Reprinted with the kind permission of Celeste Cooper
For years, we have known an extraordinary number of us with fibromyalgia also live with one or more frequently co-occurring (comorbid) conditions; one of those is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I have vocalized my own experiences with IBS, interviewed Dr. Stephen Wangen, board certified, licensed physician in naturopathic medicine and co-founder and Medical Director of the IBS Treatment Center, and I have written about it in what our readers call “The Big Book.”
Quintessential Fibro-mate: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
If you have IBS, you know the drum-like tightness and resonance caused by belly bloat. When not in an attack, I can explain it like this: I am in a canoe that is lazily floating through my gut. There I am with my feet up, hands behind my head, relaxing in a tranquil gently moving environment. Then suddenly, I am holding on for dear life. My canoe ricochets from side to side like a ball hitting the bumpers of a pinball machine, threatening to throw me into a toxic abyss. If you have FM and IBS, you know.
What you may not know is that during an attack, I practice creative visualization. I envision my bowel being coated and cloaked with a calming gel that clings to the walls of my intestines. The gooey colorful substance protects the lining against caustic toxins. As I control my breath, I call on my reserves to translate what is happening differently, without judgment. I have not mastered the technique enough to prevent an attack, but it does ease my mind’s interpretation of the event. In the past, things like creative visualization were not seen as valuable tools by traditional medicine. But, could times be changing?
Fibro-mate: Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
A stronger connection has been made between fibromyalgia and GERD, as reported in an article I wrote for ProHealth. What’s interesting about this connection is that all three, FM, IBS, and GERD, share two things:
Relationship to the immune system
Relationship to brain, centralization
What’s even more interesting is that traditional medicine, thanks to neuroscience, is now embracing the things my co-author, Jeff Miller, PhD, and I have written about in our books.
According to Medscape, a continuing education website for physicians and registered nurses, hypnotherapy for IBS, GERD and inflammatory bowel disease looks promising. Did I ever think conventional medicine would look outside the box? Yes, but when we wrote our book on integrative therapies for fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, and chronic myofascial pain, I would not have predicted the robust acceptance or the change taking place in traditional medical paradigms.
Hypnotherapy, as I can personally attest, gives us a sense of control and like my reported experience with creative visualization, it exposes our internal dialogue to change. As a qualified hypnotherapist makes suggestions, we gain power over autonomic body dysfunction, such as IBS and GERD. Biological changes, i.e. temperature, pulse, and blood pressure, occur in response to our thoughts as evidenced by biofeedback.
There is a well-documented bidirectional pathway between the brain and gut, and I believe integrative therapies, such as creative visualization, hypnosis, and biofeedback have a positive effect because fibromyalgia, IBS and GERD share a brain-body connection, centralization and the autonomic nervous system.
Articles of interest:
Is There a GERD—Fibro Connection?
A Nervous System at Odds: Dysautonomia and Fibromyalgia
What is Centralized Pain: An Interview Dr. Karl Hurst-Wicker, MD
Incredible Ways to Visualize Pain in the Brain
Chest Wall Pain, Esophageal Spasm, and GERD
In healing, Celeste