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Brain-Gut Connection - My Journey with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

By March 19, 2012 - 4:28pm

Irritable Bowel Syndrome really ruined my whole life, and just many people diagnosed with IBS, I felt torn between being grateful I didn't have something "serious" and guilty
for feeling like I was dying anyway. People treat you differently when
they know that IBS is something that isn't "serious" as in
life-threatening, but even my gastroenterologist told me that he could
treat the pain of his colon cancer patients better than his IBS patients.

I was officially diagnosed in 1988, after about five years (1983) of not
knowing why I was having increasingly severe diarrhea and abdominal
pain. With the birth of my daughter that same year, I thought I better
get tested, that maybe I did have some digestive disease, but several
colonoscopies later, (four total over the years) it was confirmed as IBS.

Trips to the Mayo Clinic and two other gastroenterologists further
confirmed that every single prescription and OTC medication had little
or no effect, and only short-term, if any:

Over the next 12 years or so, I was prescribed various IBS medications
by my gastroenterologists and internal medicine physicians - some
examples: every antispasmodic including Hyoscyamine (Levbid/Levsin, and
Levsin SL), Dicyclomine (Bentyl), as well as Donnatal, Tincture of
Belladonna, etc., several diets and diet modifications/food
eliminations, fiber, the anti-depressant Amitriptyline (Elavil), various
SSRIs (Prozac, Effexor and others), Codeine, Colpermin (enteric coated
peppermint capsules), various other Antidiarrheal and/or Antiperistaltic
prescriptions or OTC medications, as well as non-label use of
prescriptions such as Seldane, which has a side-effect of constipation
to combat my extreme diarrhea. There were other medications, and herbals
as well.

My gastroenterologist finally told me that he had exhausted his
treatment options, and to go look up other treatments on the internet.
In my search, I found out about the use of clinical hypnotherapy for IBS
through a fellow IBS sufferer who used this method successfully in 1999, but I thought this method was pretty far-fetched and seemed to be absurd to me.

But at this point I was desperate, now almost housebound with severe
urgent diarrhea, painful cramping, and nothing helping, so I tried this
treatment method as a last resort in the summer of 2000. This treatment
program is known as the IBS Audio Program 100. [ healthyaudio.com] It consists of a set of
audio CDs containing clinically researched therapeutic sessions with a
very specific listening schedule. (Michael Mahoney of Cheshire England
is the author of this program. In 1998 his program became available to the public as a result of patient demand. Mike has many publications about him and by him and is one of
the leading clinical hypnotherapists in England who works alongside
gastroenterologists in his medical centre. He has been recognized by the Queen for his contributions in this field.)

Even though the program had been helping thousands of IBS patients, even
prior to its availability to the public in 1998, I felt that this would
not work for me, that I was a hopeless case, having been diagnosed as
severe refractory IBS, and I doubted that anything of this sort would
have any real helpful effects on my symptoms I was of a very negative,
depressed mind-set from the beginning and throughout listening to the
program. I had very little belief in it or the method. In fact, I
thought it was rather bogus, and misleading to think anything of a
brain-gut approach would help me. After all, the problem was in my gut
not my mind or so I thought. I fought all the way,writing emails to Mike
in England, how this wasnt working, and that I was relapsing, etc. I was
a nightmare patient! An IBS poster child.

During the course of listening to the hypnotherapy sessions, I not only
had to deal with IBS, but my marriage dissolved in part, due to IBS, and
I had several various surgeries , one on my foot, a gallbladder removal
(which the doctor misdiagnosed as IBS pain), and removal of repositioned
entangled ovaries. While the hypnotherapy program wasnt dealing with my
IBS, I found out it helped me cope with the many other stressors and
health issues in my life first, as these were the most pressing, once
resolved, I re-listened to the program yet again , and my IBS began to
improve. Very gradually at first, but one day, I realized, I hadnt had
severe pain and urgency as often as I used to.

As the time passed, the urgency and diarrhea diminished substantially in
fact, as time went on, I later realized that at the first hint of
urgency, I automatically had what I would call an unspoken inner thought
that said, in effect, I dont have time to deal with this now, or I dont
want this now, go away and the urgency and impending diarrhea would
subside within almost seconds. It was an automatic response, I didnt
think it through. Just as in the past, my gut previously reacted as an
automatic response to go into pain, cramps and urgency and severe diarrhea.

Due to the severity of my severe refractory IBS, as well as several non
related surgeries, I listened to the entire program 3 times. Each time I
saw better improvement I was the worst case scenario. Mike told me that
the hypnotherapy program worked first on those health issues and
stressors in my life that were most pressing to my overall health and
that the IBS was dealt with last in my case but I persevered, and my
symptoms greatly reduced. That was several years ago, and now I can
actually leave the house, whereas before, I raised my children "through
the bathroom door!" I had attacks of diarrhea and pain lasting for hours
on end, sometimes six hours a day, almost every day, never knowing
when...even if I ate small amounts, the attacks would come out of the blue.

I am now able to function , if I do get an attack, most of the time it
will subside within minutes, if not seconds. IBS is no longer the severe
issue that it was, and though not a cure, for me, it was the best thing
I could have done to treat my IBS on a holistic level.

My IBS cost me a whole lost life...events and special celebrations for
my kids, just taking them to routine doctor and dentist appointments was
an ordeal, and my marriage suffered and collapsed in part because of it.
I went from being able to travel and talk professionally in front of
large groups of people, to being just about housebound.

This program saved my life. And that is why I now help the author of the program, Michael Mahoney, as a result of my gratitude for getting my life back. As one of the slowest persons to respond, and with very severe symptoms, I feel that I do need
to pass on what was given to me and encourage others to not lose hope.

Most people respond more quickly than I did, and I speak with sufferers all over who have gotten their lives back.
That's what worked for me and I hope this helps someone too. Thanks for
letting me share! :)

By HERWriter Guide May 12, 2014 - 8:15am

Hi Rheyanne

I have an IBS diagnoses as of 16 months ago - triggered by a virus and the OP is right - it can completely take over your life and nobody gets it. It has wrecked havoc on my life at times. I tried acupuncture and that helped but what really helped was a lot of physical exercise and like you - avoiding overeating and cutting calories. I don't know why that works but it does. If I eat until I am full, I get an attack. If I eat until I am not hungry anymore (there's a big difference) I don't.  And the biggest factor for me getting an attack is stress. Travel is a nightmare for me (I sometimes bloat until I am completely distended and it looks and feels hideous) but I am working on that too. 

IBS is really awful - sometimes you have to go through it to really know it. 


May 12, 2014 - 8:15am
By HERWriter May 7, 2014 - 11:14pm

Hello, so glad you were able to find relief! I haven't been officially diagnosed with IBS, but I had extensive testing done by a GI doctor that ruled out Crohn's, Colitis and Celiac Disease. One of my primary care doctors suggested I had IBS before I was even tested. I still have ongoing GI problems.

I've only noticed a reduction in symptoms after I tried cutting out unhealthy foods, cutting calories (avoiding overeating as much as possible), reducing stress and having my Mirena IUD taken out. I think one of my main triggers was the Mirena IUD (it caused severe abdominal cramps), and I was eating too much food (and junk food) to the point where I became bloated and that upset my stomach. I think I have a slight intolerance to lactose, and have noticed fewer problems since I started cutting out most dairy products (almost every single time after I have ice cream or a shake I have problems). My stomach also tends to be more sensitive in the morning, so I wait a few hours sometimes before eating and have a smaller breakfast (usually blander foods).

I still get problems but not as often. When I do, Imodium helps me the best (I usually get diarrhea). Just an FYI, it does cause constipation for a few days sometimes, but then I've noticed my body goes back to normal. Also I have noticed that I get more GI problems when I'm under a lot of stress, so I try to reduce my stress as much as possible, and have learned to say "no" more often. Hope this is helpful!

May 7, 2014 - 11:14pm
By Blogger November 27, 2013 - 7:03am

I am so very sorry to hear about your personal experience with IBS. I have the condition as well. Do you know what your triggers are, what leads to your symptoms?

For me, bad food choices, caffeine, sometimes dairy and stress are my big culprits.

I swear by Librax. Not sure if you have ever tried it. It's an anti-anxiety medication. It took me a while to get past the fact that I needed a mental health medication to help my IBS, but now I sing its praises as it really works for me.

It's terrible to hear about another person's suffering. I empathize with you.

Once I knew what my triggers were I knew that it was my responsibility to avoid them. Some days I am good, other days not so much, and then the stress of life and parenting and work are another ball of wax.

I will you peace, calm and comfort. There is a great IBS support group on Facebook as well that I am a member of. They are so many people just like us. While my condition is more manageable, there are many with severe symptoms like yours as well. You may find comfort there.

November 27, 2013 - 7:03am
EmpowHER Guest
By Anonymous March 21, 2012 - 5:36am

Hi SquirrelGirl,

Welcome to EmpowHER and thanks for sharing your story with us.  Am sure this will be very helfpul to many seeking answers and support on IBS.

Here is a link that might be helpful





March 21, 2012 - 5:36am

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