• Masarat Jilani

How can different therapies help IBS?

Have you ever had someone recommend therapy for IBS? Or does the very idea cause you confusion? Some thoughts that may go through your mind might be:

  • “But IBS is a physical condition”

  • “Are they saying all the symptoms are in my head”

  • “Do they not believe me/ think I am making it up”

Why therapy is so helpful for IBS

The truth is that therapy can help with practically all physical illnesses from diabetes to asthma and that is because you cannot separate physical health from mental health. Your symptoms are very much real. They are so real, they affect the way you think and that in turn affects the way you behave. This is even more so for the gut because of the rich connection between our gut and brain aka the gut-brain axis. In this way, pain and discomfort in the gut can shoot signals to the brain and affect your mood and behaviour.

Imagine the following:

You go to a birthday party and eat a three-course meal with a birthday cake; the next day you have tummy pain and constipation/ diarrhoea. You feel sad and down. You end up having a lot of wind and people notice. You end up feeling embarrassed and ashamed. These negative thoughts make you avoid birthday parties, and this makes you isolated and alone. You end up focusing more on any tummy signs so that you can go home if there is a risk of excess wind. But this just makes things worse…

But that’s where therapy can help make all the difference. It can help break the cycle at every single stage.

Ways different therapies that can help with IBS

Gut-directed hypnotherapy

This is a special form of hypnosis specifically designed to help the gut. By using, gut metaphors, you are taught how to change the way you think about IBS and even improve the symptoms! In this amazing process, your mind will delve into a deep state of relaxation yet heightened focus. In this way, you will be able to change symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain and excessive wind which are not normally under our conscious control.

During the hypnosis, certain anchors are used which are words like “calm”. In the future when you hear the word “calm” you immediately fall into a relaxed state, thanks to the hypnotherapy.

This amazing therapy was developed by Professor Whorwell and there are two whole sessions on Zemedy for you to try!


Cognitive behavioural therapy tackles the root causes of how our illnesses can affect our behaviours. It acts on the think, feel, do cycle at every stage. First, it teaches you to understand the way these three factors affect your life. Then, it helps you tackle each one!

There are lots of exercises which form of part of IBS- these include exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring, worry management and behavioural experiments! And they all help break the vicious cycle of IBS pain and anxiety.

Let’s look at exposure therapy as an example: by doing things outside of your comfort zone you challenge your avoidance behaviour and this, in turn, causes a domino effect. You will challenge your negative thoughts and feelings as well.

Attention Training

This is a form of mindfulness. But instead of just bringing your attention to the present moment this method helps you control your attention even further! It helps you focus on the outside world rather than your body. This can be a great way to stop IBS symptoms from using up all your mental energy. That mental exhaustion of thinking about and being disturbed by IBS whilst you about your daily life is unbearable. That’s why attention training offers an amazing lifeline.

Excited to learn more about how therapy could help your IBS? Check out the Zemedy app and access a six-week programme to help you take control of your gut. We would also love to hear your experience of therapy- any things work particularly well? Or has there been something you found completely useless?

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