Helping clients to get back in charge of their lives, with the confidence, calmness & self-sufficiency to flourish.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

Were you surprised when your GP or specialist suggested using hypnotherapy to treat your IBS symptoms?

I see a lot of clients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and many have mentioned how they were initially surprised by the idea of using hypnosis, as they don't understand how something to do with the mind (hypnosis) can change something experienced in the body (IBS). So let's begin by considering IBS in some detail.

About IBS:

It's a fairly common condition of the digestive system, with between 10% and 20% of the population experiencing some of the symptoms. IBS often first appears between the ages of 20 and 30, and may come and go during a person's lifetime, often appearing during times of stress. When present it can be a painful, upsetting and debilitating condition, which can lead to changes in behaviour and very often has a negative impact on lifestyle.

The symptoms include:

  • Chronic abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Abdominal distention (bloating), either actual or felt
  • Altered bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhoea, possibly alternating
  • An urgent need to empty the bowel

The cause of IBS is still unclear, with a likely mixture of physical and psychological factors combining to trigger the symptoms. The risk of developing IBS has been shown to increase after acute gastrointestinal infection, whilst other studies indicate that up to 60% of people with IBS have a diagnosable psychological condition such as anxiety or depression. Factors such as anxiety, stress and past or on-going life events have been shown to be involved in the onset of IBS. People with IBS are also more likely to be suffering from certain other conditions, (when compared to the general population). These include: fibromyalgia, headache, backache, depression and anxiety.

There is no test to diagnose IBS, instead tests are conducted to eliminate other conditions which have similar symptoms, but have particular treatments available. Only if the results of these tests are normal can the other conditions be eliminated as possible causes of the symptoms, and IBS may then be diagnosed. For this reason, it is important, indeed essential, for anyone who thinks they might have IBS to consult a GP or specialist and obtain a diagnosis, before seeking help with hypnotherapy. This is so important I'll say it again; always obtain a diagnosis for IBS before seeking help with hypnotherapy.

Once a diagnosis of IBS has been made, many GPs and specialists are happy to refer patients for hypnotherapy, as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended hypnotherapy as a psychological therapy for refractory
IBS. [See page 464 of the guidelines here]. NICE is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) in the UK, providing independent evidence-based guidance for the NHS, local authorities, charities, and others who commission or provide healthcare. The following text from the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council underlines this point:
'Hypnotherapy has also been used with both adults and children to help manage the pain associated with irritable bowel. There is evidence to support its use in this condition for both adults and children and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends the NHS should consider referring patients for hypnotherapy if their irritable bowel is persistent and has failed to respond to simple prescribed medicine'.

How hypnotherapy can help:

Hypnotherapy can be applied in two directions; firstly in helping to relieve the immediate symptoms, and secondly in identifying and alleviating any underlying psychological causes. The first path involves an approach called 'Gut Directed Therapy' (GDT) and the above-mentioned NICE guidelines were based on research using this type of protocol, typically for around 8 to 12 sessions. Initially sessions will be one week apart, but after about 4 sessions they will begin to be fortnightly or 3-weekly. At the same time, self-hypnosis will be taught, which really helps to build and maintain the benefits of the therapy in the long-term. The second approach is to work on underlying factors such as stress, anxiety, depression or trauma (either on-going or past). Often, this can be very valuable work, bringing about worthwhile results and benefits beyond the relief of the IBS symptoms. I will therefore tend to combine this approach with the GDT, depending upon each client’s individual needs. This, coupled with the need for dialogue in therapy, is one reason why non-personalised recorded hypnosis sessions may be of limited use for some people.

Additionally, hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis can help to reduce levels of anxiety and depression that have come about as a result of living with the symptoms of IBS for many months or years, which is often a very significant benefit in itself. Clients often describe feeling empowered by the process, no longer feeling as if they are the victims of a random illness over which they have no control.

Please note that, as with any talking therapy, results may vary from person to person.

Call me directly on 07831-693684 to make an appointment, or send me an e-mail (there's a 'contact me' link below).

Following government guidelines, from March 2020 all sessions will be online; one-to-one sessions are suspended until further notice. When they resume, the location may vary from that shown below.

Sessions are at Delta House, near to London Bridge station, SE1, and cost £75.00. Sessions are booked individually, so there is no need to commit to multiple sessions, or to pay for therapy you don't need, however, I do ask for at least 24 hours notice of any cancellation or rescheduling, otherwise the full fee is chargeable. Weekend and evening appointments are available.

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