It is estimated that 20% of the population suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (also
known as irritable colon syndrome or spastic colon), but nobody really knows because
most people suffer in silence as they are too embarrassed to come forward for help.
IBS comes in three basic forms, all of which can involve bloating of the midriff,
flatulence, pain in the intestines and anal canal.
The first happens when a person is unable to predict when they need to go to the
toilet. Their stools are so liquid and unpredictable that an accident can happen
at anytime, anywhere. This may also precipitate them having to go to the toilet up
to every half an hour and often has dire consequences in the workplace. Having to
explain to employers where you keep nipping off to can put people in danger of losing
their jobs for skiving. In fact, some people are unable to hold down a job at all.
The second kind of IBS is when a person is constantly constipated and unable to pass
motions. They may go for weeks without being able to evacuate their bowels, even
to the extent that they are afraid to eat properly, thereby creating a vicious circle.
I remember my old granny used to fill herself up with laxatives on a Saturday night
before bed and sprint across the yard to the outside toilet every Sunday morning
at 6.30 a.m. sharp and was not seen again until breakfast.
The third kind of IBS is when a person has a combination of the two previous types
in that the consistency of their bowel motions is always changing and is so unpredictable
that people are often prisoners in their own homes. Relationships can break down
because people become preoccupied with their condition and unable to join in with
family, friends and socializing. Depression can even follow as people feel so isolated
and hopeless about their situation that they believe there can be no cure.
The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax
as they move food from your stomach through the intestinal tract to the rectum. Normally,
these muscles contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm. But if you have IBS, the
contractions are stronger and last longer than normal. Food is forced through your
intestines more quickly, causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. In some cases, however,
the opposite occurs. Food passage slows, and stools become hard and dry.
No one knows exactly what causes IBS. Some researchers think IBS is caused by changes
in the nerves that control sensation or muscle contractions in the bowel. Others
believe the central nervous system may affect the colon. And because women are two
to three times more likely than men to have IBS, researchers believe that hormonal
changes also play a role. For many women, symptoms are worse during or around their
For reasons that still aren't clear, if you have IBS you probably react strongly
to stimuli that don't bother other people. Triggers for IBS can range from gas or
pressure on your intestines to certain foods, medications or emotions. Chocolate,
milk and alcohol might cause constipation or diarrhea, for instance. And the least
bit of stress might send your colon into spasms.
In fact, if you're like most people with IBS, you probably find that symptoms are
worse or more frequent during stressful events, such as a change in your daily routine
or family arguments. But while stress may aggravate symptoms, it doesn't cause them.
What To Do?
These understandings are by no means mutually exclusive. IBS conditions generally
comprise certain proportions of both dietary and psychological factors so the most
effective solution should comprise both approaches.
If you are experiencing bowel discomfort, you should first of all visit your doctor
for a proper diagnosis. Ask yourself if the discomfort seems to follow any pattern
and, if your doctor agrees, experiment with cutting certain foods like citrus, dairy,
yeast, wheat, or other grains out of your diet and taking supplements of friendly
bacteria such as the acidophilus bacteria (A Homeopathic remedy that aids in keeping
your body in check by maintaining optimum levels of good bacteria, and increasing
the strength of your body's natural defenses).
Evidence is overwhelming that IBS symptoms do respond to hypnosis. In addition to
this, hypnotherapy routinely produces positive results in over 80% of IBS sufferers
who use it. It has been so overwhelmingly successful for IBS symptom-alleviation
that Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, chair of the National Women's Health Network in Washington,
DC, says that hypnosis should be the treatment of choice for IBS cases that have
not responded to conventional therapy.
A referral by a physician is required for this therapy.
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