Beat gut-wrenching IBS with hypnotherapy

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is more common than many people think and surveys show that one in 10 – usually women – suffer from this gut-wrenching discomfort at one time or another. IBS

The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) says IBS is one of the most common disorders seen by doctors and there is no one single treatment or cure but there are ways to manage it to make sufferers feel better.

The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) says IBS can be debilitating, preventing people from achieving simple tasks such as going shopping or enjoying long walks. It may also cause serious discomfort on a regular basis.

Hypnotherapy is acknowledged within the wider medical profession as an evidenced-based therapy that can help reduce the symptoms of IBS, and sometimes alleviate those symptoms entirely.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) also lists hypnotherapy as one of the treatments to help with IBS, says the NCH.

“We know that IBS can be exacerbated by anxiety or stress, and that the subsequent worry about the IBS can perpetuate the effects,” the UK-based body says.

“Hypnotherapy can get to the root of the problem, giving you the tools to manage any stress that may be making the IBS worse, and by using positive suggestion increase your confidence in your well-being to reduce sensitivity in your gut.”

It is not entirely clear how stress, anxiety and IBS are related or which one comes first, says the website but it adds that but studies show they tend to co-exist.

“If you do diagnostic interviews, what you find is that about 60% of IBS patients will meet the criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders,” Edward Blanchard, PhD, professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, told the site.

He added that the most common mental ailment suffered by people with IBS was generalised anxiety disorder.

Given that IBS is made worse through anxiety or stress, and that the subsequent worry about the IBS can perpetuate the effects, hypnotherapy can get to the root of the problem, allowing the sufferer to have the tools to manage any stress that may be making the IBS worse.

By using positive suggestion, a hypnotherapist can increase the client’s confidence in their well-being to reduce sensitivity in the gut. This is borne out by the fact that psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety, can cause chemical changes in the body that can affect processes like those that occur in the digestive system.

The IFFGD says hypnosis has been shown to be an effective treatment for IBS in a number of clinical studies.

“Hypnotherapy for IBS involves progressive relaxation, and then suggestions of soothing imagery and sensations focused on the individual’s symptoms,” the organisation says.

“Improvements in overall well-being, quality of life, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, and bloating have been noted.”