Mind-Body Interventions for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients in the Chinese Population: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Int J Behav Med. 2017 Apr;24(2):191-204. doi: 10.1007/s12529-016-9589-0.


Purpose: The aim of this study is to identify and assess evidence related to the efficacy of mind-body interventions on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the Chinese population.

Method: Drawn from Chinese databases, nine RCTs and three Q-E studies were included in the systematic review. The methodological quality of RCTs was evaluated based on the following criteria: adequate sequence generation, allocation concealment, blinding, completeness of outcome data, selective reporting, and other potential biases. For continuous variables, the effect size (ES) was determined by calculating the standardized mean difference between groups. For dichotomous variables, the ES was determined by calculating the risk ratio (RR) between groups. Given the heterogeneity between the trials and the small number of studies included, both random effects and fixed effects models were used. The inverse variance method was used for pooling. Statistical analyses were performed using Review Manager version 5.0.

Results: The total number of papers identified was 710: 462 from English language databases and 248 from Chinese language databases. Twelve studies met our eligibility criteria. Among the studies selected, three were Q-E studies the rest RCTs. Two studies described the randomization process. None of the studies reported allocation concealment nor blinding. Seven studies reported no dropouts. One of the studies mentioned the total amount of dropouts; though the reason for dropping out was not referenced. The other four studies did not clearly report dropouts. With the exception of three studies, there was inadequate information to determine biased reporting for the majority; the level of risk for bias in these studies is unclear. Finally, six meta-analyses were performed. One was conducted with four randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that used cure rate as outcome measures to evaluate gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, which suggested that mind-body interventions were effective in improving GI symptoms (random effects model: RR = 1.08; 95 % CI 1.01 to 1.17; fixed effects model: RR = 1.07; 95 % CI 1.01 to 1.12). The remaining five were conducted in three RCTs, which suggested that mind-body interventions were effective in improving several aspects of quality of life, including interference with activity (random effects and fixed effects models: SMD = 0.64; 95 % CI 0.41 to 0.86), body image (random effects model: SMD = 0.36; 95 % CI 0.06 to 0.67; fixed effects model: SMD = 0.33; 95 % CI 0.11 to 0.55), health worry (random effects and fixed effects models: SMD = 0.67; 95 % CI 0.44 to 0.90), food avoidance (random effects and fixed effects models: SMD = 0.45; 95 % CI 0.23 to 0.68), and social reaction (random effects model: SMD = 0.79; 95 % CI 0.47 to 1.12; fixed effects model: SMD = 0.78; 95 % CI 0.55 to 1.01), as measured by Irritable Bowel Syndrome Quality of Life Questionnaire ( IBS-QOL).

Conclusion: Mind-body interventions may have the potential to improve GI symptoms in Chinese patients with IBS. The improvement of GI symptoms was also accompanied with the improvement of various outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and quality of life, just to mention a few. However, the published studies generally had significant methodological limitations. Future clinical trials with rigorous research design are needed in this field. More studies focusing on the mind-body interventions originated in China, such as tai chi and qi gong should be encouraged.

Keywords: Chinese; Irritable bowel syndrome; Meta-analysis; Mind–body interventions.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / therapy
  • China
  • Depression / therapy
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Mind-Body Therapies / methods*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Tai Ji / methods