Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a mixture of abdominal symptoms for which there is no apparent cause. Symptoms include constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and abdominal pain.

It’s the most common condition seen by gastroenterologists and estimates suggest that as many as one in five adults in the UK have IBS at any one time.

Professor Peter Whorwell, Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist at the University Hospital of South Manchester conducted research into using hypnosis as part of a treatment plan for IBS and is a strong supporter of this complementary approach. He uses it to help his patients and maintains that it’s effective for two reasons – one is that it lowers anxiety and two, it acts as pain management and decreases the sensitivity in the gut.

Hypnotherapy has been used with both adults and children to help manage the pain associated with irritable bowel. There is evidence to support its use in this condition for both adults and children and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Guidance (NICE) recommends the NHS should consider referring patients for hypnotherapy if their irritable bowel is persistent and has failed to respond to simple prescribed medicine.

Since the cause of IBS is unknown, it’s not possible to reliably prevent symptoms. The following strategies can help your digestive system and so may improve the condition.

  • Drink lots of water, preferably two litres a day
  • A high-fibre diet improves digestion. The amount of fibre must be increased gradually to allow the stomach to get used to it
  • Avoid food or beverages that make the symptoms worse. Coffee and milk are frequent offenders
  • It may be helpful to keep a diary in which you note down the foods that seem to upset your stomach
  • Avoid strong spices and foods that give you wind
  • Avoid large meals, but eat regularly
  • Limit your alcohol intake

Is there anything else that I can do to improve IBS?

  • Physical activity and exercise can improve digestion and reduce stress.
  • Heat treatment with hot packs, hot-water bottles or electric blankets may relieve stomach pain.
  • Try to reduce the amount of stress in your life. You might like to experiment with some of the different relaxation techniques, such as yoga, hypnotherapy and meditation.
  • Try to keep things in perspective: excessive worrying about digestive problems could lead to social and psychological problems.

How will hypnotherapy help?

Research has concluded that IBS can often be triggered by stress, so beginning the spasms, cramps or other symptoms affecting the small or large bowels.

Although hypnotherapy has been proven to help IBS, you should ensure that you seek medical attention in order to have the condition diagnosed and treatment options outlined by your doctor, prior to hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy can be used as a relaxation tool to reduce general levels of anxiety and the more specific stress associated with having IBS. In addition, visualisation and NLP (neuro linguistic programming) techniques will be utilised to remove any fears associated with the condition.

Aspects of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and solutions focused brief therapy will then allow you to take control, reduce or eliminate pain and other symptoms and to concentrate on more positive aspects.

The number of session required will be determined by the severity of the condition, however as this therapy will deal with overall anxiety and stress levels, this is usually between 8-12 sessions, although improvements will often be noticed after 5-6 sessions. This will be discussed during the initial consultation.

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