When it comes to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gut pain is definitely up there in terms of the impact it can have on your life. Because let’s face it, IBS gut pain is pretty horrendous.
I remember the number of times I used to crawl into bed, teeth gritted… just wishing my life away. Doubled over in complete agony was not what I had signed up for in life, and I’m guessing that if you suffer from IBS symptoms, including painful flare ups, that you feel the same.
So in this post and video I’m going to take you through the underlying reasons why you have IBS gut pain, and then share with you 3 simple drug-free approaches to managing IBS gut pain when flare ups arise.
IBS gut pain literally puts your life on hold
When your gut goes into spasms it can stop you from making plans and it’s the reason behind countless canceled plans. And let’s not forget the stress, worry and anxiety it can create. IBS flare ups steal the joy from pretty much everything.
In some cases, IBS flare ups can even stop you from leaving the house for fear of being caught away from home without your bed or couch to curl up into.
It’s been over 15 years since I healed my own IBS, and now it’s time for me to help you do the same.
I’m a huge believer that knowledge is power, so before I take you through 3 simple and effective pain management strategies for IBS gut pain, I first want to help you understand why you are experiencing IBS pain in the first place.
The reasons behind your IBS gut pain.
The reasons behind IBS gut pain can be broken down into 3 main factors.
1. VISCERAL HYPERSENSITIVITY
The first reason for your IBS gut pain is something called visceral hypersensitivity. This is a fancy way of saying that if you suffer from IBS you have an increased sensitivity to pain within your gastrointestinal tract. This means that you have a lower threshold for pain than people who do not suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Now it’s still unclear why this is the case, but some research suggests that those of us with IBS may have more nerve endings found in our guts.
But regardless of why this is the case, what this means is that you sense things in your gut that other people do not. And this can lead you to interpret normal sensations in your gastrointestinal tract as abnormal and painful.
2. ALTERED BOWEL MOTILITY
Now the second reason behind your IBS gut pain is to do with what is called altered bowel motility. So what does this mean?
Bowel motility refers to the speed at which the contents of your bowel moves through it.
In a normal functioning bowel, the movement of waste movements which is controlled by the muscle movement in your intestines is fairly smooth, consistent and coordinated. However, if you have IBS, the muscle contractions in your intestines are far from smooth, consistent and coordinated.
In fact, they are either happening too fast which is when you experience painful cramping and can trigger diarrhea, or they are happening far too slowly which can cause trapped gas, bloating and pain, and can result in constipation.
I’m not going to go further into this in this post, but just know that these unpredictable and uncoordinated contractions of your bowel are due to the miscommunication between your brain and your gut.
This is why IBS is called a brain-gut dysfunction.
3. THE SPOTLIGHT EFFECT
Ok, so let’s cover off the third reason for your IBS gut pain.
Quite simply, when you experience IBS symptoms you become hyper-aware of what is happening in your gut.
This heightened awareness of gut sensations means that your attention is usually 100% focused on what is happening in your stomach region. We call this the spotlight effect – where the more you focus on something, the more intense it becomes.
How to manage IBS gut Pain without medication
Now just a quick note here before I take you through the 3 pain management strategies.
Please don’t forget that gut pain in IBS does not mean your body is being harmed. Despite how painful or severe flare ups can feel, remember no physical damage is being done.
So now you know why you have pain, what can you do about it?
1. CHANGE HOW YOU REACT TO PAIN
Now it’s very easy when you feel the slightest painful sensation in your gut to start freaking out. Trust me, I have been there.
Your body tenses up and those thoughts of ‘Oh my god, my stomach’’, ‘’Oh no, here we go, what am I going to do”, start-up…. And I’m sure there are many other things you say with words I can’t include in this post!
Now here’s the thing with IBS pain.
Your brain and your gut are very closely linked, and what happens to one will impact the other. So if you start to tense up and your thoughts start to spiral, you’ll actually set off your body’s stress response. And this stress response can in fact trigger gut issues. So unfortunately what you’re doing is actually creating more of what you don’t want, which is triggering further pain and IBS symptoms.
So instead, when you start to become aware of gut sensations I want you to breathe.
Use the initial pain as a cue to slow down, relax, become aware of the tension in your body, and breathe.
Also become aware of your thoughts. Now this is something I teach inside my online IBS gut-directed hypnotherapy programs, but becoming aware of your thoughts and changing those thoughts to more helpful ones is a very effective strategy when it comes to pain.
An example of a more helpful thought is “It’s ok, I can manage this. I have managed this before and I can manage this again. If I just stay calm and relaxed the pain will pass”.
2. CHANGE YOUR FOCUS
Due to the spotlight effect and the way that your brain intensifies whatever it is focused on, it is vital that you learn how to change your focus and distract yourself when you feel the initial onset of stomach pain.
So instead of becoming fixated on your stomach, do things that change your focus.
For example, go outside for a walk, get outside in the garden, work on your hobby, play music, watch a movie or read a book.
Basically, you are wanting to stop your mind from focusing 100% on what is happening inside of your bowel.
3. USE A RELAXATION TECHNIQUE
As your brain and gut are so connected, by calming your mind you will also start to calm your gut. When you relax you break the cycle of stress and pain.
Some effective techniques to relax for IBS include abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, hypnosis, guided visualization, and meditation.
By taking the time to relax you help to decrease the muscle tension in your body, and abdominal pain and discomfort decrease.
You’ll also find that the more you start to relax your body instead of tensing your body at the first signs of stomach pain, you’ll become a lot more aware of your initial reaction. For many people, this is usually to tense your muscles, hunch your shoulders, contract your stomach muscles, and start breathing more shallowly.
You are essentially bracing yourself, which is the pattern we want to break.
An extra handy tip for gut pain
So now you know 3 ways to help manage your IBS gut pain drug-free, but before I wrap up this post I want to share an extra handy tip that applies to all of these.
And that is that I highly highly recommend that you practice these techniques when you are not in pain and are feeling calm.
Because here’s the thing, if you are in pain it can be hard to change your focus or stop thinking, or drop into relaxation if you have never practiced these techniques beforehand.
You want to be able to access these strategies when you need them, so practicing in advance will really help.
So now it’s time for you to create your own plan of what you will do for when you next experience IBS pain or a flare up.
But if you’re tired of struggling with your IBS symptoms alone and you don’t know where to turn next, then my IBS gut directed hypnotherapy programs may just be the answer.
I’m here to help you
If you’d like to explore whether hypnotherapy for IBS and my Calm Gut Program is the right approach for you, then book a free 30 minute consultation. With almost 40 years of solid evidence behind it, gut directed hypnotherapy has been shown to reduce IBS symptoms in more than 70-80% of people. In this free 30 minute call, we will discuss:
- Your current IBS symptoms, health history and challenges you’re experiencing
- What you’ve already tried to get relief from IBS and why you’re still stuck
- How hypnosis for IBS (also known as gut directed hypnotherapy) works and determine a program of therapy going forward.
If you have any questions before booking this call, you can contact me here.