Placebos Relieve IBS Symptoms

Many yellow transparent pills

Irritable bowel syndrome is a painful intestinal condition with cramping and diarrhea or constipation (sometimes alternating). This report shows a placebo effect even when subjects knew they were getting a placebo. While most interesting the exact ramifications remain unclear. IBS patients knowingly given placebo reported relief.

NBC Nightly News (12/22, story 6, 2:25, Williams) reported, “It’s generally thought that dummy pills, or sugar pills, work precisely because so much of it is in your head and patients don’t know they’re fake.” However, “results of a new study suggesting that secrecy may not have to be part of feeling better without actual medicine.”

The Los Angeles Times<latimes.com> (12/22, Khan) reported, “The researchers enrolled 80 people suffering from” IBS, “explaining the experiment while framing it positively — they called it a novel ‘mind-body’ therapy.” Next, “half the patients were given a bottle with the word ‘placebo’ printed on it. … The patients were told they didn’t even need to believe in the placebo effect, but had to take the pills twice daily.”

Surprisingly, “fifty-nine percent of patients with irritable bowel syndrome who were given placebos described to them as ‘like sugar pills’ reported relief of their symptoms, compared with 35 percent of those who got no treatment at all, according to” the study “published in the journal PLoS One,” Bloomberg News<bloomberg.com> (12/23, Lopatto) reported.

What’s more, “the placebo patients’ relief was equal to taking the most powerful IBS medications,” the CNN<cnn.com> (12/22, Young) “The Chart” blog reported. The Boston Globe<boston.com> (12/23, Kotz), MedPage Today<medpagetoday.com> (12/22, Phend), HealthDay<healthday.com> (12/22, Salamon), and WebMD<webmd.com> (12/22, Woznicki) also covered the study.

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