Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
If you suffer with Irritable Bowel Syndrome you will be all too familiar with the symptoms: this is a chronic condition (meaning it can affect you over a long period of time) and can cause a great deal of distress. It has been estimated to affect up to a fifth of the population, although the numbers are likely to be higher because many people suffer in silence without seeking medical help.
IBS is characterised by constipation or diarrhoea or bloating and pain, or any combination of these, and where medical examination has ruled out any form of disease in your stomach, intestines or bowel. IBS is referred to as a ‘functional gastrointestinal disorder’ because the problem lies in the way your gut is working and not because you have a disease.
IBS is often triggered by a bout of food poisoning, or following a course of antibiotic treatment for some other illness, but it can start at any time. There is a higher rate of the syndrome developing in people in early adulthood, and it seems to be more common in women.
Because there is nothing obviously physically wrong with you if you have IBS, it can be very difficult to treat. You are likely to be advised to try a range of solutions such as changing your diet, finding ways of de-stressing, taking certain medications and probiotics, and addressing the psychological impact of the symptoms. Symptoms of pain and bloating may be due to excessive air swallowing or habitual shallow breathing, and you may be taught breathing exercises to counter this (There are many resources both in print and on the web. One particularly useful book is ‘Irritable Bowel Solutions’ by Professor John Hunter).
For persistent IBS, which does not respond adequately to these changes in diet and lifestyle, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend either CBT or hypnotherapy. The reason for recommending CBT is that we can become anxious and depressed about the symptoms, and the feelings of anxiety and depression can in turn make the symptoms worse, creating a vicious circle that can be hard to break. Hypnotherapy is a little harder to explain: there are straightforward benefits to learning to relax and cope better with the symptoms using hypnosis, but what also seems to happen is that hypnotic suggestions have a direct effect on the way the gut functions. There has been a lot of scientific and clinical research into proving that this does in fact happen, but the mechanism by which hypnotic suggestion has this effect is, as yet, unknown.
As a fully accredited CBT therapist and hypnotherapist I am able to combine the most effective elements of CBT and hypnosis, enabling clients to benefit from the two most effective treatments for this hard-to-treat condition. This is not a guaranteed cure, but the results are significant for the majority of clients.
I hold a clinic for treating IBS using hypnosis and CBT at the London Bridge Hospital in central London. Please contact me direct for details.