Irritable Bowel Syndrome



Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic (long-term) disorder that affects the digestive system. It causes abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation. There are different types of IBS, depending on your main symptom. It’s known by a variety of other names, including spastic colon, spastic colitis, mucous colitis, nervous diarrhea, nervous colon and nervous or functional bowel. However, some of these names misrepresent the condition. Colitis, for example, is an inflammation of the colon and this symptom isn’t found in people with IBS.

The symptoms of IBS can fluctuate. There may be times when your symptoms are particularly troublesome and times when you experience no symptoms at all. Although IBS poses no serious threat to health, it can have an adverse effect on a person’s quality of life. The exact causes of IBS are unknown.

If you have not had your bowel checked out by doctors before seeing a hypnotherapist then please do so before making an appointment. It is not the responsibility of the therapist to make a diagnosis, and all possibilities need to be ruled out before hand.

Dr Peter Whorwell at Manchester’s Withington Hospital, uses hypnotherapy to help his IBS patients. He maintains that hypnotherapy is effective in the treatment for two reasons, one is it lowers anxiety and two, it acts as pain management, and decreases the sensitivity in the gut. NICE has recommended hypnotherapy for the treatment of IBS.

How common is IBS?

IBS is one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions. It is estimated that 10-20% of the UK’s population is affected by IBS at any one time, although this figure may be higher because many people with the condition do not report their symptoms to their GP.

IBS is twice as common in women as it is in men. The condition normally develops in people who are between 20 and 30 years of age, but it can affect people of any age.

While there is no cure for IBS, the symptoms can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medicine.


  • Abdominal pain and spasm
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloated stomach
  • Rumbling noises and wind
  • Urgency – a need to rush and open the bowels
  • A feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowels
  • Incontinence if a toilet is not nearby
  • A sharp pain felt low down inside the rectum
  • Nausea, belching and vomiting

The number of sessions it takes is down to the individual, I’ve seen people take care of it within 5 sessions, others 20. It depends on the personal circumstances and how they can make the changes around them that is causing the anxiety that drives the IBS.

The randomised trial by Dr Whorwell can be found here

Nice recommend using hypnotherapy for IBS, and it’s recommendations can be found here

If you wish to read case studies about IBS then please email me and I’ll send my free e-book “10 years on the couch”.


Penny Ling is a widely experienced hypnotherapist who has worked with everyone from top executives to stroke victims since 2007. She has been editor of Hypnotherapy Today Magazine and is a supervisor and mentor for members of the AfSFH and NCH.

Read Penny’s inspiring story How I beat all my phobias, or find out more how hypnotherapy could help your problem by downloading How Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help with life. Feel free to send Penny a message here.