April is IBS Awareness Month in the UK

Apparently Irritable Bowel Syndrome is one of the most common digestive conditions in the UK and it affects between 10 and 20 percent of the population. IBS is more common in women, especially those aged between 20 and 30, but it can affect people of all ages.

For IBS sufferers every day is IBS awareness day!

People who suffer from IBS are so much more aware of the workings of their gut than people who don’t suffer. Even people who have only relatively minor symptoms are generally super sensitive to minor abdominal sensations and changes in sensations. Those who have stronger symptoms plan their whole day around their symptoms. The symptoms dictate whether, where and when they are able to go out. Detailed plans concerning finding out where available toilets are can be found on every journey,

Are there benefits to having awareness days or months?

Awareness days can encourage blogs such as this one which give information both for the sufferer and to others. They can start conversations which can lead to better understanding of the difficulties involved in a problem and possibly increase empathy towards those who have it. At best they can raise cash for charities such as cancer care, dementia care or research. At worst, nobody will take any notice but if there is a chance of helping those in need in any way I say ‘bring them on’!

So what is IBS then?

IBS is an umbrella term that covers a number of different digestive problems Although people who have IBS vary tremendously in which particular symptoms they suffer there are some that are pretty common to all. It can be very frustrating to live with and can have an enormous impact on everyday life. It is usually diagnosed after extensive testing eliminates other causes.
Common symptoms:

  • Stomach pain or cramps – usually worse after eating and better after doing a pooh
  • Bloating – the tummy may feel uncomfortably full and swollen, so much so that on occasion someone can look several months pregnant!
  • Flatulence (farting)
  • Diarrhoea / diarrhea (according to your home country spelling!). with very liquid pooh and often accompanied by the need to pooh suddenly and urgently
  • A very opposite symptom is constipation plus strain when poohing together with a feeling that bowels haven’t been properly emptied
  • Sometimes symptoms can last for days, weeks or months at a time. And sometimes they are there all the time
  • The exact cause is unknown – it’s been linked to things like food passing through your gut too quickly or too slowly, oversensitive nerves in your gut, stress, and a family history of digestive problems

Diet can play a part in reducing symptoms

It’s useful to keep a diary of everything you eat in order to understand what triggers symptoms

  • Good to eat homemade or fresh food but often go easy on vegetables and fruit. Can make things worse!
  • Limit unhealthy processed foods
  • Limit alcohol, caffeine and carbonated drinks
  • Eat relatively slowly as encourages good chewing and it limits air swallowed
  • Don’t have too much delay between meals
  • Probiotics help some but not all people

Is there a cure?

Unfortunately generally it is described as a lifelong problem, which can be caused by a number of different factors.

Doctors say that there’s no definitive cure, but diet changes and medicines can help control the symptoms in many cases.

There seems no doubt that stress or other psychological or emotional factors can exacerbate things so in cases where diet change and medication are unhelpful doctors will recommend some kind of psychological intervention and CBT and Hypnotherapy are often recommended. Hypnotherapy has been found very helpful particularly in cases where symptoms seem to have been resistant to other forms of treatment and even NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) have recommended it in their guidelines for these cases!

Professor Whorwell, expert in the field of IBS, from the School of Medicine and Director of the South Manchester Functional Bowel Service, has been investigating IBS treatment for over 20 years

“IBS is ideal for treatment with hypnosis, as there is no structural damage to the body,” Professor Whorwell explained. “During the hypnotherapy, sufferers learn how to influence and gain control of their gut function, and then seem to be able to change the way the brain modulates their gut activity. The treatment has a success rate of about 70%, and Professor Whorwell believes that hypnotherapy, although it’s labour-intensive, could be an extremely effective treatment for the condition

Hypnotherapy not frequently used within the NHS

When Professor Whorwell set up his hypnotherapy clinics to help IBS sufferers within a hospital setting he saw a success rate of around 70% which was probably rather higher than that found in diet change and medication, and the positive results of hypnotherapy were longer lasting. But the NHS became rather unwilling for the most part in funding the original twelve weekly sessions as it was somewhat labour intensive and, to be blunt, giving medication was quicker and cheaper. So most sufferers choose to have help through private hypnotherapy practice.

I myself regularly see people for IBS problems in my own hypnotherapy practice and have been referred many patients by forward thinking gastroenterologists. And generally I have found that my patients need far fewer than twelve visits. I think this is due in part because my patients not only receive one-to-one treatment but I make them tailor made CDs / MP3s for support at home. Regular listening to these relaxing, stress-reducing audios gives on-going support and teaches them relaxation skills and ways to slow down over-stimulated responses of the bowel. Generally this reduces the need for more than about three or four face-to face sessions and indeed sometimes fewer in more mild cases.

‘Manage your IBS’ CD / MP3 download

Follow this link and you can find details of my published download and you can also listen to a sample https://www.firstwayforward.com/product/manage-your-ibs-2/

Although it is not tailor made exactly for you, you will find something on it that is suitable for your problems as I have created four tracks, varying in time from five minutes to twenty nine minutes, which cover the various aspects of this problem. For example there is one track which deals with how to calm, soothe and slow down over-stimulated responses associated with diarrhea / diarrhoea. There is another that deals with the opposite problem of constipation to encourage more active and regular bowel movements. Two other tracks to help with increasing emotional and physical calm and mental and physical wellbeing. You choose the tracks which are most appropriate to you so actually it does almost seem like an audio tailor made just for you. Regular listening is the key to success!