IBS: Why It Happens & How to Get Relief from Your Symptoms

Anyone who has experienced symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) will know miserable the condition can be.

For some people, IBS symptoms only crop up every now and again as an occasional setback but for others, it’s a chronic problem that has a significant and detrimental effect on everyday life.

Even if you’re in the latter category, there are ways to fight back against IBS symptoms and regain some much needed control over them. You may not have thought about using hypnotherapy to treat IBS before but as you’ll see in this post, it can be very effective and give lasting results.

Symptoms of IBS

IBS can lead to a range of digestive issues including diarrhoea or constipation (or sometimes a mixture of the two), bloating, gas, stomach cramps, indigestion, nausea and an uncomfortable “full” feeling in your stomach.

Pain in the abdomen is one of the most common IBS symptoms. You may find that it gets worse after eating and is relieved after a bowel movement or passing wind.

Changes in bowel habits are also a key part of IBS. Some people find that they alternate between constipation and diarrhoea and anything in between, while some people only pass very small amounts of mucus rather than stool.

You may feel as though you need to do a bowel movement as a matter of urgency but this won’t always be easy or comfortable when it happens.

It’s common to feel as though you haven’t fully emptied your bowels afterwards too.

Why Does IBS Come On?

Experts aren’t really sure why some people develop IBS but there are a few theories as to why symptoms happen.

IBS is thought to be caused by contractions in the stomach or your bowel becoming more sensitive to gas. This may be because the lining of the gut becomes ultra sensitive to things like eating and stress and responds with spasms and contractions that trigger IBS symptoms.

Emotional stress and anxiety is also strong linked to IBS in many cases. You may find that IBS symptoms are more frequent and more intense when you’re stressed and it’s also a vicious circle as IBS symptoms can cause stress.

Pain, bloating, gas and feeling that you need to be near a toilet “just in case” can all have a very negative effect on your wellbeing and can also be hugely embarrassing, for example.

Certain foods or drinks can also trigger IBS symptoms. It can be useful to keep a food diary so you can see if you can spot food related patterns with your symptoms. Some people find that tea, coffee, foods with insoluble fibre (such as wholemeal bread) and fatty or spicy foods are bad for their IBS, for example.

Diagnosing IBS

First of all, you’ll need to make sure that IBS is definitely the problem as some other gastrointestinal conditions can have similar symptoms.

This is important if you’re thinking about hypnotherapy as qualified hypnotherapists won’t be comfortable treating you for IBS unless they feel confident that your doctor has diagnosed it and ruled out other potential causes.

This includes infections, lactose intolerance, coeliac disease, Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.

If these are ruled out, it’s a lot more likely that IBS is the culprit.

Your GP may decide to do blood tests or x-rays to see what the situation is in your intestines or send off a sample of your faeces to check for infections. If you’re over 50, they may also want to do a colonoscopy to look inside your bowel.

IBS doesn’t cause any structural damage to the intestines so if there is any inflammation in
your intestines, it’s much more likely that another condition is causing your symptoms.

If everything looks normal and there’s no infection, it’s more likely that you’ll be diagnosed with IBS.

Treatment Options for IBS

There isn’t any cure of IBS at the moment but there are ways that you can try to manage the symptoms so that you have more control over them.

This can include medications to address the symptoms that you struggle with most and can include:

  • Helping stools to be passed more easily
  • Encouraging more frequent bowel movements
  • Stopping stools moving through the intestines as quickly
  • Decreasing bowel contractions
  • Antispasmodic medications to reduce cramping

Diet, probiotics and other lifestyle changes are often recommended too, regardless of whether medication is prescribed. Some people find that following the FODMAP diet relieves IBS symptoms.

Psychological therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), psychotherapy and hypnotherapy can also be used to treat IBS.

Hypnotherapy in particular can be successful in controlling IBS symptoms as you’ll see in the next section!

How Does Hypnotherapy Work for IBS?

Hypnotherapy has an impressive success rate when it comes to relieving IBS symptoms and can be a great option alongside diet and lifestyle changes.

Research has shown that hypnotherapy can offer long term results, with many patients still symptom free up to 5 years afterwards. One study even found that the long term effect lasted up to 7 years!

Some of the ways it can help include:

  • Highlighting and tackling fears relating to your IBS such as needing to be close to a toilet in case your symptoms suddenly strike while you’re out and about. This can be really important if your symptoms are currently dictating to you and affecting your quality of life. Suggestions can be a powerful way of working on this.

  • Setting goals, especially with regards to the life you’d like to be leading if IBS didn’t have such control of you.

  • Suggestions and visualisations that tackle the sensitivity of your gut. Thinking about how you’d feel without IBS and imagining much needed relief from the symptoms can be a big part of this.

  • If emotional stress is a big factor in your IBS, hypnotherapy can teach you relaxation techniques and help you to cope better with stress and anxiety. Positive imagery can work well for encouraging you to feel more relaxed and hypnotherapy can also help to reprogram your responses to stress so that it is less likely to trigger IBS symptoms.