Annette Boden MSc

Irritable bowel syndrome

irritable bowel

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gut disorder. The cause is not known. Symptoms can be quite variable and include abdominal pain, bloating, and sometimes bouts of diarrhoea and/or constipation. Symptoms tend to come and go. There is no cure for IBS, but symptoms can often be eased with treatment.

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.

The above information has been taken from the Patient Uk website. For further information go to

Hypnotherapy ‘can help’ irritable bowel syndrome

From BBC Online, 18 March 2010

Greater use of hypnotherapy to ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome would help sufferers and might save money, says a gastroenterologist.


Dr Roland Valori, editor of Frontline Gastroenterology, said of the first 100 of his patients treated, symptoms improved significantly for nine in 10.

He said that although previous research has shown hypnotherapy is effective for IBS sufferers, it is not widely used.

This may be because doctors simply do not believe it works.

Widely ignored

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gut problem which can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and sometimes diarrhoea or constipation.

Dr Valori, of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, said the research evidence which shows that hypnotherapy could help sufferers of IBS was first published in the 1980s.

He thinks it has been widely ignored because many doctors find it hard to believe that it does work, or to comprehend how it could work.

He began referring IBS patients for hypnotherapy in the early 1990s and has found it to be highly effective.

“To be frank, I have never looked back,” he said.

He audited the first 100 cases he referred for hypnotherapy and found that the symptoms stopped completely in four in ten cases with typical IBS.

He says in a further five in 10 cases patients reported feeling more in control of their symptoms and were therefore much less troubled by them.

“It is pretty clear to me that it has an amazing effect,” he said.

It seems to work particularly well on younger female patients with typical symptoms, and those who have only had IBS for a relatively short time.”Powerful effect

He believes that it could work partly by helping to relax patients.

“Of the relaxation therapies available, hypnotherapy is the most powerful,” he said.

He also says that IBS patients often face difficult situations in their lives, and hypnotherapy can help them respond to these stresses in a less harmful way.

NHS guidelines allow doctors to refer IBS patients for hypnotherapy or other psychological therapies if medication is unsuccessful and the problem persists.

Dr Valori thinks that if hypnotherapy were used more widely it could possibly save the NHS money while improving patient care.

Dr Charlie Murray, Secretary of the British Gastroenterology Society, said: “There is no doubt that hypnotherapy is helpful for some patients, but it depends on the skill and experience of those practising it.

“But the degree to which it is effective is not well defined.

“I would support using it as one therapy, but it is no panacea.”


The NICE Guidelines

recommend that referral for psychological interventions (CBT, hypnotherapy and/or psychological therapy) should be considered for people with IBS who do not respond to pharmacological treatments after 12 months and who develop a continuing symptom profile, or those patients presenting with refractory IBS.

The report also notes “that gut directed hypnotherapy strategies provide IBS patients with benefits in a cost-effective manner.

Currently hypnotherapy is used as a second line therapy option, usually for patients with unresolved IBS symptoms, who have failed to respond to a combination of management strategies.

The NICE guidelines include hypnotherapy in one of its top five research recommendations, with the potential for this intervention to be considered as a first line therapy option.”

The guidelines note that with consideration as a first line therapy option, this treatment method has potential to enable the IBS patient to cope with their symptoms by giving initial treatments which would have long term sustainability. This view was supported by evidence in children with IBS, which showed that hypnotherapy is clinically effective as a first line therapy.

In addition, the authors of an article entitled General Practitioners Believe that Hypnotherapy could be a useful Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Primary Care, published in BMC Family Practice in 2004 concluded that “the vast majority of general practitioners think that current management options for IBS are variable in their effectiveness.” Many agreed that this condition needs improved treatment options in primary care and a large majority of general practitioners in this survey agreed that hypnotherapy could help patients who suffer from both physical and psychological problems that this method could play a role in the management of IBS.1

1General Practitioners Believe that Hypnotherapy could be a useful Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Primary Care, Stephen Cox1  Simon de Lusignan2 and Tom Chan3

1Gillets Surgery, Deanland Road, Balcome, West Sussex, RH17 6PH, UK  2Department of Community Health Sciences, St. George’s Hospital Medical School, LONDON, SW17 0RE, UK  3Surrey and Hampshire Borders NHS Trust, Ridgewood Centre, Old Bisley Road, Camberley, Surrey, GU16 5QE, UK
BMC Family Practice 2004, 5:22     doi:10.1186/1471-2296-5-22
© 2004 Cox et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The IBS register

Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the medical conditions that I work with in my therapy practice. I have a special interest and have undertaken additional training in this area. This has led to my being listed on the IBS register. For further in formation about undertaking a course of Hypnotherapy with me and to book appointments you can call me on 01663 750323 or email me from my ‘contact me’ page

“The IBS Register provides information to IBS sufferers and supports them by providing contact information to therapists, links to research papers, and taking time to explain the emotional aspects of IBS as well as the better known physical aspects of this most troublesome condition.

The register was established in July 1997 by Michael Mahoney, a clinical hypnotherapist, who through medical research project experience and specialising in treating IBS with hypnotherapy, developed specific hypnotherapy processes to assist IBS sufferers to mitigate their symptoms, and in some cases remove the symptoms of IBS altogether.

Michael Mahoney is the developer of the highly acclaimed IBS Audio Program 100 used by IBS sufferers in 43 countries.

Information for IBS Sufferers and their families

The IBS Register is for individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and their families (see the IBS companion informational CD for explaining IBS to none IBS sufferers.

The IBS Register provides links to, and information about, complementary therapists who have either chosen to specialise in treating IBS or who have a track record and interest in IBS and its impact on the individual. Many will have taken additional training in this area to ensure they are up to date in current practices.  OPSIM registered members will have attended one of Michael Mahoneys workshops.”

For further information go to: