Behavioral Medicine for Digestive Health
Housed within the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the Behavioral Medicine program provides a broad range of services to the Digestive Health Center’s gastroenterology, hepatology, and lifestyle medicine patients.
Through our research, clinical practice, training programs, and digital health initiatives, we aim to positively change how symptoms, health beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors impact the treatment and experience of those with chronic conditions. Our treatments directly target GI symptoms, often by addressing the dysregulation in the brain-gut pathway. We also help people learn strategies they can use to improve how they cope with symptoms and treatments so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy.
We place a strong emphasis, in both research and clinical practice, on evidenced-based models of care, expanding understanding of digestive diseases, and serving as a voice for the patients and families in our care.
The Digestive Health Center
The Northwestern Medicine Digestive Health Center brings together some of the best academic and clinical minds in pursuit of medical excellence in the area of gastrointestinal health. Our mission is to prevent, diagnose and treat disorders of the digestive tract and associated organs.
At the heart of the Center's success is the complementary approach through multidisciplinary teams of physicians who work to bring top-quality care to patients from around the world. Each multidisciplinary center includes gastroenterologists, interventional endoscopists, surgeons, psychologists and dietitians. Our internationally renowned team of specialists1 works with patients to control the symptoms that negatively affect their health and lives while focusing on the treatment of their condition or disease. Gastrointestinal (GI) diseases affect an estimated 60 to 70 million Americans annually.
Our comprehensive program is rated among the top gastroenterology and GI surgery specialty centers in the country 2019–2020 U.S. News & World Report.2
Meet the Team
Meet the Behavioral Medicine for Digestive Health Team
Stress can negatively impact our physical and mental health and the GI tract is one of the first systems in the body to experience the consequences of stress. Stress directly impacts the GI tract and intensifies GI symptoms by interfering with the signaling between the brain and the gut. In a vicious cycle, stress also indirectly makes our symptoms worse. Living with chronic and unpredictable GI symptoms can be stressful and affect work, relationships, and your overall quality of life.
Our treatments directly target GI symptoms and break into that cycle of symptoms and stress that can aggravate symptoms. We offer behavioral treatments that target GI symptoms by targeting brain-gut dysfunction and addressing stress and other lifestyle factors contributing to symptoms. We provide helpful tools patients can use to improve physical health and well-being. Our program is beneficial for patients with a wide range of GI conditions, including those with poorly understood symptoms that have not responded to standard medical interventions.
Outpatient services are staffed by licensed clinical psychologists, registered dieticians, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students, all of who have specialized training in digestive diseases. We work directly with DHC gastroenterologists and other physicians to coordinate patients care.
All of the therapists on our team1 are trained in cognitive behavioral therapy, medical hypnotherapy, and brief solution-focused treatments. These treatments have proven efficacy in a number of well-controlled clinical trials and are widely accepted as the most effective behavioral interventions for GI conditions.
Conditions we treat include:
Hospitalization can be a difficult and stressful experience for any patient. The Behavioral Medicine for Digestive Health program offers patients staying in the hospital support during their stay. Our team is available to help patients by providing education, pain management and coping techniques, emotional support, and support for families. We can also work with patients to develop strategies for improving their communication with their treatment team and to clarify and communicate their goals for discharge and aftercare. Our team members are available to meet with our gastroenterology, hepatology, and lifestyle medicine patients and their families at any point during their stay to provide support, counseling, and treatment planning.
Medical Nutrition Therapy
Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) is an evidence-based medical approach to treating chronic conditions through the use of an individually tailored nutrition plan delivered by a registered dietitian nutritionist. Our registered dietitian nutritionists help patients obtain symptom relief by utilizing evidence-based therapies to improve symptoms. Our team provides a comprehensive nutrition assessment of nutritional adequacy as well as lifestyle factors which could impact GI symptoms and disease activity. Clinical specialty areas include motility disorders, elimination diets, food intolerances, IBS, celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
Our comprehensive review of dietary factors details what may be affecting your GI condition or symptoms.
Support and Education Groups
Our team members hold a number of support groups for patients of the Digestive Health Center. Support groups can be an important way to access information and aid in coping. We currently host a Bariatric Surgery Weight Loss support group for our post-surgical patients, an IBD support group for our patients with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn Disease, a Friends and Family of IBD Patients support group, and other healthy eating support groups. Our groups occur once a month and are exclusively for patients of Northwestern Medicine. Many groups also feature our ‘Meet the Experts’ series where specialists (physicians, dieticians, community advocates, etc.) periodically join the group to answer questions and provide information on the latest research and news impacting patients.
In addition to our monthly support groups, we also offer periodic education groups which are open to any Northwestern Medicine patient and the community at large to provide information regarding the identification and treatment of digestive diseases.
Many of the conditions we treat through the Digestive Health Center and the Behavioral Medicine Program can be complex and enduring. Chronic medical illness can take a toll not only on the individual, but on the entire family. We offer patients and their families the opportunity to meet with our experts to answer questions, explore treatment options, and learn how to cope.
Patients of the Behavioral Medicine for Digestive Health Program have access to specialized media to support their treatment. Audio and video recordings range from relaxation exercises, guided meditation to address sleep and pain, and hypnosis for IBD and IBS.
Patients can access digital health resources here.
In the spirit of keeping you well-informed, some of the physician(s) and/or individual(s) identified are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. They have selected our facilities as places where they want to treat and care for their private patients.