Treating IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome – IBS

The debilitating condition known as IBS is reported to affect up to 8 million people in the UK alone, the medical profession are still unable to define a specific cause. Around 50% of sufferers report that their symptoms started close to a stressful period in their lives, such as divorce, moving house, changing or suddenly losing a job, or bereavement. Many people believe that their IBS is caused by an allergy to specific foods, as eating a meal often triggers the symptoms.

Traditional treatment methods for IBS include dietary changes, anti-spasmodic medicines, muscle relaxants and even anti-depressants, but unfortunately this has proved to be ineffective for a number of IBS sufferers.

Hypnotherapy and CBT

Since opening the Elite clinic in 2004 we have, where appropriate, used our own unique blend of therapies to treat a whole range of problems. We named our treatment package Life Architecture™, as we felt this eloquently explained its benefits. It is simply an intelligent combination of both CBT and Hypnotherapy, occasionally incorporating NLP, one therapy being used to underpin the other, as and when required, often producing quite outstanding results.

We are delighted that the medical profession on both sides of the Atlantic are now acknowledging the benefits of using Hypnotherapy and CBT in the treatment of IBS.

In a report published in February 2008, The National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommends hypnotherapy as a second line of treatment for IBS after drugs have been tried for 12 months without success.

Marion is a member of the IBS Register, which provides information to IBS sufferers as well as links to, and contact details, about complementary therapists who treat IBS.

Gut Directed Hypnotherapy – GDH

Professor Peter Whorwell, Professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology at the University of Manchester Medical School pioneered the use of Gut Directed Hypnotherapy, GDH, specifically for IBS patients, and the positive results of his placebo-controlled study have been published in The Lancet.

Professor Whorwell led a study of 250 IBS patients who were given 12 one-hour GDH sessions plus home practice sessions. When asked to assess their symptoms and anxiety levels pre and post treatment, 71% of the patients said that it had been of considerable help, and most said that the effects lasted up to five years.

“IBS is ideal for treatment with hypnosis, as there is no structural damage to the body,” explained Professor Whorwell. “During the hypnotherapy, sufferers learn how to influence and gain control of their gut function, and then seem to be able to change the way the brain modulates their gut activity.”

With a success-rate of about 70% Professor Whorwell believes that, hypnotherapy could be an extremely effective treatment for the condition; and a less expensive alternative to new, costly drugs coming onto the market.

“We’ve found it to help all the symptoms, whereas some of the drugs available reduce only a few,” he said. “As IBS can be a life-long condition it could clearly be a very valuable option for patients; however it is not suitable for everyone and women tend to respond better than men.”


Lifelong IBS sufferer, Heather Van Vorous, who owns and operates one of the largest IBS organisations in the world,, advocates the use of Gut Directed Hypnotherapy:

“For Irritable Bowel Syndrome, one of hypnotherapy’s greatest benefits is its well-established ability to reduce the effects of stress. Your state of mind can have a direct impact on your physical well-being, even when you’re in the best of health. If you’re struggling with IBS, the tension, anxiety, and depression that comes from living with an incurable illness can actually undermine your immune system and further compromise your health.

Hypnosis can reduce this stress and its resultant negative impact by placing you in a deeply relaxed state, promoting positive thoughts and coping strategies, and clearing your mind of negative attitudes.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome in fact is almost uniquely suited to treatment by hypnosis or self-hypnosis, for several reasons. Firstly, stress-related attacks can be significantly reduced. Secondly, one of the most impressive aspects from hypnotherapy, and of tremendous benefit to IBS sufferers, is its well-documented ability to relieve virtually all types and degrees of pain. Finally, because IBS is not a disease at all but a syndrome, if you can relieve and prevent the symptoms, you have effectively cured yourself of the disorder. The underlying dysfunction may still be present, but if you suffer no noticeable effects from it, you will be living an IBS-free life. This outcome is a definite possibility from hypnotherapy treatments.”

The British Medical Association approved hypnotherapy as a valid medical treatment in 1955, and the UK currently approves its use in many situations under the national health care plan. The UK is one of the world leaders in using hypnotherapy specifically for IBS; some hospital gastroenterolgy departments actually employ hypnotherapists to treat the condition.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – CBT

There has also been significant research into the use of CBT to alleviate the symptoms of IBS. In 1995 a study on the effectiveness of CBT was completed at the State University of New York in Albany. Patients with IBS followed 8 weeks of CBT and reported to have fewer symptoms at the end of treatment than those who either had no therapy at all, or who took part in self-help groups.

As researchers begin to unravel the complexities of IBS, it emerges that therapies focusing on the mind, not the body, are most effective. A survey by Bu’Hussain Hayee, a clinical research fellow at University College Hospital, and Dr Ian Forgacs, a consultant gastroenterologist at King’s College Hospital, London, published in the BMJ recently concluded that approaches such as Hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and antidepressant drugs could be most helpful.

Rona Moss-Morris, an associate professor of health psychology at the University of Southampton, discovered in a study published earlier this year that the overanxious or highly driven are most at risk of developing IBS. Moss-Morris looked at 620 patients with gastroenteritis, none of whom had a history of IBS or chronic bowel disorder. A refusal to slow down when they had a stomach infection led to a much greater likelihood of them developing IBS.

Stress is known to exacerbate IBS symptoms, and during CBT sessions clients learn to gain more control over their reactions to stress.

Both Martin and Marion have a regular slot on southern Spain’s popular radio station, Onda Cero International, (OCI). To listen to a recent interview about IBS that Marion recorded with Leah Dunne, simply right click on the Onda Cero logo, then left click on Save Target As… Choose where you want to save the file, e.g. on your desktop, then simply click on “open” when it’s finished downloading and the interview will start to play automatically.

Our IBS Treatment Plan

Quite understandably, most potential new clients wish to visit us at the clinic for an initial consultation, prior to booking or confirming any treatment sessions. We fully support this action, as it is well documented that the potential relationship between the client and therapist is one of the single most important components of a positive outcome. The initial consultation session is, of course, free of charge.

Clients always ask how long and how many sessions it will take: the answer is between six and twelve sessions, but there can always be exceptions. However, it is only after the first couple of sessions that a reliable estimate can be given. The frequency of the sessions can be quite flexible.

The length of the initial two sessions will be approximately two hours; the others will be between one hour and 90 minutes.

The first session will usually be devoted to taking a full history of your symptoms and also the completing of diagnostic questionnaires with your therapist. Subsequent sessions will involve both Hypnotherapy and CBT. Clients will also be trained in the art of self-hypnosis enabling them to continue to reduce their IBS symptoms in between sessions. The success of the treatment can be directly related to the commitment of the patient. Attending all the sessions and completing any extra assignments outside of the sessions is vital.

Clients will be supplied with various printed information sheets together with digitally recorded copies of certain sessions.

As is stated elsewhere on this website, we are aware that a large number of our clients travel to Spain specifically for treatment with us, and for those people we will endeavor to arrange treatment packages that would result in minimal travel and accommodation costs.