If you are reading this section then it is likely that you or someone you know suffers from IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome so you probably know most of the facts about this condition:
- There is no known cause of IBS
- Doctors diagnose it by ruling out what it isn't
- There appear to be no generally effective treatments
- Drugs either work for a limited time, only on some individuals or are too expensive
- It has significant impact on quality of life and creates considerable anxiety and stress
- Most doctors really don't know what to do with it
The good news is that hypnotherapy, has been shown to help alleviate symptoms considerably.
Hypnotherapy proven effective for IBS
In February 2008 the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), which gives guidance to the NHS on effective treatments, published guidance for GPs and consultants saying there was good evidence that hypnotherapy was an effective IBS treatment and that it could be recommended for chronic IBS. Ask your GP to refer you for IBS hypnotherapy.
In the UK research conducted by Professor Peter Whorwell of Manchester University has demonstrated high levels of effectiveness, helping all the symptoms of IBS sustaining those improvements over long periods of time.
In the United States hypnotherapy is listed as a treatment for IBS on the highly regarded Empirically Validated Treatments List (Chambless et al.) which is roughly equivalent to the NICE guidelines in the UK.
See links at the bottom of the section for more research results.
How does it work?
Hypnotherapy for IBS seems to work by lowering the general levels of anxiety, lowering the perception of pain and discomfort (which is related to anxiety) and also by directing positive images and suggestions to the gut.
The gut has its own separate nervous system called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which has a full set of neurons and neurotransmitters normally found only in the brain itself. The ENS can function separately from the main central nervous system and is connected by special large nerve fibres to the brain. Therefore it is possible that the bowel can be influenced by images and thoughts in the brain to a much greater extent than previously thought. It is also possible that the gut can swamp the brain with messages too.
Is stress the cause of IBS?
No-one knows the cause of IBS. However it is always useful to distinguish between what started a condition and why the condition continues. People with IBS have a bowel that over-responds to stress this means that instead of simply emptying the bowel when stressed it spasms and is hypersensitive so the pain threshold is lowered. In addition to this, because of the symptoms and impact on the quality of life, sufferers usually pay a lot of attention to their tummy. It seems that an infection or tummy upset might start the IBS condition, however this creates a bowel that over-reacts to stress and the nerves are over-sensitive to that over-reaction. The symptoms of IBS can be so stressful that IBS becomes a self-maintaining condition - i.e. a vicious circle of stress increased stress response greater perception of discomfort more stress etc.
The key is lowering the stress response
So one of the keys to dealing with IBS is to lower our stress sensitivity and also reduce the perception of pain from the bowel. Hypnotherapy has a history of remarkable effectiveness in lowering anxiety levels and also in pain reduction. In many ways hypnotherapy is an ideal treatment for IBS:
- Firstly, it is excellent at lowering stress and anxiety levels, both the general level of anxiety and also hypersensitivity to stressful situations.
- Secondly, hypnotherapy is powerfully effective for pain reduction.
- Thirdly, because IBS is defined by its symptoms, if hypnotherapy can remove the symptoms then you have treated the IBS.
How many treatments and what is involved?
There is an initial consultation that may last up to 30 minutes costing £25, followed by an agreed programme of sessions that may last up to 1 hour costing £60 each. During the session you will have the chance to dialogue about your condition and learn more about how your gut and brain work together. The hypnosis treatment in the session is very relaxing and pleasant.You will take home a CD with instructions to listen to it once a day between sessions.
See your doctor first, then consider hypnotherapy for IBS
Although hypnotherapy has proven very effective, IBS is still regarded as a medical condition. If you think you might have IBS then the first thing to do is visit your GP to get their diagnosis and advice. Once you have established with the doctor that it is IBS and believe that hypnotherapy could help you then please contact me to talk about how I can help.