Written by:
Emma Naughton
Published on:
February 25, 2022

Hypnotherapy for IBS

Hypnotherapy as an effective treatment for IBS

If you suffer with Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) then you don't need me to remind you how much it effects your life, I am sure you know that very well by now. If you have had IBS for a long time you will no doubt have been to the GP many times and frustratingly tried various medications and diets. I started to suffer with IBS at university and into much of my adult life. Going out to eat was a minefield, going on dates the stuff of nightmares, what excuse could I have for the next trip to the bathroom, or why I was in there so long. Staying away from home would fill me with dread, how would I navigate the frequent and sudden bathroom trips, how do I explain that I can't eat that lovely lasagna or cream filled cake. A night out drinking would leave me with more than just the usual hangover, I would wake in the early hours with excruciating cramps and they would continue into most of the following day.

Going to the gym became too challenging, and don't get me started on any appointment that took more than 30 mins, I would start to sweat imagining my need to run to the bathroom, cough over the noise of my stomach gurgling and dread meetings.

I was sent for endoscopy but luckily that was clear and I was scheduled for a colonoscopy as the symptoms just didn’t improve no matter what I did.

Luckily for me I had hypnotherapy for unrelated reasons but as a happy accident (or so I thought!) my IBS seemed to significantly improve? It wasn’t until I did my training I realised IBS is a complex condition and whilst its certainly not all in your head, there is a large connection between the mind and gut and when a miscommunication between the two occurs it results in some unpleasant symptoms.

The Gut-Brain Axes

The vagus nerve is a long nerve that connects the brain and the gut. The vagus nerve is a major part of how our bodies and brains function; without it, our bodies wouldn’t be able to do basic tasks, and by stimulating it we can receive powerful health benefits.

When we are resting and relaxed we are in a parasympathetic state, this is when the vagus nerve becomes activated sending messages to slow heart rate and increase digestion. So if you are in a state of stress and trigger the fight, flight response (a sympathetic state) the vagus nerve will do the opposite.

The vagus nerve is responsible for various actions of the stomach including; regulating our stomach acid, the functioning of the intestines - stimulating the muscles that push food and waste through the digestive tract, and most fascinating the gut microbiomes (bacteria) talk to the brain via the vagus nerve.

So we know that the vagus nerve is extremely important in maintaining a healthy functioning digestive system. And Anxiety, stress and fatigue are the big culprits in de-activating the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system.

How does Hypnotherapy help improve IBS?

Many clients that come to see me with IBS symptoms have other indicative symptoms of stress and anxiety such as poor sleep, checking behaviours, phobias, and external stress factors. Whether these factors contribute directly to IBS or are as a result of it one thing is certain - they will have a miscommunication between the brain and gut if they are in a constant state of threat response. Hypnotherapy in general works to empty the stress buckets and reduce the negative thoughts and feelings associated with high stress and anxiety disorders.

If a client has a lot of anxiety specifically as a result of their IBS symptoms then we will work on specific visualisations that allow the vagus nerve to become activated and to improve the functioning of the digestive tract. We will work on some re-framing around the negative forecasting of IBS symptoms and learnt responses. Trance also induces a deep state of relaxation which activates the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing access to the subconscious area of the brain and re-framing the negative association with IBS. General relaxation techniques such as self-hypnosis and breathing techniques are also helpful in managing IBS at home.

There are over 30 research studies into the benefits of hypnotherapy with IBS and digestive issues and when compared to other methods (diet, medication, placebo) the results have been in favour of hypnotherapy.

If you are interesting in finding out more about hypnotherapy I offer a free initial consultation where we can discuss your goals and work out an individual treatment plan.

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