Hypnosis Really Helps Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

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By Shelley Stockwell-Nicholas, PhD
President of the International Hypnosis Federation

“It was terrible. I felt overwhelmed and could hardly leave the house. I never knew if I would be bloated and constipated or suddenly have a severe bout of diarrhea. One day I’d be better and the next day worse still. It is so embarrassing to have accidents when you are a grown woman. I could not even go the store for a short outing without an extra pair of panties in my purse. No one knew what was wrong. My doctor said that there were no specific tests for it but that I seemed to have the “classic” symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS). He gave me different drugs and none of them seemed to make any difference. For almost a year I worried and hurt so much I could scarcely got out of bed…let alone go to work. The doctor even tried giving me drugs for anxiety and depression. They just made me feel worse and my bowels more upset. I wondered if I would feel like a social outcast forever.

I had been a pre-med undergraduate, so I went to the medical library. In the British Medical Journal ‘Lancet’ Gastroenterologist, Dr Peter Whorwell said, “hypnosis helped 1/2 of my patients get better.” I was desperate and 50% seemed like good odds to me. I had studied hypnosis in college so I called Dr Whorwell in England. He told me he used “gut specific hypnosis.” I had no idea what that meant so I took more hypnosis training and learned that there were a lot of helpful things I could do to manage my gut problem for myself. I used what I learned to help myself. It took me 15 months and from that time forward I have remained symptom free. I was returned to the land of the living. I feel good. I’m so thrilled with my hypnosis results.”

In 1995 I started my own 2-year research study with 36 IBS sufferers who had hypnosis every two weeks for six visits. 84% were symptom free and remain so to this day. Everyone claimed at least a 50% reduction of symptoms. Hypnosis uses the unconscious mind to retrain the muscles nerves and biochemistry of the gut to function normally again. The symptoms go away with no flare-ups like, stress, bloating, spasms, pain and muscle tension. My theory is that when you came here you took time to regulate your blood pressure and bodily systems to function properly. Then everything went fine until you hit a mental, physical, spirit or emotional pothole and it throw your autonomic system out of whack. So now, hypnosis renews your same natural ability you came with to retrain the body to work better and really put IBS all behind you. I create a 7 CD hypnosis that is now helping others.

Certified Hypnotherapist and PhD candidate, Melissa Roth, the woman telling her story, is not alone. Some 40 million American’s face IBS’s discomfort, abdominal pain, bloating, and perpetuating frustration and embarrassment. For many, hypnosis completely permanently eliminates all unpleasant symptoms. Others report a much higher level of functioning and pleasure.

The Dreaded Secret

An estimated 67% of IBS sufferers are women. Cultural taboos make many reticent to talk about elimination and many may not know that normal bowel movement are 1-3 times a day and at least three-times-a-week.

The Tell Tale Signs

Intermittent or continuous diarrhea, constipation or alternating between the two, are the tell tale signs of IBS. If these symptoms span 12 weeks within a year, with no other obvious cause, doctors generally diagnose it as IBS. Over 70% of those so diagnosed have mild symptoms, 25% have symptoms that may interfere with their functioning and 5% have symptoms so severe they become disabled.

Other signs of ongoing IBS, maldigestion and malabsorption are arthritis-like symptoms, gastric ulcers, leaky gut, colitis, sinus problems, headaches, difficult breathing (upper respiratory infections asthma), heart palpitations, dizziness, arthritis, fibromyalgia, shingles and chronic fatigue. Everyone is different so no one knows exactly how long it takes each person to turn off IBS symptoms. Some say that longer IBS symptoms progress, the worse they become, until menopause when many symptoms stay hopelessly stuck unless the person does hypnosis. We know hypnosis helps everyone with no negative side effects other than easing or solving the problem.

What Causes IBS?

The cause of IBS is unknown. Some studies show a possible genetic predisposition to it and one research project noted an association between gastrointestinal infections and IBS.

A diet laden with sugar, trans fats, alcohol or caffeine can cause or aggravate digestive tract imbalances. So can radiation and many drugs especially antibiotics, steroids, chemotherapy and anti-inflammatories like aspirin and Tylenol.

Physical indigestion and upset can cause mental gloominess and upset. Such melancholy can cause illness and illness can cause depressing changes in brain chemistry that then results from, contributes to and activate symptoms.

The gut and intestines have a strong connection with your brain. That’s why emotion and stress often evoke a flare up. Hypnotists often refer to the visceral midsection or “gut” of the body as the seat of the subconscious or the abdominal or emotional brain. Here instinct gives you impulses that drive strong emotion. Even the ambitious lure of the future is felt in the torso. Ancient traditions called the solar plexus the “gate of the soul” or the core chakra. In fact, your gut contains one of your body’s largest concentrations of neurons.

IBS may be an imbalance of the central nervous system and the gut that results in hypersensitivity of the whole body (central sensitization). Several autopsy studies reveal IBS sufferers actually have 1/3 more nerve endings in their gut than other people!

IBS IS Big Business

IBS is the second most mentioned reason for work absences. A statistics house study (February 2002- Data Monitor) reported that IBS costs $30 billion dollars in direct and indirect costs to the US healthcare system and over $15.3 billion worldwide. The American College of Gastroenterology, during their 2002 meeting, cited IBS costing Medicaid from $800 to $3,800 per patient annually.

Fifty-five percent of Gastroenterologists’ patients are IBS sufferers, which means that drug companies cash in big time. “Zelnorm” (tegaserod maleate) used for constipation (and constituting only five percent of the IBS population) estimates one-billion-dollars profits in this, their first year. “Novartis” costs $2.40 for each recommended two-a-day 6-milligram tablet or some $144.51 a month. The company estimates $1.9 billion in sales in 2005. “Lotronex” (alosetron- for diarrhea) costs $5.69 per pill for the recommended two-a-day tablets for a whopping $341.46 a month. Bringing home (according to Lehman Brothers) $950 million by 2008. This is quite significant when you understand you can only take these drugs safely for 90 days.

Hypnosis Relieves Indigestion and IBS

The relaxation of hypnosis reduces stress and seems to soothe the gut and research is backing this up. Indigestion is present in 50% of those with IBS. A clinical study of 126 gastrointestinal patients reported that those who used hypnosis required less medication, had fewer doctors’ visits and did better overall than patients on Zantac (ranitidine) or a placebo.

Hypnosis may help chronic dyspepsia, or indigestion, more than heartburn medicine. A recently completed 2-year UCLA controlled study, by Jean Axelrod, showed that eighty-six percent of those who attended six hypnosis sessions became “symptom free.”

Confirmed research studies, reveals that working with a well-constructed self-hypnosis and hypnosis program, along with good nutritional choices, high fiber supplements or food (except cabbage or beans), drinking more water, exercise, or short term use of laxatives can actually change brain chemistry and often gets better results than any drug therapy.

Recently drugs prescribed for IBS have been ordered by the FDA to include information about serious risks that may actually exacerbate problems or worse. They now require Zelnorm manufacturer Novartis to warn takers with severe diarrhea and intestinal problems to “Stop the medicine immediately if you experience fainting, rectal bleeding, or abdominal pain or risk hospitalization and abdominal surgery.” Two deaths were reported within the first year the product was on the market. A three months study assessing 2,470 women, ages 17-89, who took Zelnorm or a placebo concluded that 28-39% of those taking the placebo and 39-44% taking the medicine felt “considerably relieved” for at least two weeks or “somewhat relieved” all month. Considering such a slim margin of difference and the risk involved, a placebo seems a better bet. Considering the potential risks and that once an IBS sufferer comes off medications all their symptoms come back right back and with hypnosis they don’t. Hypnosis is the best course of action.

How Does Hypnosis Help?

Some say hypnosis works by the placebo effect as a mother’s kiss might make a child’s “booboo” go away. In fact the “nocebo” effect of negative self-talk often aggravates a problem. PET scans show that hypnosis activates parts of the brain that may in fact influence body functioning.

Everyone feels more comfortable when relaxed and hypnosis relaxes. Positive suggestions from hypnosis tapes like “Peace and Calm” played as you relax or soothing suggestions given by a hypnotist, “Every day in every way I am getting better and better. I am keenly aware of my self-talk and quickly change any negatives to positive” makes a world of difference. Some say that hypnosis offers relief because it changes one’s reaction to life. For Melissa Roth no amount of pills, pain medications or antidepressants helped her IBS difficulties. Now her six-session 7-CD’s program and hypnosis protocols are the treatment of choice in the UK and helps thousands. (The program is available for $150 from the International Hypnosis Federation call, 800-366-7908).

Psychologist Bruce Naliboff, PhD, co-director of the Center for Neurovascular Sciences and Women’s Health at UCLA School of Medicine says hypnosis, “works, amazingly, although it’s not clear how. There’s no evidence that the intestinal tract itself has changed. Even the tract’s sensitivity doesn’t seem to change, but people do report that they feel better and symptoms decrease. With hypnosis, like many medications, we don’t exactly understand how and why they influence symptoms.” The doctor is correct. Consider how countless studies of aspirin cannot explain how willow bark and acetylsalicylic acid have successfully relieved pain for well over 200 years.

Why Don’t More People Think About Hypnosis First?

Though the AMA has recognized hypnosis since the 1950’s, many don’t consider hypnosis right away when having physical symptoms. Fortunately more and more medical doctors refer people to professional hypnotherapists…so do programs like Blue Cross of California who recommends professional hypnotists in their “Healthy Extensions” referral program.

How To Find A Hypnotherapist To Help You Feel Better

The professional hypnotherapist for you needs to be specially trained to work with someone experiencing IBS. And unfortunately there are only a few hundred professional Hypnotherapists specializing in the best help for IBS. Most medical practitioners who use hypnosis have little knowledge of the advanced hypnosis techniques that work best to reprogram and permanently change gut reactions. For assistance in finding such a specially trained clinical hypnotherapist in your area call the International Hypnosis Federation at (310) 541-4844.

What Is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis works on your deeper mind, the part of you that knows how to soothe and help you be well. From the Greek word “hyp” meaning “behind” and “gnosis” meaning knowledge.. The word “hypnosis” was used by Ancient Egyptians and Greeks in their healing “sleep temples” to renew, restore and regenerate.

You experience hypnotic states every day. Ever noticed the feeling you get before you awaken in the morning or as you drift into slumber…when you are not actually asleep or awake? That is a natural trance. So is daydreaming, listening to relaxing music, being absorbed in art, freeway hypnosis and runner’s high! Self-hypnosis make IBS go away as it lets you induce that natural state to give yourself powerful positive suggestions and listen to the soothing voice of your higher self.

What To Expect From A Professional Hypnotherapist

An IBS savvy hypnotist is skilled in guiding you into the altered state, as your brain waves slow to relaxing alpha/theta frequencies and you receive “gut specific” suggestions. Your hypnosis session usually begins by letting the wisest part of your inner mind assist you in the process of deep relaxation and solving any problems. Then you address any mental “loops” that trigger IBS.

Straightforward techniques combine relaxation, breath, inner focus, imagery, visualization, and feedback. They may also include dialoguing with symptoms, subpersonality work. Cognitive-Hypnotherapy conditions you with post-hypnotic suggestions to instantly swap upset to a pleasant calm feeling with trigger word and post hypnotic suggestion like, “I am soothed and restored. A coolness coats the entire lining of my gut” becomes a personal automatic self-fulfilling mantra.

A mental rehearsal procedure has the hypnotized person “imagine yourself in another place in time where you felt fine and when you come back from this session you will notice how refreshed, invigorated and perfect you feel from head to toe; just as you did then.”

Another fine specialty, cybernetic feedback hypnosis, installs a positive memory chain into the feelings, thoughts, actions and reactions. Melissa Roth’s 7CD, 6-session approach offers help in integrating normal function, recognizing symptoms for great results, and self-help suggestions that teach your subconscious mind to train the gut to take preventative action to, “Put out the fire before it ever gets started, smooth and soothe your body/mind, chew food thoroughly to digest more easily, mentally coat your intestinal tract with a protective coating,” and “Only empty the waste basket when it is full.”

The Body Mind Connection

1920’s Harvard physiology professor, Dr. Walter Cannon, (who coined the phrase “homeostasis” from the Greek word “homoios” meaning “similar” and “stasis” meaning “position”) underscored the relationship between emotions and perceptions and the physical fight, flight, fright response. A new paradigm emerged; the brain is hooked up to the body and the body is hooked up to the brain! About the same time, Hans Selye noted that animals under stress had weakened immune responses. These ideas led to the science we call psycho-neuro-immunology, which studies the inter-relationship of mind and body wellness. Today we know that IBS has a lot to do with the body-mind connection. We don’t know exactly what but we know it does.

For more information: To get a referral to an IBS qualified specialist call the International Hypnosis Federation (310) 541-4844 web-site www.hypnosisfederation.com or e-mail: IHF@cox.net

Shelly Stockwell (shelleynicholas@cox.net)
International Hypnosis Federation
30819 Casilina
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
Phone : 310-377-7908
Fax : 310-377-7946

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