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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 2023–2024 U.S. News & World Report.

Meet the Team

Physician using a small-scale toy stomach to demonstrate something to patients
The Behavioral Medicine for Digestive Health program provides a broad range of services to the Digestive Health Center’s gastroenterology, hepatology, and lifestyle medicine patients.

Meet the Behavioral Medicine for Digestive Health Team

Outpatient Services

Stress can negatively impact 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 and indirectly impacts the GI tract and intensifies GI symptoms by interfering with signaling between the brain and the gut.

Living with chronic and unpredictable GI symptoms is stressful and can affect work, relationships, and overall quality of life.

Our treatments directly target GI symptoms and break the cycle that can aggravate 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 dietitians
  • Postdoctoral fellows

as well as graduate students, all of whom have specialized training in digestive diseases. We work directly with Digestive Health Center gastroenterologists and other physicians to coordinate patient care.

All of the therapists on our team 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:

Inpatient Services

Hospitalization can be a difficult experience for patients and their families. The Behavioral Medicine for Digestive Health program offers inpatient support.

Our team is available to provide:

  • Education
  • Pain management and coping techniques
  • Emotional support
  • Support for families

We also work with patients to develop strategies for improving communication with their treatment team and to clarify and communicate 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.

The team of registered dietitian nutritionists provides patients with 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
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Support and Education Groups

Support groups can be an important way to access information and aid in coping. We currently host the following:

  • Bariatric Surgery Weight Loss: Support group for our post-surgical patients
  • IBD: Support group for our patients with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn Disease
  • Friends and Family: Support group for friends and family of IBD patients

In addition to these, the program also hosts healthy eating support groups.

Our support groups meet once a month and are exclusively for Northwestern Medicine patients. Many groups also feature our “Meet the Experts” series where specialists (physicians, dietitians, community advocates, etc.) 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.

Family Education

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.

Digital Health

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.

Treatment Approaches

Locations & Contact Information
    Guided Imagery
    Guided Imagery

    Join Kathryn Tomasino, PhD, of the Digestive Health Center Behavioral Medicine team, as she leads a guided imagery meditation session to promote relaxation and an escape from tension and stress.

    Diaphragmatic Breathing
    Diaphragmatic Breathing

    In this video Anjali Pandit, PhD, and Kathryn Tomasino, PhD, will walk you through the rationale for and technique of diaphragmatic breathing. You will learn how it can help reduce gastrointestinal symptoms and increase your relaxation response.

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation
    Progressive Muscle Relaxation

    Join the Digestive Health Center Behavioral Medicine team for a progressive muscle relaxation session that helps relieve the body of tension.

    Breathing Meditation
    Breathing Meditation

    Join Anjali Pandit, PhD, a member of the Digestive Health Center Behavioral Medicine team, for a relaxing breathing meditation to improve your breathing practice, increase your relaxation response and reduce stress.

    Making the Mind-Gut Connection
    Making the Mind-Gut Connection

    John Pandolfino, MD, and team discuss how patients can use behavioral therapy as part of an entire digestive disease treatment plan.


    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.