The Functional Bowel Disease Program

The Northwestern Medicine Functional Bowel Disease Program is unique in that it is one of the only programs in the country that has an active collaboration between behavioral medicine and gastroenterology. Our clinical model focuses on patient-centered care and uses cognitive behavioral techniques to improve symptoms.

The Functional Bowel Disease Program is supported by the most sophisticated and comprehensive motility lab in the Chicagoland area and houses a unique collaboration with colorectal surgery, focusing on anal-rectal disorders.

What are functional bowel disorders?

Functional bowel disorders are disabling, painful and embarrassing conditions that affect up to 20 percent of the adult population. They significantly impact quality of life and, for some, are debilitating. Unfortunately, there are few adequate medical or surgical therapies available to treat these conditions.

For this reason, our team* of gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons, behavioral psychologists, nutritionists and physical therapists collaborate to effectively treat these disorders. Our goal is to provide multidisciplinary interventions that incorporate leading-edge diagnostics. Our therapeutics range from traditional medicines to highly evidence-based complementary and alternative treatment strategies.

We stress the importance of treating both the physiological and psychological aspects of these disorders.

Treatment innovation

Our staff is on the leading edge of treatment innovation for functional bowel disorders. Our team has been integral in establishing and substantiating the effectiveness of multiple therapies, ranging from the use of probiotics and cognitive behavioral therapy for treating IBS to peripheral ┬Á-opioid receptor antagonists for opiate-induced constipation and hyaluronic acid/dextronomer bead (Solesta┬«) gel injections for fecal incontinence.

Our renowned faculty of physician-scientists have been integral in implementing numerous innovative therapies for functional bowel disorders. Learn more about the Diagnostic Innovation for the Treatment of Bowel Disorders at Northwestern Medicine.

Behavioral therapies

It is fairly well established that brain-gut dysregulation plays a critical role in the onset and maintenance of functional bowel symptoms. Further, patients with functional bowel disorders can mistakenly make symptoms worse by attempting to control their symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on helping patients learn skills related to managing and reducing their abdominal pain or altered bowel habits. 

Our previous research has shown that CBT is very effective for at least 80 percent of refractory patients. Gut-directed hypnotherapy is an evidence-based intervention for functional bowel disorders and can be used safely and comfortably with excellent results in a variety of patients.


Good nutrition is a critical part of health and particularly relevant for people with digestive problems who must follow specific nutrition plans. We provide state-of-the art nutrition counseling for a range of digestive diseases. Not only are we up-to-date on the latest gastrointestinal-friendly diets, we have the necessary training and skills to optimize eating behaviors that provide the best results for patients with digestive diseases.

Functional and motility conditions

Related Resources

Preventing Constipation Brochure: Read more information on how to prevent constipation. English | Spanish

Legal Information

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.