Updated: Sep 6
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a prevalent gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). It is characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. The severity and frequency of these symptoms can vary significantly from person to person.
IBS is categorized as a functional disorder, which implies that it does not stem from a specific disease or structural abnormality in the intestine. Instead, it is believed to result from a combination of factors, including irregular muscle contractions in the intestine, alterations in the gut's bacterial composition, and sensitivity to particular foods. Additionally, emotional factors such as stress and anxiety can contribute to the development and exacerbation of IBS symptoms.
There is no specific test to diagnose IBS, and it is often diagnosed based on the presence of specific symptoms and a physical examination. If other conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease, are ruled out, a diagnosis of IBS may be made.
Treatment of IBS often involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
Lifestyle changes are a crucial part of managing IBS. While there's no magic test for diagnosing IBS, healthcare providers rely on symptom assessment and physical exams to piece the puzzle together. After ruling out other conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease, the diagnosis of IBS often becomes clear.
When it comes to treatment, it typically involves a combination of lifestyle adjustments and medication to alleviate those troublesome symptoms. It's all about finding the right balance to help individuals with IBS lead more comfortable lives.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fibre and low in fat
Getting regular exercise
Managing stress through techniques such as relaxation therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy
Avoiding triggers that can worsen symptoms, such as certain foods or drinks
Medications that may be used to treat IBS include:
Antispasmodics, which help relax the muscles in the intestine and reduce abdominal pain
Laxatives, which can help alleviate constipation
Antidiarrheal medications, which can help reduce diarrhoea
Antidepressants, which may be helpful for IBS patients with anxiety or depression
IBS can be a chronic condition that requires ongoing management, but with proper treatment and lifestyle changes, most people with IBS are able to lead normal, active lives. If you are experiencing symptoms of IBS, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment for you.
Alternative Therapies to help IBS.
Some people with IBS may find relief from symptoms through the use of alternative therapies.
Some herbal remedies that have been traditionally used to help manage IBS symptoms these include:
Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil has been shown to reduce abdominal pain and bloating in people with IBS. It may work by relaxing the muscles of the intestine and reducing spasms.
Chamomile: Chamomile is a herb that has been used for centuries to help with digestive issues. It may help to reduce abdominal pain and improve overall digestive function.
Licorice: Licorice is a herb that has been used in traditional medicine to help with a variety of digestive issues. It may help to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and improve symptoms of IBS.
Ginger: Ginger is a popular herb that has been used for centuries to help with digestive issues. It may help to reduce abdominal pain and bloating, and improve overall digestive function.
It's important to note that the effectiveness of herbal remedies for IBS may vary from person to person and more research is needed to determine their safety and effectiveness. It's always best to speak with a healthcare professional before using any new treatment.
Hypnotherapy and Self-Hypnosis
There is strong evidence to suggest that hypnotherapy can be effective in reducing IBS symptoms, and it is often used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan in the NHS.
Hypnotherapy is a form of treatment that uses hypnosis, or a trance-like state, to help people overcome physical or emotional challenges. During hypnotherapy, a therapist will guide a person into a relaxed state of mind, and then use suggestions and visualization to help them make positive changes to their thoughts and behaviours. In the case of IBS, hypnotherapy may be used to help people manage their stress and anxiety, which can contribute to IBS symptoms.
Sharon Shinwell is a UK qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist. Sharon has been helping people with health issues for over 20 years. You can download her Self-Hypnosis session for IBS
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or counselling, can be an effective treatment for IBS.
There are several different types of psychotherapy that may be helpful for IBS, including Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and Psychodynamic Therapy.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours that may be contributing to IBS symptoms. It can help individuals learn coping strategies and relaxation techniques to manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. Psychodynamic Therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on exploring unconscious thoughts and feelings that may be contributing to IBS symptoms. It can help individuals better understand their emotions and behaviors and develop more effective coping strategies.
Some people with IBS may find relief from their symptoms by practicing relaxation techniques. Here are a few relaxation techniques that may be helpful for managing IBS:
Deep breathing: Deep breathing involves taking slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. This can help calm the body and mind, and may help reduce symptoms of IBS.
Progressive muscle relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups in the body, starting with the feet and working up to the head. This can help reduce muscle tension and stress, which may help alleviate IBS symptoms.
Meditation: Meditation involves focusing the mind on a specific object, thought, or activity to train attention and awareness. There are many different types of meditation, such as mindfulness meditation, which involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Meditation can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being, which may help manage IBS symptoms.
Yoga: Yoga is a physical and mental discipline that involves movements, poses, and breathing techniques. It can help reduce stress and improve physical and mental well-being, which may help alleviate IBS symptoms.
Massage: Massage involves the manipulation of the muscles and other soft tissues to promote relaxation and reduce stress. It may help reduce symptoms of IBS.
It's important to note that relaxation techniques may not work for everyone and may not be a standalone treatment for IBS.
It is also important to keep in mind that any of the above are not a substitute for medical treatment. It is typically used in conjunction with other treatments, such as lifestyle changes and medication, to manage IBS symptoms.
"This article represents the personal views and opinions of the author and should not be taken as representative of the official policy or position of any organization, professional, expert, or individual."