South Wales Clinical and Medical Hypnotherapy  - We cover, Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and the local Valley's.
             Irritable bowel syndrome
Hypnotherapy as proven to be the best all round treatment in controlling symptoms and for most patients removing the symptoms of IBS completely.
 What is irritable bowel syndrome and who gets it? Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common functional disorder of the gut. (The gut includes the bowels.) A functional disorder means there is a problem with the function of a part of the body, but there is no abnormality in the structure. So, in IBS, the function of the gut is upset, but all parts of the gut look normal, even when looked at under a microscope. IBS causes various symptoms (listed below). Up to 1 in 5 people in the UK develop IBS at some stage in their life. IBS can affect anyone at any age, but it commonly first develops in young adults and teenagers. IBS is twice as common in women as in men.
What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?
  • Pain and discomfort may occur in different parts of the abdomen. Pain usually comes and goes. The length of each bout of pain can vary greatly. The pain often eases when you pass stools (motions or faeces) or wind. Many people with IBS describe the pain as a spasm or colic. The severity of the pain can vary from mild to severe, both from person to person, and from time to time in the same person.
  • Bloating and swelling of your abdomen may develop from time to time. You may pass more wind than usual.
  • Stools (sometimes called motions or faeces):
    • Some people have bouts of diarrhoea, and some have bouts of constipation.
    • Some people have bouts of diarrhoea that alternate with bouts of constipation.
    • Sometimes the stools become small and pellet-like. Sometimes the stools become watery or ribbony. At times, mucus may be mixed with the stools.
    • You may have a feeling of not emptying your rectum after going to the toilet.
    • Some people have urgency, which means you have to get to the toilet quickly. A 'morning rush' is common. That is, you feel an urgent need to go to the toilet several times shortly after getting up. This is often during and after breakfast.
  • Other symptoms sometimes occur and include:

nausea (feeling sick), headache, belching, poor appetite, tiredness, backache, muscle pains, feeling quickly full after eating, heartburn, and bladder symptoms (an associated irritable bladder).
  • Some people have occasional mild symptoms.
Others have unpleasant symptoms for long periods. Many people fall somewhere in between, with flare-ups of symptoms from time to time. Some doctors group people with IBS into one of three categories:

Those with abdominal pain or discomfort, and the other symptoms are mainly bloating and constipation.
Those with abdominal pain or discomfort, and the other symptoms are mainly urgency to get to the toilet, and diarrhoea.
Those who alternate between constipation and diarrhoea.

However, in practice, many people will not fall neatly into any one category, and considerable overlap occurs.

Note: passing blood is not a symptom of IBS.
You should tell a doctor if you pass blood.
What causes irritable bowel syndrome?The cause is not clear. It may have something to do with overactivity of part or parts of the gut. The gut is a long muscular tube that goes from the mouth to the anus. The small and large bowel (also called the small and large intestine) are parts of the gut inside the abdomen. Food is passed along by regular contractions (squeezes) of the muscles in the wall of the gut. Pain and other symptoms may develop if the contractions become abnormal or overactive. The area of overactivity in the gut may determine whether constipation or diarrhoea develops.

The cause of overactivity in parts of the gut is not clear. One or more of the following may play a part:

Overactivity of the nerves or muscles of the gut. It is not known why this may occur. It may have something to do with overactivity of messages sent from the brain to the gut. Stress or emotional upset may play a role. About half of people with IBS can relate the start of symptoms to a stressful event in their life. Symptoms tend to become worse during times of stress or anxiety.

Intolerance to certain foods may play a part in some cases. However, this is thought to be only in a small number of cases.
  • Infection and bacteria in the gut.
IBS is not caused by a
n ongoing gut infection. However, in about 1 in 6 cases, the onset of symptoms seems to follow a bout of gastroenteritis (a gut infection which can cause diarrhoea and vomiting). So, perhaps a virus or other germ may sensitise or trigger the gut in some way to cause persisting symptoms of IBS.

Also, in some cases, symptoms get worse after taking a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics kill certain harmless or 'good' bacteria in the gut which changes the balance of bacteria types in the gut.
What are the treatments for irritable bowel syndrome?Many people are reassured that their condition is IBS, and not something more serious such as colitis. Simply understanding about IBS may help you to be less anxious about the condition, which may ease the severity of symptoms. Symptoms often settle for long periods without any treatment. In some cases, symptoms are mild and do not require treatment.

If symptoms are more troublesome or frequent, one or more of the following treatment options may be advised: 
  • Fibre
The advice about fibre in treating IBS has changed somewhat over the years. Fibre (roughage) is the part of the food which is not absorbed into the body. It remains in your gut, and is a main part of faeces (stools). There is a lot of fibre in fruit, vegetables, cereals, wholemeal bread, etc. It used to be said that eating a high-fibre diet was good at easing IBS symptoms. Then various research studies showed that a high-fibre diet can, in some cases, make IBS worse. So, one recent guideline on IBS (from Clinical Knowledge Summaries - cited at the end) states that 'high-fibre diets are not recommended for people with IBS'. But since that guideline was published, a review of treatments for IBS (concluded that fibre was good at easing symptoms in some people with IBS. So, the role of fibre can be confusing!
The following points about diet which may help to minimise symptoms:
  • Have regular meals and take time to eat at a leisurely pace.
  • Avoid missing meals or leaving long gaps between eating.
  • Drink at least eight cups of fluid per day, especially water or other non-caffeinated drinks such as herbal teas. This helps to keep the faeces (stools) soft and easy to pass along the gut.
  • Restrict tea and coffee to three cups per day (as caffeine may be a factor in some people).
  • Restrict the amount of fizzy drinks that you have to a minimum.
  • Don't drink too much alcohol. (Some people report an improvement in symptoms when they cut down from drinking a lot of alcohol, or stop smoking if they smoke.)
  • Consider limiting intake of high-fibre food (but see the section above where an increase may help in some cases).
  • Limit fresh fruit to three portions (of 80 g each) per day.
  • If you have diarrhoea, avoid sorbitol, an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free sweets (including chewing gum) and in drinks, and in some diabetic and slimming products.
  • If you have a lot of wind and bloating, consider increasing your intake of oats (for example, oat-based breakfast cereal or porridge) and linseeds (up to one tablespoon per day). You can buy linseeds from health food shops.

The foods that are most commonly reported to cause IBS symptoms in the UK are: wheat (in bread and cereals), rye, barley, dairy products, coffee (and other caffeine-rich drinks such as tea and cola), and onions.
  • Other lifestyle factors
Regular exercise may also help to ease symptoms. Stress and other emotional factors may trigger symptoms in some people. So, anything that can reduce your level of stress or emotional upset may help.
Psychological treatments (talking treatments)Situations such as family problems, work stress, exams, recurring thoughts of previous abuse, etc, may trigger symptoms of IBS in some people. People with anxious personalities may find symptoms difficult to control. The relationship between the mind, brain, nervous impulses, and overactivity of internal organs such as the gut is complex is now well known. Some people have found relaxation techniques, stress councelling, and hypnotherapy as proven to be the best all round treatment in controlling symptoms and for most patients removing the symptoms of IBS completely.

Psychological treatments are generally mainly considered in people with moderate-to-severe IBS, when other treatments have failed. Or, when it seems that stress or psychological factors are contributing to the problem.
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