The traditional treatment approaches for managing IBS symptoms are either medications or restrictive diets such as the low FODMAP diet.
And whilst these things can help to reduce the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, if you’re like many of the clients I work with, these approaches have either only helped for a short time or they haven’t worked at all. You may also have found you get some relief but you’re also feeling sick and tired of the side effects that come along with medication or you’re over feeling stressed out about what you can or cant eat.
So if you’re in this place now and looking for an alternative way to getting long term relief from your IBS symptoms without diets or drugs, this post is for you.
First, understand what’s causing your symptoms
Ok so when it comes to finding long term relief from IBS and healing your gut naturally, we first need to take a step back and understand what is causing the symptoms you’re experiencing in the first place..
Because otherwise you’re just treating the symptoms, which is exactly what the drugs and diets are doing.
So whether you are experiencing a sluggish slow moving bowel with constipation, pain, bloating and gas, or a very fast moving bowel with diarrohea, urgency and stomach cramps – the underlying issue is the same.
And it all has to with the way your brain and your gut are communicating with each other.
IBS is a Disorder of the Gut Brain Interaction (DGBI)
You see what a lot of people don’t realise about IBS is that it’s called a disorder of the gut-brain interaction, or a DGBI for short. This means that your IBS symptoms are being caused by a disturbance in the way that your gut and brain are communicating.
Now in an ideal world, this two-way communication, also known as your gut-brain connection works to maintain your body’s state of steady functioning known as homeostasis.
For example, the brain sends signals to the digestive system to help it function correctly, and the digestive system in turn sends signals back to the brain so that the brain can control things like appetite, mood, and your sleep.
Unfortunately, when this gut-brain communication becomes disrupted, it can result in incorrect messages being sent between the two. And it’s this faulty communication that can affect the ability for your gut to function properly. This results in IBS symptoms including stomach pain and irregular bowel habits.
A Psychological approach to managing IBS
So knowing that IBS symptoms are being caused by a miscommunication happening between your brain and your gut opens up the door to a whole new approach to managing and getting long term relief from symptoms.
And this is a psychological approach.
Now let me be clear. I am not saying that your IBS symptoms are all in your head. But what I am saying is the solution may well be. Because knowing that your brain and your gut talk to each other, allows us to target this very same connection using psychological therapies such as gut directed hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.
And whilst this approach may be brand new to you, these therapies have actually been around for almost 40 years in the treatment of IBS, and have a wealth of research studies supporting their use.
In fact on average gut directed hypnotherapy can help to reduce the symptoms of IBS by over 70%, and I see results inside of The Calm Gut IBS Program far exceed this on a regular basis.
Now both CBT and hypnotherapy for IBS are so effective because they work in two specific ways:
- Firstly, they address the factors maintaining your IBS symptoms, particularly the ways in which you think and feel about your gut issues, and the changes in behaviour that you have made to manage your IBS. All these things can aggravate your symptoms.
- And secondly, they work on the level of your nervous system by changing the nerve communications that run between your gut and your brain. This means that they can positively influence the speed at which food moves through your intestines, the hypersensitivity of the nerves which are currently reacting to pain and discomfort and they can also help to normalise how your brain processes pain.
A non diet or drug approach is recommended for even severe IBS symptoms
What’s more this approach to managing IBS is recommended by both NICE (The National Institute for Health and Clinical Evidence) in the UK and is endorsed by the American College of Gastroenterology.
Furthermore unlike medication which can only really target specific symptoms, hypnotherapy & CBT can be used to improve the whole array of symptoms that come with IBS including non-gut symptoms such as fatigue, back pain and anxiety.
The results are also comparable to the low fodmap diet, with a 2016 study demonstrating that gut directed hypnotherapy is as effective, with 70% of people experiencing improvement in their symptoms. These improvements were also shown to be maintained 6 months after treatment.
Could this approach for IBS really work for you?
So if you’re starting to feel a little bit excited about this approach and wondering whether it will work for you, I also understand that you may be feeling a bit sceptical too. In fact many of my past clients before working together confessed that they just didn’t want to feel hopeful because they’d already tried so many things and had been let down so many times.
It almost felt easier to just not get their hopes up.
So if you are feeling sceptical, and wanting to learn more about the research and how this approach could work for you and your IBS symptoms then make sure you read this next post where I share more about the research and some incredible success stories: Does Gut Directed Hypnotherapy Work for IBS?