April brings us IBS Awareness Month

IBS (irritable Bowel Syndrome) is one of the most common disorders seen by Doctors, with around 1 out of 10 people being affected.  Unfortunately there is no cure, but there are ways to help improve the symptoms.

I have teamed up with two of our Practitioners from Rowan House who tell me how their treatments can help improve symptoms, making it easier for sufferers.

Craniosacral Therapist Andrew Cook tells us how he can help with a more physical approach, and Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist Guy Thorold tells us how his treatment can help on a more emotional front.

Hello Andrew and Guy, thank you for both taking the time out to speak to me about IBS, and to talk though how the treatments you provide may be able to help sufferers.

Andrew, IBS is very common, have you ever treated anyone who suffers from it before? Can you explain what you would do in a treatment, to help with these symptoms?

Hi Jodie – yes – there are several areas I would look at…

Firstly, I am not a nutritionist, but there are certain foods that may trigger IBS and other symptoms in the body – like green and sprouting potatoes, and I would want to briefly check this is not the cause.  I would also be interested in associated illnesses in the year of onset of IBS and other possible contributing factors such as; operations, divorces, accidents, wisdom tooth extractions, etc …  You might not think these are related to IBS but these can all be contributing factors.

That sounds interesting Andrew, would you be able to explain this a bit more?

IBS is firstly a reduction in the Vagal tone of the body, so that the digestive system cannot work properly.

In medical circles this is now usually associated with stress and anxiety. However, the body is something of a set of chickens and eggs – and there are many factors that can cause stress and anxiety by altering inputs to the nervous system.  So people can become stressed and anxious not for psychological reasons, but because there is a physical compression of nerves or some other non-psychological causing the body to produce too much adrenaline.  Of course, this can then start to become psychological as a secondary effect…

I tend to think of the body and mind as being a complete system, and very few illnesses are completely physical or completely mental in origin.  Usually it’s a combination.  Craniosacral (CST) treatment would aim to identify and remove pressures on the Vagal nervous system that might be contributing to IBS – and the main way I do that is through gentle hands-on bodywork.

Guy, IBS is such a common disorder.  A lot of people relate it to people who stress and worry, would you say this is the case?

IBS is a variable and often chronic disturbance of the digestive system, and the causes are frequently unclear.

Sometimes it may be due to allergies or sensitivities to different foods; or possibly malfunctions of the nervous system. However, a common trigger for many people is stress.

Like all animals, humans have a system that switches on to help us deal with danger and very stressful situations. This is the well-known “fight or flight” system. A chain reaction of signals release hormones that prepare the body to deal with the danger. The heart rate and respiration increase, and the body is primed for physical activity. Because these responses take a lot of energy, other processes, such as aspects of the immune system and digestion, are slowed down or switched off. After the danger has passed, everything rebalances and returns to normal.

However, it has been found that many people with IBS have experienced significant stress or trauma in the past, especially when children, and are more sensitive to stress, pain and discomfort. They tend to be anxious, and their fight or flight system is more easily triggered, often by the normal demands and challenges of busy modern life, and is much slower to switch off. This can result in chronic digestive disturbance, which is not easy to deal with symptomatically by medications that attempt to calm the digestion

How do you think Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH) can help?

I find that Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH) can be very successful, because it deals with the causes of the problem. I first take a comprehensive history to better understand the roots of the situation. cognitive behavioural hypnotherapyI then use CBT to uncover the unhelpful mental patterns that contribute to the disturbance, and provide effective techniques to change them.

How do you use hypnosis to help people with IBS?

 Hypnosis is then used to enable the person to experience a state of more calm and balance and clarity.  I routinely teach them self-hypnosis so they are able to do it on their own. This is very helpful, because the state of hypnosis switches on the relaxation response, and encourages all the systems of the body and mind, including the digestive system, to balance and normalise.

How many sessions of CBH are needed you help with IBS?

It is difficult to say exactly but because hypnosis can help to positively change aspects of the unconscious mind, where the problem is actually located, it is often much quicker and more successful than other approaches, especially when the 2 approaches (hypnosis and CBT) are combined.

Significant changes can be seen after only 1 or 2 session but further sessions of CBH are used to reinforce and strengthen change on the more conscious, cognitive level using CBT techniques. 

The main emphasis however will be on using hypnosis to access the unconscious mind. This is the level of feelings and emotions; of memory; of the programs that run the body, including the fight or flight system; and of all the patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that the person has learnt over the whole of their life. This means that it’s possible to significantly change the old stuck patterns of over-sensitivity and over-reaction to the normal demands and stress of life. There are a whole variety of techniques that can be used in hypnosis, depending on the individual – it’s not a “one size fits all “method.

Thank you Andrew and Guy, it’s been really interesting finding out how two very different approaches can help improve IBS.

Everyone is different, so it’s great to know people have different options, as one thing may work better for one person and another for someone else.

If you suffer from IBS it would be great to hear from you (comments below) to find out what has helped you with your symptoms.

Andrew Cook works from Rowan House on Thursday’s, for more information on Craniosacral (CST) treatment please visit Andrews website

For an appointment please call Andrew directly on 01603 665173 or 07806 602957 or email


Guy Thorold Cognitive Behavioural HypnotherapistGuy Thorold works from Rowan House on Thursdays, for more information on Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy please click here.

For an appointment please call Guy directly on 01263 587652 or email