Currently there is not enough evidence to assess whether biofeedback programmes are effective for controlling symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome

In November 2019 researchers from the USA, Australia, UK and Canada published their review of the medical scientific literature to assess the effectiveness and safety of biofeedback for irritable bowel syndrome in adults and children. Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that involves using visual or auditory feedback to gain control over involuntary bodily functions. A total of 8 studies, involving 300 adults, met the search criteria and were included in the review. No studies were identified involving children. Four of the eight studies assessed thermal biofeedback, one study rectosigmoidal biofeedback, two heart rate variability biofeedback and two electrocutaneous biofeedback. Comparators were: no treatment (symptom monitoring group; three studies), attention control (pseudomeditation; two studies), relaxation control (one study), counselling (two studies), hypnotherapy (one study), standard therapy (one study), and sham biofeedback (one study). All studies were assessed to have a high or unclear risk of bias and to have very-low or low-certainty evidence. Results showed that there was currently not enough evidence to assess whether biofeedback interventions are effective for controlling symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, 50% improvement was recorded in three small studies when heart rate biofeedback was compared with counselling (29 individuals), thermal biofeedback compared with no treatment (101 individuals) and with attention control (80 individuals). One study used overall quality of life as a measure of outcome, and reported that both the biofeedback and cognitive therapy groups improved after treatment (29 individuals). This study was the only one which took adverse events into consideration and reported that no adverse events had been seen in either the biofeedback or cognitive therapy groups. The researchers concluded that due to the positive results in some of the small studies, biofeedback deserved further study in people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Goldenberg JZ et al. Biofeedback for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 Nov 12;2019(11).

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