IBS is a common condition that affects the large intestine. It can cause a range of extremely uncomfortable symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas and diarrhoea. It is not exactly clear what causes IBS but the combination of abnormal muscular activity of the gut, increased sensitivity of the lining of the bowel, imbalance of the gut bacteria, psychological issues and food intolerances can aggravate it. According to Professor Peter Whorwell, author of ‘Take Control of your IBS: The Complete Guide to Managing Your Symptoms’, Dr Anthony Hobson, Clinical Director of The Functional Gut Clinic in London and top Nutritionist Kym Lang from Entersogel, there are four effective therapies.
The relationship between the brain and the gut is well understood, as Professor Whorwell explained: “We all know, from personal experience, that there is a strong link between our brain and our gut. For instance, butterflies in the tummy when we are nervous.”
He continued, “The idea behind gut focused hypnotherapy is that instead of this connection between brain and gut usually being negative we exploit it in a positive way and enable the patient to exert control over our gut in order to make it work more normally.
“Hypnosis is a technique for producing a state of deep relaxation to the extent that a person can develop the ability to control bodily functions which we are not usually able control. For instance, people can learn to control blood pressure or pain and, with respect to treating IBS, the function of their gastrointestinal system.
“Over the years, we and others have shown that with the use of hypnosis people can learn to control the amount of acid made by the stomach, the muscular contractions of the bowel, the sensitivity of the gut and even the way the brain processes pain signals from the body. In addition, hypnosis has the advantage that it can also reduce stress and anxiety which, although not the cause of IBS, can certainly make it worse.”
Gut focused hypnotherapy can alleviate the symptoms of IBS in approximately 70 percent of IBS patients who have not responded to any other previous treatment, says Professor Whorwell. It is also provides a host of additional health benefits such as aiding back pain, constant tiredness and nausea, he explained.
“Fortunately, the benefits of hypnotherapy are long lasting and therefore patients don’t have to keep coming back for more treatment. Furthermore, hypnotherapy has absolutely no side effects.”
Oral Intestinal Adsorbents
Chronic diarrhoea is a common culprit of IBS. According to Kym, “While anti-diarrhoea medication slows down the frequency of bowel movements, the harmful substances that contribute to IBS symptoms remain in the digestive tract.
“To effectively alleviate the symptoms of IBS related diarrhoea, I recommend Enterosgel (www.enterosgel.co.uk), which works by binding bacterial toxins, immune proteins, fat molecules and bile acids which may contribute to IBS.
“These substances are then removed from the body with the stool, effectively alleviating symptoms of IBS flare ups, and reducing stool frequency and duration of diarrhoea. Enterosgel is also completely drug-free and non-allergenic with a twenty-day treatment course recommended.”
Lifestyle changes can also help to combat IBS, as Kym explained: “A 2015 pilot study looked at the effects on people with IBS who enrolled in twice-weekly yoga classes versus regular walking. Those doing yoga reported significant decreases in symptom severity, gut sensitivity and anxiety.
“The walking group showed significant decreases in overall gut symptoms and anxiety. Interestingly, more people kept up a walking practice after six months, and subsequently benefited from ongoing symptom relief.”
Gut Bugs and Carbohydrates
If lifestyle and dietary changes aren’t having the desired effect on symptom improvement, then some simple tests can be carried out to provide further information. “IBS symptoms can be caused by the way the bacteria in your bowel interacts with the things you eat,’ said Dr Anthony Hobson, Clinical Director of The Functional Gut Clinic in London.(www.thefunctionalgutclinic.com)
“At The Functional Gut Clinic, we perform some objective tests to try and provide more accurate information as to what may be causing your symptoms. We use hydrogen and methane breath testing to assess how well you can digest certain sugars such as lactose (milk sugar) or fructose (fruit sugar).
“We can also assess if your gut bacteria has moved into the small bowel (so called small intestinal bacteria overgrowth or SIBO) which can play havoc with your own normal digestive processes, cause IBS symptoms and stop normal dietary interventions from working properly.”
Dr Hobson added: “If we can identify the specific sugar that is causing you most problems through breath testing then this means that you don’t have to be as restrictive in terms of cutting out other foods. If we diagnose SIBO, then this can often be treated successfully with a short course of non-absorbable antibiotics and most people can the go back to eating a normal diet after treatment.”
According to the NHS, Cooking homemade meals using fresh ingredients and keeping a diary of everything you eat could also help to alleviate symptoms associated with IBS.
It also recommends avoiding the following triggers:
- Skipping meals
- Eating too quickly
- Binging on fatty, spicy or processed foods
- Failing to eat more than three portions of fresh fruit a day
- Drinking more than three cups of tea or coffee a day
- Drinking lots of fizzy or alcoholic drinks
If the symptoms persists, it may be a sign of a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. According to Mayo Clinic the warning signs include:
- Weight loss
- Diarrhea at night
- Rectal bleeding
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Unexplained vomiting
- Difficulty swallowing
Persistent pain that isn’t relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement