Hey! I’m Jayne. I help people suffering with IBS regain control of their gut and life a normal life again, without restrictive diets or medication - no matter how long they have been struggling. Learn more.
In this post and video I’m going to take you through the key reasons why you have IBS gut pain, and most importantly I’m going to share with you 3 simple drug free approaches to managing IBS gut pain when flare ups arise.
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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 flareups, that you feel the same.
IBS gut pain literally puts your life on hold.
It stops you from making plans, it’s the reason behind countless cancelled plans, and the stress, worry and anxiety it can create steals the joy from pretty much everything. In some cases, IBS flare ups can stop you from even 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, AND why your best friend or your partner doesn’t have any issues.
The reasons behind IBS gut pain can be broken down into 3 main factors.
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 GI, or 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 interpreting normal sensations in your gastrointestinal tract as abnormal and painful.
Now the second reason behind your IBS gut pain is do with what is called altered bowel motility. So what does this mean?
Well 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 diarrohea, 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 is due to the miscommunication between your brain and your gut, and this is why IBS is called a brain-gut dysfunction.
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.
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.
Ok so now you know why you have pain, what can you do about it?
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, impacts the other. So if you start to tense up and your thoughts start to spiral, you’ll actually going to cause your body to go into what we call your stress response, and 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 program The Calm Gut Method, 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 maybe “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”.
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.
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 visualisation, 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 which 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.
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 which 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 technique 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 need more help with managing painful flareups and finally getting relief from your IBS symptoms, then my program, The Calm Gut Method may just be the answer.
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Jayne Corner is a gut directed hypnotherapist and gut health coach helping you get long lasting relief from your IBS symptoms without restrictive diets or medication, even if you've been suffering for decades.
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