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The University of Southampton

Self-management programme offers patients relief from IBS

Published: 12 September 2007

Overly-anxious and driven people are susceptible to irritable bowel syndrome, usually known as IBS, according to research presented at the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) Festival of Science in York this week.

In her presentation ‘Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What can we do to help?’ Professor Rona Moss-Morris from the University of Southampton will focus on a self-management programme she has developed for patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

Professor Moss-Morris will suggest ways in which patients with IBS can manage their symptoms at home. These include methods such as ensuring a balanced eating and exercise routine, changing cognitive and behavioural responses to the illness, reducing stress and anxiety levels, and altering unhelpful beliefs associated with perfectionism.

IBS is characterised by frequent stomach pain associated with diarrhoea, constipation and bloating. It is remarkably common, affecting between 10 and 22 per cent of the UK population. So far, medicine has not been able to come up with a suitable treatment package for this costly and distressing illness.

Professor Moss-Morris says, "Many patients with IBS are told that little can be done to relieve their embarrassing and distressing symptoms. However, there is growing evidence that patients can help themselves but it does require time and effort on their part. Our earlier work on IBS has shown a link between stress, anxiety and trying to do too much and the onset of the illness. A self-management approach which addresses these issues is useful because patients can carry out the programme in their own time at home."

Her findings are being presented as part of a session called ‘The body and the mind: how psychologists help people with chronic illness’ which also features contributions from Dr Alison Weadon from the University of Manchester and Professor Trudie Chalder from the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London.

The BA Festival of Science will be in York from 9 to15 September, bringing together over 350 of the UK’s top scientists and engineers to discuss the latest developments in science with the public.

This year's Festival has over 200 events featuring subjects from astronomy to testosterone via bionics with a little chocolate on the way. The programme brings together many of today's most provocative, stimulating and entertaining scientists, artists and social commentators in a series of exhibitions, events and activities.

For more information about the BA Festival of Science, including an online programme, visit

Notes for editors

  • The BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) is the UK's nationwide, open membership organisation that exists to advance the public understanding, accessibility and accountability of the sciences and engineering. Established in 1831, the BA organises major initiatives across the UK, including National Science and Engineering Week, the annual BA Festival of Science, programmes of regional and local events, and an extensive programme for young people in schools and colleges. The BA also organises specific activities for the science communication community in the UK through its Science in Society programme. For more information about the BA, please visit
  • The BA Festival of Science 2007 is being hosted in York by the University of York, Science City York and the City of York Council.
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