Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What it is and How to Find Relief

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), also known as Spastic Colon or Nervous Stomach, is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder, which affects the nervous system of the gut. Up to 35 million people in the United States are affected by Irritable Bowel Syndrome, approximately 67% of them being female. The symptoms may include abdominal pain, gas, bloating, spasms, and constipation or diarrhea.

The cause of IBS is unknown. Research shows that people with this disorder have more reactive colon muscles. Foods, such as certain carbohydrates (sugars) found in milk, non-fermented cheese, fruit, diet foods, gum, products containing sorbital, and carbonated beverages, can be poorly absorbed in the intestine causing IBS symptoms. Other symptoms may be exacerbated by post-nasal drainage from seasonal allergies. IBS is not an emotional illness, however, because the brain communicates with the intestines, there is widespread acceptance that psychological factors can contribute to flare-ups of bowel disorders. IBS is a syndrome ranging from an occasional flare-up to a debilitating, chronic condition, which impairs normal functioning.

Proper digestion begins with chewing thoroughly and swallowing. Then food is moved along the esophagus down to the stomach by peristalic waves—alternating contractions and dilations of transverse and longitudinal muscles. In the stomach, enzymes and digestive substances facilitate the breakdown of food mixtures. Peristalic waves continue to move the food substances along the gut, into the small intestine where further enzymes complete digestion. Next the digested chemical food substances and liquids are absorbed through the walls of the intestine into the blood. The large intestine is responsible for absorbing water and electrolytes from the digestive reside, evacuation of digestive residue, and excretion of waste substances.

The autonomic nervous system has been programmed by this disorder. Hypnosis is a tool by which the subconscious mind can retrain the neuromuscular functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. With proper treatment it is probable that the symptoms can be permanently eliminated. Symptom relief can be as quick as 6 hypnotic sessions to realign the autonomic system of the body.

It is recommended to add fiber to the diet. Lack of fiber causes irregular contractions of the large intestines. When the gut contracts without fibers to act upon, it contracts upon itself, resulting in pain. Some foods high in fiber are apple, pear, acorn squash, bran, and brown rice. Prescribed antispasmodic medications combined with dietary changes will reduce spasms in the gut. Antidepressants can be prescribed in low doses to act upon the nervous system of the gut to reduce its sensitivity to pain. Approximately 25% of the people who suffer from IBS symptoms respond to conventional treatment. Studies have shown that psychological treatments, including hypnosis and cognitive therapy, in addition to routine medical treatment produced superior outcomes to routine medical treatment alone. [1]


[1] Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, “Psychological Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” 27 (3), 241-244. E.B. Blanchard and H.S. Malamood, 1996