IBS affects the digestion, let us see how it works – the digestive process involves food being moved through the system by muscles expanding and contracting, creating a rhythm that pushes the food along. In IBS this rhythm is not regular but more erratic, either it works too fast or sometimes it works too slowly. As food passes through the gastrointestinal tract water is absorbed from it, if the food moves quickly not enough water is absorbed and the result is diarrhoea, if it moves too lowly too much water is absorbed then constipation is the result.
The cause of IBS is not known and there are several theories which include problems in the communication between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, too much bacteria in the small intestine, heredity, too much bile produced by the liver being retained in the gut due to mal-absorption, food intolerance or the result of an infection.
There are a range of symptoms associated with IBS: Stomach cramping, Acute constipation, Acute Diarrhoea, Back pain, Flatulence, Low energy, Nausea, Bloating, Sudden need to evacuate the bowel, Heartburn, Feeling of incomplete bowel motion and some less common ones: Muscle pain, Sexual disfunction, Low back pain Headache, Incontinence, Difficulty emptying the bladder.
What can hypnotherapy do to help? Whatever the initial cause of IBS, it is generally agreed that stress can be a trigger, thus utilising hypnotherapy to assist the client in controlling their stress response is very beneficial. The sufferer can add to their stress through anticipating or expecting an episode when life/work commitments would make this very difficult to deal with, thus utilising therapeutic metaphors to re-programme that conditioned response/reaction is also very helpful along with re-framing the response to the IBS. Sometimes it is worth examining when the first episode of IBS happened to look for potential triggers or traumas that could be worked with to neutralise their impact upon the sufferer. Hypnotherapy may also be helpful in managing the associated pain and cramping many sufferers experience with IBS by using techniques to alter the focus from the pain and the perception of that pain.
Dr Wendy M Gonsalkorale has done major research into the treatment of chronic IBS with hypnotherapy and she devised a treatment plan called The Manchester Treatment, it involves teaching relaxation techniques and looking at lifestyle and personality issues to effect change, examining triggers, all of which can be encompassed in any hypnotherapy treatment plan for IBS.