How therapy can relieve IBS

Woman looking into fridge for something to eat

Dr Abi Wroe, our Clinical Health Psychologist, explains how Talking Therapies like CBT can treat not only the mental symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome but the physical symptoms too:

If you’re among the 1 in 15 of us who suffer with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you’ll know that the symptoms are very real and distressing.

IBS is a debilitating condition that affects the digestive system and causes pain, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation and/ or diarrhoea and can lead to trouble sleeping, fatigue and food intolerances.

How your mindset influences your gut health

It’s common to feel distress about these symptoms. 

But stress and worry trigger chemical changes that disrupt the normal workings of the digestive system.

When your brain and your digestive system are not communicating well with each other, this can actually cause symptoms of IBS.

This can lead to a vicious cycle of worry and stress which disrupts eating and sleeping patterns and the bio-chemical messages that affect your digestive and mental health.

This cycle doesn’t mean your physical symptoms aren’t real or that they are “all in your head”.

What it means is that we can use this ‘brain-gut’ connection to treat IBS.

How can therapy help?

Research shows that the brain and the gut are closely connected, sending messages to each other all the time.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you reduce your physical symptoms of IBS as well as reducing anxiety and depression.

CBT involves learning how thoughts, behaviour and physical symptoms affect each other as well as giving you practical techniques to help you feel better.

The therapy enables you to understand more about how your body works, your own warning signs and how your thoughts and behaviours can affect your symptoms. This can help you:

  1. Reduce your gut symptoms like bloating, pain, constipation or diarrhoea
  2. Develop stable, healthy eating patterns
  3. Know how to manage your unhelpful thoughts
  4. Accept and process your emotions
  5. Manage your stress
  6. Find healthy ways to cope

Find out more

Before seeking help for IBS, we recommend that you talk to your GP about your symptoms, so that any other conditions can be investigated if necessary.