Between 10 – 20% of the population are thought to suffer from IBS in varying degrees of severity. It often has a variety of apparently unrelated, but extremely intrusive symptoms and can greatly restrict the patient’s quality of life.
Symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain & bloating
- Change of bowel habit; diarrhoea / constipation / both
- Nausea, heartburn, excess wind
- Bodily aches & pains, particularly backache
- Urinary urgency
- Gynaelogical symptoms
Although difficult to precisely diagnose, irritable bowel syndrome is now thought to be the result of an over-sensitive gut (NHS). The reason for this oversensitivity will vary from person to person, but it often includes gut infections, diet, reactions to (or over use of) certain drugs and antibiotics. Whilst the condition is no longer thought to be caused by stress, it is still known to aggravate it.
IBS is often initially indicated by abdominal pain (around the stomach), but it is primarily diagnosed by elimination of other conditions. IBS can exist alongside, or be mistaken for other bowel conditions and so must be diagnosed by your doctor. Registered hypnotherapists will only treat IBS with written approval from your doctor (beyond general relaxation work).
There is a great wealth of clinical research available about the treatment of IBS, most noted of which is by Professor Peter Whorwell of Withenshaw Hospital. In one series of trials over a 3 month period, Whorwell and his colleagues claimed a success rate of 80%.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends hypnotherapy as a treatment for IBS.
The purpose of hypnotherapy is to give the patient a sense of control over the condition, rather than allowing the condition to control the patient (and so also their life). It can also help address exacerbating issues and prevent phobic responses, which could ultimately include the patient’s fear of leaving their home. Hypnotherapy does not guarantee a complete solution, but to use the words of Professor Whorwell, “Over the years, researchers have shown that hypnotherapy can be exceptionally helpful in the management of refractory irritable bowel syndrome.”