What do you believe in?

Everything we do and write is with fellow sufferers in mind, and in doing so we face a number of dilemmas.  In our next blog we return to look at the validity of the scientific approach to treating IBS versus the natural approach.

Before we even broached that topic we felt it perspicacious to tackle the subject of belief.  When discussing which treatment path to follow there is generally a staunch opinion taken on the correct way to address IBS symptoms.

For many it is a case of choosing one side of the spectrum at the behest of the other.  You either believe that science is right, with no credence given in any measure to natural or alternative methods.

Similarly science is debunked by followers of alternative medicine.  Each side is often certain of their footing, however surely both parties can not be right?  It is very similar to political argument in so much that, both sides will often make the same point.  However their entrenched position requires that they can not possibly  agree with their opponent.


Below we have included some basic information about the role of the mind in regards to the placebo effect including an outline of the 1972 Blackwell experiment. We have done so for this simple reason. The success of any treatment for IBS may depend less upon the scientific validity of the method, and more upon your innate belief in your choice of treatment:  

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”  Buddha

While others may mock your beliefs, or at the very least challenge them, there is an awful lot of evidence to suggest that we look to our mind for validation of the choices we make.  More than this, the release of ‘endogenous opiates’  stimulated by placebos suggest that you need to be unconditionally convinced by the treatment you choose for it to work.

We all have our own feelings about the validity of scientific versus natural treatments.  What we also know as sufferers is that the human mind plays a fundamental role in the success of any treatment. Being aware of the psychological benefit you can gain through belief would appear undoubtedly advantageous.

Placebo effect and the brain

Functional imaging upon placebo analgesia shows that it links to the activation, and increased functional correlation between this activation, in the anterior cingulate, prefrontal, orbitofrontal and insular cortices, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, the brainstem periaqueductal gray matter, and the spinal cord.

These changes can act upon the brain's early stages of information processing: Research using evoked brain potentials upon painful laser pulses, for example, finds placebo effects upon the N2–P2, a biphasic negative–positive complex response, the N2 peak of which is at about 230 ms, and the P2 one at about 380 MS.  

They occur not only during placebo analgesia but after receiving the analgesic placebo (the areas are different here, and involve the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior parietal cortex and inferior parietal lobule).


Barry Blackwell , SaulS. Bloomfield , C.Ralph Buncher


A class experiment for medical students Summary was devised to demonstrate the influence of the placebo effect and non-drug factors on response to drugs. The subjects were conditioned to expect sedative or stimulant effects, but all received placebo in one or two blue or pink capsules.

Predictions about the size and nature of the placebo response and influence of the non-drug factors were made before the experiment and discussed afterwards.

Four of six predictions were fully confirmed. Drug- associated changes were reported by 30% of the subjects and were severe in 1 or 2 individuals. Two capsules produced more noticeable changes than one, and blue capsules were associated with more sedative effects than pink capsules.

Students rated the experiment highly both as a learning experience and for its relevance to their future practice of medicine.

Please note:  All blogs and IBS Health articles have been written by IBS sufferers for fellow IBS sufferers.

We respect and appreciate all other opinions and write with the sole aim of providing empathy, support and ideas for others who live IBS everyday. We do not write cause offence.

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Back Treating IBS - Belief ‘“If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything.”  Gordon A. Eadie