April is IBS Awareness Month. If you’ve recently been diagnosed, you’re most likely scouring the internet for information on how to naturally treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). As a hypnotherapist who was diagnosed back in 2011 with IBS, I’m hoping my experience can shed some light on this poorly understood condition.
What is IBS?
First of all, I’ve learnt that contrary to what your doctor may have said, IBS in itself is not an actual diagnosis. Instead, it is a blanket term for Gastro-Intestinal (GI) symptoms, which can manifest as acid reflux, bloating, constipation, cramps, diarrhoea, excessive flatulence, and an unpredictable bowel habit. However, the root cause can range from either an overgrowth of bacteria, fungus, parasites, or even worms.
Standard Western Medicine stool testing failed to pick up the severity of such overgrowth when I went to my GP complaining of cramping, bloating and discomfort. I saw a Harley Street Gastro-Enterologist, who determined that I had a candida (yeast) overgrowth in my lower intestine and my cholesterol was high. She dismissed me after 15 minutes with:
“Cut out sugar, eat brown rice, and take Benecol.”
I walked out of her office bewildered at what I’d spent £350 on, as there was no follow-up, meal plan or a timeframe of when I could expect to feel better. After years of feeling rotten, accumulating more and more food intolerances, I was determined to get to the bottom of this debilitating condition as soon as I could.
I tried hypnosis to feel better, which helped marginally when experiencing acute symptoms. I took it a few steps further and began working with a nutritional therapist, who gave me a very detailed meal plan, avoiding dairy, gluten and alcohol, and some plant-based supplements. I felt great while following this, but after a few months, I was concerned that I would have to live this way, avoiding normal food and social situations forever.
A body-mind evidence-based solution
My continued searching led me to Functional Medicine, which incorporated:
- Advanced diagnostics, far superior to anything I had done via the NHS or even the Harley Street Consultant
- Nutritional therapy
- Positive psychology coaching
- Mind-body practices
Through Functional Medicine diagnostics, I discovered the microorganism that was driving my symptoms. When the lining of the gut is damaged or irritated, immunity decreases, making the gut a welcoming space for harmful microorganisms, as the immune system can’t fight them off.
What can damage the gut
Years of antibiotic overuse, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and paracetamol, the contraceptive pill, alcohol, a diet rich in starches and simple sugars, and a stressful City life had created an imbalance – dysbiosis – in my gut microbiome, the eco-system within my GI tract. Adopting a multi-factored approach, starting with accurate diagnostics, is the best way of healing this condition, as anything else is merely a “band-aid, treating only symptoms and not the root cause.
The IBS Network is the national charity that helps people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and has provided support to those with the condition and to healthcare professionals for over 25 years. Join their community on HealthUnlocked for free online support.