Mind-body interventions for gastrointestinal conditions

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Record ID 32002000333
Authors' objectives:

The objective of this evidence report was to conduct a search of the literature on the use of all mind-body therapies for the treatment of health conditions and, on the basis of that search, to choose either a condition or a mind-body modality for a comprehensive review. The health condition chosen, based on the results of an initial search, was gastrointestinal problems. The specific questions addressed in this project were: (1) What mind-body therapies have been used in the literature, for which body systems/conditions, and using what kind of research design? (2) What is the efficacy of mind-body therapies for the treatment of gastrointestinal problems?

Authors' results and conclusions: In the search of mind-body studies, the most common body systems/conditions for which mind-body therapy literature was found are: neuropsychiatric; head/ear, nose, and throat (head/ENT); gastrointestinal; circulatory; and musculoskeletal. Regarding therapies, the most common ones for which published studies were found were: biofeedback, hypnosis, relaxation, behavioral, and cognitive. For GI conditions, the most commonly studied mind-body therapy was biofeedback (n = 22), and the most commonly studied conditions were irritable bowel syndrome (n = 15), followed by fecal incontinence/encopresis (n = 11). Studies with a comparison group were reviewed for biofeedback (n = 17), hypnosis (n = 8), relaxation therapy (n = 8), behavioral therapy (n = 8), multimodal therapy (n = 4), cognitive therapy (n = 4), guided imagery (n = 2), and placebo (n = 1). Eleven of the biofeedback studies had a no biofeedback comparison group, and two reported a significant benefit from biofeedback. These studies were of adults with fecal incontinence and nausea/vomiting following chemotherapy. In the remaining nine biofeedback trials, seven of which were on children, biofeedback was not reported to have any benefit. There were seven studies of hypnosis that had a no hypnosis comparison group, six of which reported a significant benefit (for irritable bowel syndrome, two studies; nausea/vomiting, two studies; duodenal ulcer, one study; and ulcerative colitis, one study). Six of the eight relaxation-therapy controlled trials reported a significant benefit for irritable bowel syndrome (two studies), nausea/vomiting (two studies), ulcer (one study), and GI distress (one study). For the eight studies in behavioral therapy, six studies with a no behavioral therapy comparison group reported a significant benefit for encopresis (one study), nausea/vomiting (two studies), irritable bowel syndrome (two studies), and abdominal pain (one study). In cognitive therapy, four studies, all with a no cognitive therapy comparison group, reported a significant benefit. These were for irritable bowel (three studies) and ulcer (one study). In guided imagery therapy, one out of two studies with a no imagery comparison group reported a significant benefit. In placebo therapy there was only a single study. Four studies using a multimodal intervention, which does not enable a conclusion about individual therapies, were also reviewed.
Authors' recomendations: There are limited data to support the efficacy of relaxation therapy, behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy and guided imagery as therapy for certain gastrointestinal conditions. There is no evidence to support the efficacy of biofeedback for children with gastrointestinal conditions, while for adults the evidence is mixed. The studies of hypnosis are limited by methodologic problems and no conclusions can be drawn.
Authors' methods: Systematic review
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 2001
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: United States
MeSH Terms
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy
  • Mind-Body Therapies
  • Relaxation Therapy
Organisation Name: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Contact Address: Center for Outcomes and Evidence Technology Assessment Program, 540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850, USA. Tel: +1 301 427 1610; Fax: +1 301 427 1639;
Contact Name: martin.erlichman@ahrq.hhs.gov
Contact Email: martin.erlichman@ahrq.hhs.gov
Copyright: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.