A Smartphone App Can Now Cure IBS?

Smartphone apps like Nerva, capable of gut-direct hypnotherapy, potentially have the ability to alleviate symptoms associated with irritable bowl syndrome.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

Irritable bowel syndrome plagues over 25 million Americans every year. Gastroenterologists use this catch-all term to diagnose patients with symptoms such as regular GI distress, constipation, and diarrhea. And now there is news of a new treatment protocol that may finally bring relief to some long-term sufferers. 

But what exactly is irritable bowel syndrome? It is a common diagnosis for patients with severe GI trouble but who don’t have diseases such as Celiac, Chron’s, or Colitis. In the past, doctors did not have a solid treatment protocol for irritable bowel syndrome, which left patients to fend for themselves.

That has changed thanks to recent research around the gut-brain connection. Per NPR, “Scientists now know that disturbances in the way the nervous system, brain and gut interact can cause changes that trigger or worsen IBS symptoms, including stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.” That means the stress at your job (or commute) could be the culprit behind your constant tummy trouble. 

And this research has entirely changed treatment plans, for the better. Now Gastroenterologists don’t just prescribe medications to help alleviate the pain and discomfort. They now have the tools to provide you with a complete irritable bowel syndrome treatment protocol. 

The only problem is that the treatment protocol is integrative. It relies on expertise and input from multiple practitioners, including psychologists, dieticians, and stress-management professionals. And most physicians do not have these practitioners readily available in the next office.

That is where technology comes in. New apps assist patients with irritable bowel syndrome to ease their symptoms and find relief, which is welcome news. Many of them can get downloaded whenever a patient wants.

But others require a prescription. However, according to some patients, the trouble is worth it. NPR spoke with one gentleman about his experience using the new integrative treatment approach.

John Mastro is from Melbourne, Australia. And he learned of an app called Nerva, which focuses on gut-directed hypnotherapy. It combines guided imagery and relaxation practices to help reset the gut-brain connection.

irritable bowl syndrome

Nerva does not require a prescription. But, according to Mastro, “It’s been nothing but transformative.” He told the news outlet that after using Nerva, he now rarely has irritable bowel symptoms anymore. 

If hypnotherapy sounds a little too out there for you, don’t worry. Other irritable bowel syndrome treatment options may be a little easier to stomach. One of those is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Multiple CBT apps are available for patients needing relief from irritable bowel syndrome. CBT helps patients identify negative thought patterns that influence actions and emotions. Once they recognize what those patterns are, they can then work to develop positive and healthy thought patterns.

Another type of app that many gastroenterologists recommend is nutritional help. While changing eating habits has not always been recognized as a solution for irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, it is gaining traction. William Chey is a gastroenterologist working at the University of Michigan, and he has stressed the importance of nutrition since 2007. 

He says, “When I started to talk about diet as an important part of treating patients with IBS at that time, people literally laughed at me. But now almost every gastroenterologist accepts that diet is an important part of the solution.” And now, some apps can help patients navigate whatever dietary changes they need to make in order to become healthy