What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is one of the most common functional disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. IBS is a disturbance of the bowels with symptoms of abdominal pain or discomfort featuring a change in bowel habit - chronic diarrhea or constipation or alteration between the two. IBS consists of abnormal changes in the way the gut normally functions, without any detectable structural changes. Everyone suffers from occasional bowel problems, however, to be diagnosed with IBS, the symptoms will be more severe or occur chronically.
IBS Statistics

Irritable Bowel Syndrome can affect both men and women, however there is a predominance in women. 10-20% of the world's population have symptoms associated with IBS. Mild symptoms affect about 70% of people diagnosed with IBS. Moderate symptoms affect about 25% of people diagnosed. 5% of the people diagnosed report severe symptoms.
Researchers estimate that IBS affects 13-20% of Canadians.  IBS also leads to social anxiety as the obsession becomes being near a bathroom wherever they go.

Symptoms of IBS

There are no biological tests for IBS. The criteria for diagnosis is based on the set of symptoms. The "Rome III Diagnostic Criteria" is what is used to determine if the symptoms fit.

Symptom Criteria for IBS:

At least 3 months of symptoms over the past 6 months, including recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort* associated with 2 or more of the following:

1. Improvement of pain with defecation
2. Onset of pain associated with a change in frequency of stool
3. Onset of pain associated with a change in form (appearance of stool)

*Discomfort means an uncomfortable sensation not described as pain.

Causes of IBS

The above symptoms are caused by an abnormal function of the nerves and muscles in the bowel. They are not caused by stress nor is it a psychological disorder.

Treatments for IBS

The tradional way for physicians to treat IBS was to treat the individual symptoms such as pain and diarrhea. But being a complex syndrome, the strategies often proved ineffective. Since 1999, the prospects of effective treatment with medication have been improving in the past few years, as new classes of medicationshave emerged in response to research on IBS.

Patients have also been turning to holistic methods of treatment whereby mind and body are both addressed.  Among psychological treatments tested for the disorder, hypnosis treatment has shown the highest success rate in replicated studies, with studies commonly showing an astounding 80% or more of the treated patients improving and improvement commonly lasting for at least a couple of years.  (See Whorwell et al., 1984, 1987; Palsson et al., 1997, 2000). The other effective psychological treatment for IBS is cognitive (or cognitive-behavioral) therapy. Brief psychodynamic psychotherapy has also shown some success, but less research has been done on that form of IBS treatment to date than on hypnosis.

Why Consider Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is only one of several approaches to treating irritable bowel syndrome. However, hypnosis treatment has some advantages which makes it an attractive option for many IBS sufferers with chronic and severe symptoms:

- Studies showed that it is one of the most successful treatments for chronic IBS. The response rate to treatment is 80% and better in most published studies to date.

- The treatment often helps those who tried other options and did not get improvement (Whorwell et al., 1984, 1987; Palsson et al., 1997, 2000).

- It is a safe, relaxing, easy and enjoyable.

- people are using their own minds to heal the body

- Hypnosis will often alleviate other client symptoms such as migraine or tension headaches, along with the improvement in IBS symptoms.

- Long lasting effects. According to research, individuals who improve from hypnosis treatment for IBS can generally look forward to years of reduced bowel symptoms.  

- Regression therapy is used, by a trained Hypnotherapist, to find the root of the emotion that is causing the IBS.  The mind/body connection has been scientifically connected.  To illustrate, that the mind stores the negative emotion(s) as experienced by the IBS sufferer and produces physical symptoms in the body.  A process of reframing events at the root event releases the negative emotion(s) whereby healing takes place in the mind which follows in the body.  The rate of healing is individual but the 80% improvement shown in research results using Hypnosis provides strong encouragement for those suffering from IBS.



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