Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a heterogeneous condition with varying severity and symptomology. At least one in four of the general population is affected at some time in their lives (Jones 1992, Harvey 1983, Cook 1987). Despite the condition being classed as ‘non-serious’, it has serious cost implications to the UK National Health Service and Health Insurance Providers throughout the world, due to frequent presentations to general practitioners, hospital physicians and other specialist services (Talley 1995). The diagnosis is often reached by exclusion of diagnosable physical abnormalities and organic disease (Latimer 1983). But according the World Health Organization (1979), “health, which is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, is a fundamental human right” More details please

As a clinical hypnotherapist I have taken great interest in the management of this disorder as I have experienced the distress and frustration this client group feel in the search for relief from symptoms which have a severe impact on their lifestyle. With conventional medical treatment being of little proven benefit (Houghton 1996) there is a need to look beyond treating the symptoms to addressing the cause. In the holistic view of illness, physical disease is only one of several manifestations of basic imbalance of the organism, other manifestations may take the form of psychological and social pathologies (Capra 1983 p131).

The fact is that holistic approach to medical and psychological care is required in the management of IBS, but that the psychological aspect is not universally accepted by the medical profession or the client group with clients feeling there is a stigma attached to this aspect of care. As a clinical Hypnotherapist I have an impact on these management issues as facilitator addressing the human response to this disorder, whereas physicians address the treatment of the disorder.


IBS is an extremely common digestive disorder accounting for up to 50% of all cases seen by gastroenterologists (Harvey 1983). Of those that present in western society women outnumber men 4:1.


IBS is defined as a “functional bowel disorder in which abdominal pain is associated with defecation or change in bowel habit, and with features of disordered defecation and with distension (Thompson et al 1992). However there is multiple symptomology that is associated with this complex disorder which is not always mentioned in standard textbooks. Upper gastroenterology symptoms including nausea, vomiting, early satiety are common (Farthing 1995). Extra bowel manifestations include urological symptoms (Jones 1992), fatigue backache, headache and gynaecological symptoms (Longstreth 1995) often precipitating multiple specialist referrals to exclude organic cause. Many women undergo diagnostic laparoscopy or even hysterectomy (Langstreth 1995). Inappropriate surgery in the form of cholecystectomy and appendectomy has also been reported.

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