Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is both complicated and very straightforward. Complicated because it’s very rarely just one thing, it’s more often a mixture of symptoms and quite unstable in how it presents. Straightforward in that it’s a at its core, a mater of your Bowel doing things that are not how we expect it to behave. It is about function, not form. Your Bowel is being a bit of a deva!
Im sorry if that’s sounds like I’m making light of things, Im really not. But you can hopefully take some comfort from the fact that IBS isn’t dangerous, it’s not a sign of anything being broken, it’s not degenerative and it isn’t ‘all in your mind’. It’s very much in your gut, and is a sign of your gut having ‘a mind of its own’.
Whilst having unpredictable and uncomfortable Bowel habits can be a serious nuisance and can be very debilitating, it is something that we can learn to live with. That’s where I come in, because Hypnotherapy has been shown through research to be helpful in symptom mitigation and enabling patients to manage better with IBS. It’s not a cure, but it is a way to take back your life from the clutches of the drama Queen that’s living in your tummy.
IBS involves changes in bowel habit, and may include lower abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, Diarrhoea, nausea, and cramps, and other less common things like headache or vitamin deficiencies. Diet, stress, poor sleep and changes in gut bacteria may all trigger symptoms. Many people with IBS have reactions to certain foods, or drinks. For others it may be more situational, a row with a partner, a bad day at work, or an invitation to a friends wedding. What patients have in common, is that whatever the trigger is, it causes reactions in the gut. It is the way the gut responds functionally to these triggers.
The triggers are very individual, and may vary for the individual day by day, and over the course of the year. While these differences for each person, make it difficult to name specific foods or stressors that everyone with the condition should avoid. They do provide a starting point for treatment. Let’s work out what are your triggers, patterns and habits. Then we can begin to plan a way though this, a way for you to live better with IBS.
I was trained by Michael Mahoney, a world renowned specialist in the treatment of IBS with Hypnotherapy. Michael has pioneered working with you and your gut. His programme of treatment has been recognised for its success in supporting patients with IBS for more than 25 years. I work within the protocols Michael established, and have achieved success using the approach Michael models, with my own clients since my training in 2006/07.
It is really important to get a diagnosis from an appropriately qualified medical practitioner, don’t attempt self diagnosis. Before IBS is confirmed, there are other conditions that need to be ruled out. You may have a mixed bundle of symptoms, and have tried lots of different options to cope. But only a Doctor can really unpick that to make a medical diagnosis. When you have that diagnosis, that’s when you can say ‘right, let’s find a way through this’.
Here is a list of common symptoms of IBS. You might find it helpful, if you are experiencing any of these, to print off this list. Make some notes about your individual experiences, then take it along to see your GP.
1, Pain and Cramping
Abdominal pain is the most common symptom and a key factor in diagnosis. Normally, your gut and brain work together to control digestion. This happens via hormones, nerves and signals released by the good bacteria that live in your gut.
In IBS, these cooperative signals become distorted, leading to uncoordinated and painful tension in the muscles of the digestive tract.
This pain usually occurs in the lower abdomen or the entire abdomen but is less likely to be in the upper abdomen alone. Pain typically decreases following a bowel movement. Dietary modifications, stress-reducing therapies and certain medications can help reduce pain.
Diarrhoea dominant IBS is one of the three main types of the disorder. It affects roughly one-third of patients with IBS. A study of 200 adults found that those with diarrhoea dominant IBS had, on average, 12 bowel movements weekly — more than twice the amount of adults without IBS. Accelerated bowel transit in IBS can also result in a sudden, immediate urge to have a bowel movement. Some patients describe this as a significant source of stress, even avoiding some social situations for fear of a sudden onset of diarrhoea. Additionally, stool in the diarrhoea-predominant type tends to be loose and watery and may contain mucus.
Although it seems counterintuitive, IBS can cause constipation as well as diarrhea, and at times they alternate. But in constipation dominant IBS the constipation is the defining problem. Constipation dominant is the most common type, affecting nearly 50% of people with IBS. Altered communication between the brain and bowel may speed up or slow down the normal transit time of stool. When transit time slows, the bowel absorbs more water from stool, and it becomes more difficult to pass.
Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. “Functional” constipation describes chronic constipation not explained by another disease. It is not related to IBS and is very common. Functional constipation differs from IBS in that it is generally not painful.
In contrast, constipation in IBS includes abdominal pain that eases with bowel movements. Constipation in IBS also often causes a sensation of an incomplete bowel movement. This leads to unnecessary straining. Straining can lead to other problems and should not be accepted as just how it is.
Along with the usual treatments for IBS, exercise, drinking more water, eating soluble fibre, taking probiotics and the limited use of laxatives may help.
4, Alternating Constipation and Diarrhoea
Mixed or alternating constipation and diarrhoea affect about 20% of patients with IBS. Diarrhoea and constipation in IBS involve chronic, recurring abdominal pain. Pain is the most important clue that changes in bowel movements are not related to diet or common, mild infections.
This type of IBS tends to be more severe than the others, with more frequent and intense symptoms. The symptoms of mixed IBS also vary more from one person to another.
6, Gas and Bloating or pain in the abdomen.
Altered digestion in IBS leads to more gas production in the gut. This can cause bloating, which is uncomfortable. Many with IBS identify bloating as one of the most persistent and nagging symptoms of the disorder. Abdominal pain, generalised or in specific locations can be a debilitating symptom and pain dominant IBS can effect sleep, work, home life. But the pain killers we reach out for may also have side effects that contribute to the mix. Opioid pain killers often cause constipation!