Alleviating IBS symptoms with hypnotherapy

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an issue with is believed to affect up to 10-15% of adults in the UK at some point in their lives. It comes with many debilitating symptoms and can greatly affect an individual's quality of life. It is typified by symptoms such as constipation, stomach cramps, and feeling like your bowel movement was incomplete. 


IBS in its simplest terms means you have an over-sensitive gut, and there can be many factors that cause this and they can be either biological or psychological in origin. In this article, I am going to talk a little bit about these factors, some of the theory behind how hypnotherapy can help alleviate the symptoms associated with this condition and how studies have shown it as a useful supplementary or alternative treatment for IBS. 

The old phrase "you are what you eat" is true to a great extent and more so in those who suffer from IBS. There are definitely some foods that your gut is more sensitive to and in standard treatment through the NHS often they will look at your diet and what causes flare-ups. There are also other factors that are more psychological in nature and research shows that IBS is more common in those who suffer from ongoing stress and anxiety.

Hypnotherapy looks at the connection between your gut and your brain. The gut-brain axis is the name for the communication system between the gut and your central nervous system. Your brain is connected through nerves to micro-organisms living in your gut that influences its functions. 

In hypnotherapy, any practitioner who sees you for this problem through conducting an initial assessment should be able to identify triggers such as situations and also negative associations the person has regarding the problem such as embarrassment. They may look to identify the different aspects of the problem and work through them from the most manageable to the more severe. They then, in turn, can look to strengthen the ego in regards to the problem reminding the person attending of their own strengths and building resilience through positive suggestion. 

There is increasing evidence and research and evidence of hypnotherapy being a useful alternative treatment for irritable bowel syndrome in instances where people have not responded to medication after 12 months. These are from the National Insititute of Clinical Excellence Guidelines (NICE). In Sweden, a study showed that out of 138 patients who attended hypnotherapy for one hour for twelve weeks demonstrated that 40% showed a satisfactory reduction in symptoms compared to 12% in an untreated group and that these effects lasted for a year post-treatment. In a UK study from the University of Manchester, hypnotherapy was found to of helped 70% of 250 participants. This study also involved patient education on the subject and was found after 12 sessions to alleviate a wide range of symptoms. 

So how can hypnotherapy specifically help my IBS?

Well, hypnosis has been demonstrated to regulate acid secretion in the gut and improve the movement of food through the gut: colonic motility. The hypnotherapist may employ different techniques such as relaxation, distraction (e.g. encouraging less heightened awareness of the issue) and making positive suggestions regarding gut control instead of feeling like your gut controls you.

The relaxation component of hypnotherapy is shown to be especially helpful in clients whose emotional state affects their IBS as emotions such as anger have been shown to affect the digestive system and the passing of food through the bowel. The hypnotherapist may also use imagery which involves evoking pictures in your mind to help deal with the issue. For example, one might suggest for someone suffering from diarrhoea to imagine a fast-flowing river but that they have the power to calm it and slow the current down, or they may encourage you to evoke your own images that have significance to you and which may be more relatable. 

The hypnotherapist you see for this problem should hopefully provide you with a self-hypnosis recording based on your own particular problem. Self Hypnosis works by repeating a positive message to your subconscious mind but it can also be beneficial in that it demonstrates to clients that they can do something about the issue, that they are in control and they are equipped to deal with the problem. 

So in summary, although IBS is a chronic and often debilitating condition, there is a body of research supporting the implementation of hypnotherapy in treating it. Sometimes our problems although medical in nature may have a basis in the psychological or even the spiritual, and when conventional medicine has not worked, it should be considered as a useful alternative as the studies suggest.

It should be emphasised that it is not a cure it does not rid you of IBS completely but it does offer long-lasting symptomatic relief, so why not see who is in your area and if they have expertise in this issue? 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Glasgow G3 & Troon KA10
Written by Iain Lawrence, (BA) Dip Hyp
Glasgow G3 & Troon KA10

My name is Iain Lawrence I am a Hypnotherapist Based in South Lanarkshire and South Ayrshire. I am a caring empathetic practitioner and I have experience of a wide range of issues from Phobias to Anxiety. I use Hypnotherapy, Emotional Freedom Therapy and NLP Neuro Linguistic Programming in my practice. I believe change happens starting small.

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