man with pain in gut
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a long-term condition that affects your digestive system which causes pain or discomfort in your abdomen and a change in your bowel habits. About two in 10 people in the UK have IBS and women are twice as likely to get it as men. What many people don’t realize is that you can learn how to control IBS with your brain!
Symptoms can come and go; a person may not have any symptoms for months and may then have a sudden flare-up.
IBS can cause other symptoms too.

These include:-

• feeling very tired
• indigestion
• feeling sick
• backache
• trouble sleeping
• regular headaches
• problems with your bladder, such as needing to pass urine more often
• painful sex

Living with this myriad of physical symptoms is pretty miserable and affects our quality of life and, if the symptoms are severe, can even restrict us. When we are feeling miserable we stand more chance of becoming stressed; When we are stressed it affects our body and the symptoms become even worse.

This is because whatever happens in the body is mirrored in the mind and whatever happens in the mind is mirrored in the body. Our mind and body is constantly communicating with each other. The brain and spinal cord form the body’s central nervous system. Nerve cells and neurotransmitters send signals from one cell to another. The brain and the body talk to each other through this network.

Because stress triggers the fright/flight response in the nervous system our digestion starts to slow down (or even stop). This leads to pain and other gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea, inflammation and along with all the other unpleasant symptoms of IBS lowers our immunity to infection.

There are some lifestyle changes that it we can make to ease our symptoms such as changing our diet. This might mean increasing or decreasing our intake of fiber (this depends on a person’s unique symptoms), increasing water consumption and keeping a food diary to identify any foods for which we have intolerance. It is also recommended that we engage in at least 30 minutes exercise per day.

We can also take advantage of the mind/body connection:-

1. Learn Relaxation Techniques:-

Progressive muscle relaxation
Visual Imagery
Join a yoga class
Daily meditation
Self Hypnosis

When we are relaxed the central nervous system releases endorphins. Endorphins promote healing because in their presence all our physical systems are working together in perfect harmony. They are also our natural pain killer.

We cannot have stress and endorphins at the same time so when we intentionally choose to indulge in activities and set the time to relax we are choosing our physical and mental state.

Learn more about how self-hypnosis addresses health challenges by visiting this page on my website.

2. Engage in Pursuits That Are Enjoyable

Create a good life balance which allows for regular downtime. We are often so exhausted with the demands of work, family and other commitments that we don’t prioritize time for ourselves. So many of us say “there isn’t time” which leaves us stuck. We could rather ask ourselves “what can I do in the limited time I have available”. It could be something as simple as relaxing in the bath, reading for half an hour or going for a walk.

3. Having a Positive Outlook

We are what we think! Before you read any more I wonder if you would be willing to try this exercise:-

Close your eyes……….and in your imagination go back to an earlier time in your life when you had a negative experience. It could be a time when you were sad, angry or fearful.

Imagine being there now and playing a movie of what happened back then. Notice what you are seeing… See all the images that are a part of that experience.

Now notice what sounds are a part of that experience…

As you re-live it, notice what you are saying to yourself.

As you fully re-experience this event in your imagination notice what you are feeling in your body. Perhaps your breathing and heartrate have changed; Perhaps you have an uncomfortable feeling in your heart centre or stomach.

This exercise is to demonstrate how what you think, imagine and say to yourself affects your nervous system and subsequently your physical body.

4. Learn Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about paying attention in a particular way on purpose in the present moment. We pay attention to our thoughts, emotions and what we are experiencing in our body. Being mindful creates awareness (consciousness); When we are aware we can choose how we want to respond to a situation even when our buttons are being pushed.

Learn more about Mindfulness by visiting this page on my website.

Further Reading : The Society Of Behavioural Medicine

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