Need Help for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Apr 11, 2019Common Disorders

Need Help for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Do you get symptoms such as awful stomach cramps, wind, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation? Does it stop you from going out socially? Maybe you feel anxious about always needing the toilet. For some people, abdominal pain may even stop IBS sufferers from going to work. IBS not only causes physical symptoms it can also have a significant effect on the quality of life.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common functional disorder. It’s not a disease, rather it’s your bowel not working in the way that it should. It’s a condition that must be diagnosed by your doctor as some other conditions have similar symptoms.


Treatment is very individualised as different people have different symptoms. Some people take antispasmodic tables and that might help. Other people need to take medication to stop the diarrhoea or for those with constipation laxatives will help. As people can feel depressed with IBS sometimes antidepressants are prescribed. For some people changing their diet will help. The low FODMAP diet developed through Australian research works for some people as eating some short-chain carbohydrates is thought to make IBS worse. Some people take pain killers, but there isn’t the perfect medication that will remove all IBS symptoms for all patients.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. If you have had a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) from your doctor there is proven help available.  It’s a different approach that has been shown to be successful; it’s all about mindset.

It may seem strange that our minds and gut are connected, but they are. Think about someone going for a driving test or other exam. This person may have a ‘butterflies’ in their tummy. If they are really worried about the test they may feel sick or even vomit. Anyone who is very anxious can experience these things even if they don’t have IBS, because there is a mind-body and gut connection.

When IBS suffers are more stressed and anxious their symptoms can get worse. However, modern life is stressful. The problem is that we all have many demands on our time and energy so just saying that you will keep away from things that make you feel stressed isn’t always possible. This is is where helping IBS suffers to think, feel and behave in a different way has been proven to help.

Change your mindset and you will help to reduce your symptoms

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

A recent research study, led by Dr Hazel Ann Everitt, has compared telephone Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and web-based CBT and has shown that CBT is better than the standard treatments at reducing the symptoms of IBS.  This was a big study of 558 patients and was carried out by researchers from Kings and Southampton Universities and reported in the journal called Gut.

CBT is a type of counselling where together you explore your negative thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and behaviours.  You might briefly discuss past experiences, beliefs or triggers that make your IBS worse. You then work out ways to make changes. This may require 6 or more sessions.


Hypnotherapy also helps IBS suffers. Gut focused hypnotherapy has been found to be successful in helping people with IBS in clinical trials. It is endorsed in the UK by the National Institute if Health and Care Excellence (NICE), however not many people are aware that it can help and it’s difficult to get funding for hypnotherapy on the National Health Service (NHS).

A research study by Hassan et al., compared hypnotherapy for IBS when delivered face to face in a clinic to remote hypnosis via Skype.  Using a symptom severity scoring tool they were able to show a 65% reduction of IBS symptoms for people who had Skype hypnotherapy compared to a 76% reduction with face to face hypnotherapy.  The study showed that not only were patients helped in the clinics with hypnotherapy to reduce their IBS symptoms, but they could also be helped with hypnotherapy for IBS via Skype.

Hypnotherapy is not like stage hypnosis. It should be carried out by a professional clinical hypnotherapist who has had training in using hypnosis for IBS. The aim of therapy is to combine relaxation and positive suggestions to assist the sufferer to make changes in how they think and behave. The number of hypnotherapy sessions will vary for individuals but 5 or more sessions are likely.

In conclusion, there are two proven therapies for IBS, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Hypnotherapy. Both treatment methods involve focusing on relieving the symptoms through a positive mindset.

Awaken the Change has been established since 2007 and offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and gut focused Hypnotherapy for people who have been diagnosed with IBS. These therapies can be offered separately or together depending on the client’s needs. Therapies can also be delivered via Skype or face to face in Bournemouth.

Hassan S., Pearson J., Morris J., Whorwell P. 2019. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 67, (1) 69-80.

Everitt H. A., Landau S., O’Reilly G., Sibeli A., Hughes S., Windgassen S., Holland R., Little P., McCrone P., Bishop F., Goldsmith K., Coleman N., Logan R., Chadler T., Moss-Morris R. 2019. Gut. 68 -5

Awaken the Change is about Focusing Minds for Positive Results

Awaken the Change is a self-help service providing education and information.

Linda sees clients at her practice in Bournemouth, in the UK. She is also happy to provide online help via webcam for hypnotherapy, counselling and supervision. Counselling and supervision can also be provided by telephone.

Linda is an accredited trainer and supervisor.

Linda Witchell
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