Written by Trevor Eddolls

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a common, long-term problem. Different people show different symptoms and some people are affected more severely than others. The symptoms may last for a few days or for a few months and may be associated with eating certain foods or periods of stress. Estimates suggest that one in five people may experience IBS, which usually develops when people are in their twenties. Estimates suggest that twice as many women are affected as men.

There is no cure for IBS. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends hypnotherapy as a treatment.

NICE recommend that people living with IBS who do not respond to pharmacological treatments after 12 months, consider a referral for psychological interventions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy, and/or psychological therapy.

The most common symptoms of IBS (according to http://www.nhs.uk) are:

·        abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping, which may be relieved going to the toilet

·        a change in your bowel habits – such as diarrhoea, constipation, or sometimes both

·        bloating and swelling of your stomach

·        excessive wind (flatulence)

·        occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet

·        a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet

·        passing mucus from your bottom.

Some IBS sufferers also experience:

·        lethargy

·        feeling sick

·        backache

·        bladder problems (such as needing to wake up to urinate at night, experiencing an urgent need to urinate, and difficulty fully emptying the bladder)

·        pain during sex (dyspareunia)

·        incontinence.

Because of the impact IBS has on a person, they may also have feelings of depression and anxiety.

The cause of IBS is unknown, although there are suggestions that it’s related to problems with digestion and increased sensitivity of the gut. There are suggestions that food passes through the GI tract too quickly, causing diarrhoea. Or it passes through too slowly, causing constipation. Or that it doesn’t pass through at all. Or it may be that the brain becomes oversensitive to messages from the gut, so mild indigestion feels like severe abdominal pain. And often a period of IBS can start after a stressful event. Other triggers for IBS include: alcohol, fizzy drinks, chocolate, caffeine-containing drinks, processed snacks (crisps and biscuits), and fatty or fried food

Diagnosing IBS is difficult because there is no specific test. Often their doctor will exclude other causes first such as IBDs (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, which leave inflammatory markers in their blood tests.

Cochrane looked at the research evidence and found that the studies provide some evidence that suggest that hypnotherapy might be effective in treating IBS symptoms including abdominal pain. However the results of these studies should be interpreted with caution due to poor study quality and small size.

As well as hypnotherapy, people with IBS may try keeping a food diary to identify any foods that seem to trigger an episode. People with diarrhoea may try cutting down on the insoluble fibre (wholegrain bread, bran, cereals, and nuts and seeds). If they have constipation, they might try increasing the amount of soluble fibre they eat and the amount of water they drink. If a person has persistent or frequent bloating, they might try a low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyol) diet. FODMAP carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables, animal milk, wheat products, and beans) aren’t easily broken down and absorbed by the gut. As a result, they start to ferment in the gut relatively quickly, and the gases released can lead to bloating. Many people say that exercise helps to relieve their symptoms of IBS. The exercise needs to be strenuous enough to increase a person’s heart and breathing rates. Some IBS sufferers take anti-spasmodic drugs, some are on laxatives, others are prescribed antimotility medicines (for diarrhoea), and others may be using peppermint oil. Some people find taking probiotics regularly helps to relieve their symptoms of IBS. And some people will be taking antidepressants.

One of the main benefits of hypnotherapy for IBS is that it can help a client to relax, which, in turn, can help them to manage stress – to empty their stress bucket. It can also be used to help the client to visualize themselves coping and decreasing their sensitivity to messages from their gut. Hypnosis can also improve a client’s general mental well-being, and provide psychological coping strategies for dealing with distressing symptoms, as well as help suppress thoughts and behaviours that increase the symptoms of IBS.


Trevor Eddolls
iTech-Ed Hypnotherapy
Wilts SN14 0TL
01249 443256


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