The American Digestive Health Foundation recommends that the most cost-effective and beneficial treatment for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is probably establishment of an effective clinical relationship. They suggest a series of steps, including 1) acknowledgment of the patient’s pain, 2) development of an empathetic, nonjudgmental point of view, 3) education and reassurance, 4) goal setting, 5) helping the patient take responsibility, and 6) referral to a specialist when necessary.
Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is based on the symptom characteristics, the extent of physiologic disturbance, and the psychosocial condition of the patient. Patients usually benefit from receiving a name for their symptoms and assurance that IBS does not cause serious health consequences. Unfortunately, one study showed that even after visiting a physician and receiving the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), patients still were concerned that their condition was more serious or even malignant. Thus, consultations with patients explaining the disorder in lay terms and referral to additional sources of information are of utmost importance.
About two-thirds of patients with mild IBS symptoms will respond to education, reassurance, and dietary and lifestyle adjustments. Identification and elimination of aggravating foods, relaxation techniques, and mild exercise may be therapeutic. For example, abdominal pain is sometimes alleviated by the use of heating pads, hot baths, or warm drinks to slow gastrointestinal (GI) contractions. In order to increase a patient’s ability to self-manage and detect symptom triggers, it is recommended that a symptom diary be kept for two to four weeks. The data collected should include 1) the date and time of symptoms, 2) symptom description and severity, 3) associated factors such as diet or stress, 4) emotional response to symptoms, and 5) patient feelings, such as hopelessness.