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The New York Times
Drs. Charles and Mary-Joan Gerson of the Mind-Body Digestive Center were quoted in Jane Brody's health column in The New York Times, in an article about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. An excerpt follows:
Let the Mind Help Tame an Irritable BowelBy Jane E. Brody
Published: September 1, 2008
Reuniting Mind and Body (excerpt)If you've ever had butterflies in your stomach or an attack of nerves that sent you racing for the bathroom, you already know that the intestinal tract has a mind of its own. The millions who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, or I.B.S., perhaps know it best.
A small but growing number of specialists are seeking to reunite mind and body by treating patients with a combination of medications, dietary precautions and emotional re-education. Their early studies indicate that this mind-body approach is more effective than either alone.
Dr. Charles D. Gerson, a gastroenterologist affiliated with Mount Sinai Medical Center, works with his wife, Dr. Mary-Joan Gerson, a psychoanalyst and family therapist ... at the Mind-Body Digestive Center in New York.
Dr. Gerson said in an interview that for patients who are seriously impaired by I.B.S., medications help but "there is no magic pill that solves the whole problem. Patients need a more holistic approach. Those who accept emotional as well as physical causes of their condition do better."
While it is destructive for patients with I.B.S. to be told it is all in their heads, it is also wrong to ignore the psychosocial factors that play a role, he said.
"I tell patients that if they don't deal with the emotional factors that relate to their problem," Dr. Gerson said, "they are likely to continue to have symptoms."
Personal relationships can have a major impact. Symptoms are worse if there is conflict in the family, better if relationships are supportive, the Gersons have found.
The brain has the ability to inhibit sensations from the gut. But, as Dr. Gerson put it, "I.B.S. patients tend to be hypervigilant — too aware of what is going on in their gut." Through techniques like hypnotherapy ... and psychotherapy, it is possible to change how the brain perceives what is happening in the body.
In hypnotherapy, patients learn to visualize their colon as functioning more normally. In psychotherapy, patients can learn to change symptom-provoking beliefs, like thinking that their colon will always be abnormal or that a given circumstance will provoke symptoms.