Irritable bowel syndrome (commonly abbreviated to IBS) is a condition that causes discomfort within the large intestine. Some of the most common symptoms sufferers experience are cramps (sometimes painful), bloating, and irregular bowel movements (usually a combination of both constipation and diarrhoea).
Although identifying a definite root cause can be difficult, it is largely agreed that both diet and stress play a large part in contributing to the severity of the condition.
A diet lacking in fresh fruit, vegetables, and clean water can cause imbalances in our gut bacteria, as can poor choices of what we consume, especially junk food and alcohol.
Nonetheless, sometimes it is worth considering how the temperament of the mind can also play a part in the healthy functioning of our gut. The relationship between the stomach and the brain has been well documented, and harmony between the two is desirous for healthy living.
However, when we are in a state of heightened distress our brain sends a message to the rest of the body to prepare us to face (or escape from) danger.
If we live stressful lives, our body doesn’t get a chance to fully rest and will operate as if it is constantly under threat. This means higher levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenaline (a hormone released to increase blood flow to the rest of the body, especially in heightened states of arousal) into our blood, which over time can weaken our immune system and compromise our digestive system.
The overload of stress chemicals in our bodies needs to be processed but our digestive system is only designed to handle small amounts (enough to help us flee to safety from perceived threats). Overexposure to these chemicals can, in the long term, damage your blood vessels, increase blood pressure, and raise the risk of heart attacks or stroke. If these chemicals remain in our bodies too long they can also lead to anxiety, weight gain, headaches, and insomnia.
In his book Take Control of Your IBS: The Complete Guide to Managing Your Symptoms, Professor Peter Whorwell enthusiastically advocates the use of hypnosis in treating IBS. Professor Whorwell states that hypnotherapy successfully treats IBS because:
“… with the use of hypnosis people can learn to control the amount of acid made by the stomach, the muscular contractions of the bowel, the sensitivity of the gut, and even the way the brain processes pain signals from the body. In addition, hypnosis has the advantage that it can also reduce stress and anxiety which, although not the cause of IBS, can certainly make it worse.”
His book also states that hypnotherapy has been shown to alleviate IBS in 70% of patients who showed little improvement with other approaches.
“Hypnosis is a technique for producing a state of deep relaxation to the extent that a person can develop the ability to control bodily functions which we are not usually able to control. For instance, people can learn to control blood pressure or pain and, with respect to treating IBS, the function of their gastrointestinal system.”
“Fortunately, the benefits of hypnotherapy are long-lasting”, he says, “Furthermore, hypnotherapy has absolutely no side effects.”
There is no definite cure for IBS, so for most sufferers, it is important to learn how to manage symptoms and learn to live a sensible, balanced lifestyle that takes into consideration both physical and mental wellbeing.
If you believe stress is a contributing factor to IBS, the deep relaxation benefits of hypnotherapy may offer a natural redress. Hypnotherapy can help lower blood pressure, bring peace of mind, and help relax an overworked body and brain, allowing you even more control of how you live your life by offering a solution that is very easy to stomach.
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