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If you're the 1 in 5 suffering from IBS, could hypnotherapy help?

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, functional disorder of the digestive system and gut that causes the bowel to be very sensitive. The condition causes recurring pain or discomfort in the abdomen and often, the nerves and muscles do not work as they should. While there is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome, there are certain treatments and lifestyle changes that can help manage symptoms. Several clinical studies have found hypnotherapy for IBS to be an effective treatment.


According to some research, IBS is one of the most common disorders of the digestive system; it’s thought to affect one in five people during their lifetime. Studies have found that women are more likely than men to suffer from IBS and their symptoms may be more severe. Between five and eight million people in the UK suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and many find no treatment that brings relief.


Many people living with irritable bowel syndrome find their symptoms to be an occasional nuisance, however, for other people, the condition can seriously affect their quality of life. Some individuals with irritable bowel syndrome experience constipation, others have diarrhoea, while some may suffer from both. The pain can range from mild to severe and may occur at a particular time of the day.


While the exact cause of IBS is unclear, some research suggests it may be due to over-activity of the gut. For example, if the contractions of the muscles in the gut wall become abnormal or overactive. Problems such as increased sensitivity to the amount of gas in the bowel and increased serotonin levels (which occur after eating at certain times of the day or certain foods) are also thought to play a role in the development of IBS.


There is also some evidence to suggest that a person’s emotional state can trigger problems in the gut. Intense feelings of anxiety and stress may cause the individual to suffer irregular bowel habits and symptoms can worsen. These feelings may in time interfere with the regularity of the digestive system, even in those who have not previously experienced IBS.


Although there is no cure for IBS, there are things that can help manage the symptoms. Hypnotherapy, relaxation training, a controlled diet, medication and cognitive behavioural therapy(CBT) have all been found to help ease symptoms of IBS.

Hypnotherapy for IBS can help an individual learn relaxation techniques, as well as learning new ways to manage stress. The tension, stress and anxiety often caused by IBS may undermine the immune system and further compromise health. Learning how to relax and manage stressful feelings can become useful life tools. Hypnosis can help to promote positive thinking and develop coping strategies.


Hypnotherapy can help the client to achieve an improved well-being and quality of life, as well as reduced constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and abdominal pain. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders recognise the potential benefits of hypnotherapy, stating 'research has found that hypnotherapy may help improve the primary symptoms of IBS. It may also help relieve other symptoms suffered by many people with IBS such as nausea, fatigue, backache, and urinary problems. Hypnotherapy appears to offer symptomatic, psychological, and physiological benefit.' https://www.aboutibs.org/complimentary-or-alternative-treatments/hypnosis-for-ibs.html


While each hypnotherapist will have a different approach, generally, IBS treatment will include: recognising and learning to cope with any worries or fears contributing to IBS, increasing the client’s confidence and well-being. The hypnotherapist can also teach the client self-hypnosis techniques so they can continue the sessions at home. A client will be encouraged to visualise the future and how they would feel without IBS. The hypnotherapist will use metaphors and suggestions with the aim of decreasing the sensitivity of the gut and to increase confidence.


Hypnotherapy is a useful tool for anyone suffering from IBS. As well as helping a client with relaxation and help them overcome any anxieties they feel, it is also useful in alleviating the symptoms that present themselves. Through mental rehearsal, and post-hypnotic suggestions, a client can find that IBS is under their control and improve the quality of their life.


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