life stress, strong negative emotions, or inadequate sleep. Brain-gut therapy delivered by mental health professionals specializing in Psycho-gastroenterology is effective because it focuses specifically on the downregulation of unpleasant GI sensations, decreasing avoidance behaviors associated with fear of symptoms, and building coping and resilience to stress or lifestyle changes imposed by a chronic condition like IBS.

This is the first report that outlines Psycho-gastroenterology directly to physicians, and Dr. Keefer is excited to help spread the word about the article’s two main points. First, brain-gut psychotherapies are targeted at unpleasant GI symptoms and quality-of-life, and should be incorporated into patient care early and often. Second, clinicians should be ready to assess the need for brain-gut therapy, and refer suitable patients to therapy in a way that reduces stigma and increases follow-through.

Dr. Keefer thinks that new approaches to delivering brain-gut therapy will bridge the gap for patients seeking out such services. “There are some exciting new ways to deliver therapy, including web-based telehealth and fully digital therapeutics,” said Dr. Keefer. “These approaches can be very effective while eliminating visits to a therapist office and reducing cost to the patient.”

metaMe Health is one example of a group that provides brain-gut psychotherapy in a new and unique way. State-licensed therapists specially trained in GI health deliver an innovative mix of live online therapy sessions and automated digital sessions to patients through the company’s telehealth platform, metaMe Connect. metaMe Health delivers a standardized, clinically proven Brain-Gut treatment protocol.

metaMe Health Founder Danny Bernstein, who has suffered from GI disorders including IBS and Crohn’s disease since childhood, believes timing is right for a 21st century approach to providing IBS patients with easy access to qualified, trained therapists. According to Bernstein, there are simply not enough therapists trained in GI health and the clinically proven gut-directed psychotherapy protocols. “Leading researchers have provided gastroenterologists with a call-to-action: Brain-gut psychotherapies should not be overlooked,” said Bernstein. “metaMe exists to help as many people suffering from IBS as possible, and we’re excited to do that by offering an affordable, clinically-proven digital therapeutic option.”

For more information about metaMe Health, visit www.metameconnect.com.

For the Gastroenterology article: http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(18)30113-6/fulltext

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