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.
Susan Wheeler Hall is the host of The Living Well Today Podcast, a place for heartfelt conversations with people who are coming to terms with their new normal of living. In this episode, she invited me on to talk about hypnotherapy for IBS, and in particular gut-directed hypnotherapy. I also share my own journey of struggling with Irritable Bowel Syndrome as a teenager and young adult.
It’s estimated that between 10-15% of the population suffer with IBS, which is significant. And although gut directed hypnotherapy has been around for nearly 40 years, many people are not aware of hypnotherapy for IBS as a management option for their symptoms and go on to struggle for decades. But they don’t have to.
Ready to learn more? Take a listen to the episode.
Traditionally hypnosis has been used to help with weight loss, phobia’s and smoking, but medical hypnosis has become a growing field. Science is still learning more and more about how hypnosis can be used to heal the body, and since 1984 it has been used to manage the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. These early clinical research studies gave birth to what we now call gut directed hypnotherapy, which on average can improve symptoms by over 70%.
So how did I become a gut directed hypnotherapist, and why do I specialise in helping people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome? This is when I shared my own journey with IBS with Susan.
“I remember clearly the first time I suffered from the crippling gut spasms that are so typical of IBS. I was on a way to a friend’s birthday party, a party that I had been looking forward to for a long time. And after half an hour of arriving, I was in complete agony and had to go home. I spent the rest of that evening in bed. The next morning I felt like someone had literally punched me in the stomach and I’d done a round with Mike Tyson. My stomach area was incredibly sore and tender.”
It was a few more months until I experienced another episode, or what we call an IBS flare up. And unfortunately, after that point, those flare ups started to get a lot more frequent.
“My parents were getting worried so they took me to the doctors where I was told that they didn’t know what was wrong with me. They sent me for blood tests, and everything came back normal. In the end after several appointments, my family doctor gave his verdict – you have IBS.”
At the time I was going through exam stress and my parents were going through a pretty ugly divorce, and I believe (and it’s almost impossible to identify the exact trigger with IBS), but I believe that was my trigger, the sheer emotional stress at that point in my life.
“Sitting there in the doctor’s room, I remember asking what IBS meant, where it came from, and what I could do about it. And unfortunately, like so many of my clients and those I work with, my doctor just didn’t have the answers. I was told that there was nothing I could really do about it, and it was just a case of managing it. He gave me a prescription for peppermint capsules and told me to have one an hour before I ate. And off I went.”
“And I lived that way for a short time. But as the months went on, even at that young age, I refused to accept that label. I refused to accept that this was my life, because trying to live like a normal person had completely gone out the window. It was devastating. It was absolutely devastating.”
But that set me off onto a path, and from then on I read everything I could about IBS and gut issues. I learned about stress and connected the dots between my emotional stress and the symptoms I would feel in my gut. I also discovered whole foods, and changed the way I was eating. All these changes made a huge difference to the way I had been feeling.
“I woke up one day and realised it had been six months between flare ups. This is where my love (and obsession!) with health and wellbeing came from, and lead me onto become a wellness coach, and then going on to become a clinical hypnotherapist and then becoming specialized in gut directed hypnotherapy for IBS”.
Susan and I then went on to talk about the importance of not accepting the label of IBS and giving up hope, which so many people do.
As we talked, Susan asked me about the correlation I noticed when I ate a whole food diet, and the positive impact on my symptoms. Many people aren’t aware of what we mean by this, so I explained further;
“Whole foods in simple terms is food in its most natural state, so the least number of steps involved from its raw natural state to when you eat it. For example, compare a heavily processed burger or sausage with lots of preservatives and additional fillers in it, to eating vegetable or preparing food at home.”
But I understand that for a lot of people, eating this way can feel overwhelming and hard.
“I know many people have a belief that they are too busy to cook, and it’s just easier to grab the ready meals from the supermarket. But all I will say is that there is a way to eat simply and healthy. It comes down to understanding your own demands in your life, understanding your lifestyle, and then fitting it into that – not the other way around, because I think that’s when it becomes too hard for people.”
“I actually found that my triggers for gut issues and for bloating and pain were, and still are like things like preservatives, artificial flavors and colours.”
Susan and I went on to discuss diet and the impact it can have on our health.
Susan follows the AIP diet, which is an auto immune protocol, and mostly does this for her partner which involves no sugar, no gluten, no dairy. And at first she thought, ‘Oh my God, this is like, this is huge. You know, what’s left to eat?’ But actually it’s not a problem when you shift the mindset and your lifestyle. It’s about simplifying and getting back down to basics.
Next the conversation moved onto gluten, this is often the biggest issue for many, including myself. Too much gluten and I find myself with such extreme fatigue I would struggle to even get out of bed.
This extreme reaction to gluten led me to see one of the top specialists in Sydney about 10 years ago, because I was convinced that there must be something else going on such as celiac. After eating gluten for 2 weeks prior to the endoscopy (this is necessary for the tests to show how you react to it), I felt absolutely awful. But after they took 8 biopsies, I was told that everything looked normal and that I didn’t have celiac (although I do have the gene as I later found out).
I remember clearly the follow-up consult where she told me, “you know, given your symptoms, we honestly do not know what is wrong with you. But the bottom line is you don’t have celiac.” She went on to say “this doesn’t mean that you should eat gluten though as it clearly disagrees with you, but we just don’t have test that is able to tell us what impact it’s having on your body.”
I think so many people are aware that gluten doesn’t sit right with them. They may have had the test for celiac and it’s come back negative, but they know that something isn’t right. And the reality is that despite what the best medical experts tell you what you can or what you cannot eat, it’s how you feel and what works for you and your body. And that’s what you have to go with and trust.
Our conversation then turned back to gut directed hypnotherapy and IBS. At this stage I spoke to Susan about what IBS really is at its heart, and that is something called a brain-gut dysfunction. This means that the brain and the gut aren’t talking to each other as they should.
“So you’ve got the brain giving incorrect instructions to the gut, you know, speed up, slow down, diarrhea, constipation, and all those things that go with it. And then you’ve also got the gut giving incorrect information to the brain such as increased pain signals. And so, with gut directed hypnotherapy, we can actually work to enhance this brain-gut connection, so that the communication between the brain and gut gets back on track.”
When I work with clients with IBS we’re looking at both symptoms and also lifestyle triggers, for example sleep patterns, how stress is managed and the food that you’re eating. This isn’t about restriction, and it’s not about following a lifelong low FODMAP diet, which we know should not be followed long term anyway.
I actually find that a restrictive approach to managing IBS can trigger further symptoms due to the anxiety, stress and overwhelm it can create.
In my work there’s a big education piece about lifestyle changes and finding healthy ways to manage and release stress, finding ways to move the body with exercise, and looking at how you can bring in self-nurture. There is also a mindset piece too.
Interestingly, the research on IBS shows that one of the most common patterns, especially for women is perfectionism. If you map the tendency for perfectionism in life against people who have been diagnosed with IBS, it is a very high correlation.
“I think people get to a point where they’ve been to the doctor, and they are not getting any answers.“
They get told they just have to live with their IBS symptoms and find ways to manage it. Many people end up on medication for however long, which of course comes with side effects, and after a while they just can’t handle it anymore. And then of course, there are those people who are on a low FODMAP diet which is heavily restricted and can be very stressful and confusing.”
“Anxiety is also a big trigger for many people with IBS, and it can create real problems. Their social life becomes non-existent, and they become too anxious to even leave the house because of their symptoms. Careers are put on hold and people just get to a point when enough is enough, and realise doctors just aren’t able to help them.”
That’s often when people reach out to someone like myself, and when we can work together to get their life (and gut) back on track.
For more information on this episode:
Susan Wheeler Hall can be found online at her website www.susanwheelerhall.com
And for more information on how we can work together, you can read all about my Calm Gut Program here.
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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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