Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be debilitating. The condition is increasingly common, and is now estimated to affect between 10 – 20% of the population in the UK. Sufferers report repeated episodes of stomach pain, bloating, wind and discomfort, along with bowel problems such as diarrhoea and constipation. The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) says IBS can preventing people from achieving simple tasks such as going shopping or enjoying long walks because people are not confident to be away from their bathroom.
Some people report missing work and other life activities due to ongoing bouts of serious discomfort on a regular basis. Research indicates that many people are reluctant to admit that they are suffering because of cultural taboos around talking about toilet habits.
There are a range of treatments that the NHS recommends for IBS, including lifestyle and diet changes as well as medicines, but there are a certain percentage of people who don’t respond to treatment.
UK guidelines say people should be offered IBS-focused hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or psychological therapy if changes in diet and medications don’t work after 12 months.
In 2018 research carried out in the Netherlands found that 3 months of treatment with hypnotherapy was more effective than other psychoeducation interventions.
Gut-focused hypnosis uses a combination of relaxation, targeted suggestions and imagery during a hypnotherapy session to address the ‘miscommunication’ between the brain and gut. During sessions the client is guided into a focused state of awareness where they can learn skills which help calm and soothe their symptoms.
Before considering hypnotherapy for IBS, it’s important to speak to your GP and be evaluated. Unlike many other medical conditions, IBS doesn’t have a specific test for diagnosis, but is considered as a diagnosis after 6 months of gut based symptoms.
A growing number of NHS clinics now offer hypnotherapy for IBS and your GP can provide you with a referral or you can you can find a NCH-registered hypnotherapist near you by clicking here.