Family experience led me to specialise in IBS, says Debbie Waller

I always had in interest in working with stress related issues but got seriously interested in helping people who had IBS when my daughter was diagnosed with it. IBS can have far more of an impact than you’d think on many areas of someone’s life. Even when they are not experiencing symptoms they can worry about what might bring them on; it’s difficult to plan holidays, parties and meals out for example if you know a change of diet or routine can spark off another attack. When symptoms are present, sufferers may be unable to go to work, school or college or to socialise, and levels of pain can be very high.

In fact, a study has recently been published which suggests that people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome process pain in their digestive system differently from people who don’t have it.

The study used MRI scans to examine which areas of the brain were activated when participants experienced painful rectal distensions and found that those with IBS seemed to be unable to suppress the pain signals. Healthy people were much better at doing so.

Sigrid Elsenbruch PhD. who carried out the study, says that IBS patients also show a higher level of depression than the general population and feels that this contributes to the results. A number of previous studies have shown that people who are depressed or stressed report higher levels of pain than those who are not.

This may link between pain and mood may well be part of the reason that IBS sufferers respond so well to hypnotherapy, with around 70- 80% of them achieving a reduction in IBS symptoms, improved bowel habit, and reduced pain levels. It’s an amazing area to work in because it makes real quality of life improvements for clients, which is so satisfying for me as well as for them. I hope my chapter in the Hypnotherapy Handbook will give you the skills and confidence to work with this issue.

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