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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
It is estimated that 20% of the population suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (also known as irritable colon syndrome or spastic colon), but nobody really knows because most people suffer in silence as they are too embarrassed to come forward for help.

IBS comes in three basic forms, all of which can involve bloating of the midriff, flatulence, pain in the intestines and anal canal.

The first happens when a person is unable to predict when they need to go to the toilet. Their stools are so liquid and unpredictable that an accident can happen at anytime, anywhere. This may also precipitate them having to go to the toilet up to every half an hour and often has dire consequences in the workplace. Having to explain to employers where you keep nipping off to can put people in danger of losing their jobs for skiving. In fact, some people are unable to hold down a job at all.

The second kind of IBS is when a person is constantly constipated and unable to pass motions. They may go for weeks without being able to evacuate their bowels, even to the extent that they are afraid to eat properly, thereby creating a vicious circle. I remember my old granny used to fill herself up with laxatives on a Saturday night before bed and sprint across the yard to the outside toilet every Sunday morning at 6.30 a.m. sharp and was not seen again until breakfast.

The third kind of IBS is when a person has a combination of the two previous types in that the consistency of their bowel motions is always changing and is so unpredictable that people are often prisoners in their own homes. Relationships can break down because people become preoccupied with their condition and unable to join in with family, friends and socializing. Depression can even follow as people feel so isolated and hopeless about their situation that they believe there can be no cure.

The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax as they move food from your stomach through the intestinal tract to the rectum. Normally, these muscles contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm. But if you have IBS, the contractions are stronger and last longer than normal. Food is forced through your intestines more quickly, causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. In some cases, however, the opposite occurs. Food passage slows, and stools become hard and dry.

No one knows exactly what causes IBS. Some researchers think IBS is caused by changes in the nerves that control sensation or muscle contractions in the bowel. Others believe the central nervous system may affect the colon. And because women are two to three times more likely than men to have IBS, researchers believe that hormonal changes also play a role. For many women, symptoms are worse during or around their menstrual periods.

For reasons that still aren't clear, if you have IBS you probably react strongly to stimuli that don't bother other people. Triggers for IBS can range from gas or pressure on your intestines to certain foods, medications or emotions. Chocolate, milk and alcohol might cause constipation or diarrhea, for instance. And the least bit of stress might send your colon into spasms.

In fact, if you're like most people with IBS, you probably find that symptoms are worse or more frequent during stressful events, such as a change in your daily routine or family arguments. But while stress may aggravate symptoms, it doesn't cause them.

What To Do?
These understandings are by no means mutually exclusive. IBS conditions generally comprise certain proportions of both dietary and psychological factors so the most effective solution should comprise both approaches.

If you are experiencing bowel discomfort, you should first of all visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Ask yourself if the discomfort seems to follow any pattern and, if your doctor agrees, experiment with cutting certain foods like citrus, dairy, yeast, wheat, or other grains out of your diet and taking supplements of friendly bacteria such as the acidophilus bacteria (A Homeopathic remedy that aids in keeping your body in check by maintaining optimum levels of good bacteria, and increasing the strength of your body's natural defenses).

Evidence is overwhelming that IBS symptoms do respond to hypnosis. In addition to this, hypnotherapy routinely produces positive results in over 80% of IBS sufferers who use it. It has been so overwhelmingly successful for IBS symptom-alleviation that Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, chair of the National Women's Health Network in Washington, DC, says that hypnosis should be the treatment of choice for IBS cases that have not responded to conventional therapy.

A referral by a physician is required for this therapy.