Understanding your IBS: The mind-body connection

the mind-body conenction

This is how I stumbled upon the mind-body connection, and how I used it to release my IBS triggers.

The surprising Aha moment

I was tired, bloated and my stomach had started gnawing away. I didn’t really care what I watched, I just wanted to be a couch potato.

Maybe you can relate?

There was nothing much on TV, so I ended up watching an episode of an old US series called Monk.

For any of you who don’t know the series, it’s a little like Columbo in that Monk has a sharp mind and a fantastic skill of observation. However Monk is also hindered in his professional and private life by OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

I watched this brilliant detective try to hide his repeated and compulsive hand-washing, desk tidying, checking his car door etc. It seemed as if he did all that as if it were a sort of nervous mind-body connection.

I had a sudden flash of insight.

It made me think of how I tried to hide my IBS symptoms, that seemed as out of control as Monk’s compulsive behaviour.

What if my IBS was similar in some way? What if this uncontrolled digestion and elimination was some sort of repeated, compulsive nervous reaction too?

Food and Digestion

For a long time I followed doctors and researchers who were all pointing to food as the reason for IBS.

However, I could see that no matter how “careful” I was with what I ate, there was no logical explanation for my IBS flare-ups that I could see.

And it really as if felt my IBS was operating in a similar way to OCD. But inside me.

Does this sound like it could be the case for you?

Looking into OCD

As I started researching OCD with a very curious mind, I came across Dr Schwarz, an OCD specialist. I looked into his 4 step approach to OCD.

But quickly realized that as our IBS reaction is completely unconscious, it was not possible to apply this to IBS. It was unfortunately a dead end.

However I did come across another article that mentioned the mind-body connection, and another that talked about neuroscience.

Why research in neuroplasticity is such a breakthrough

I came across study after study on neuroplasticity and the mind. It was fascinating.

Researchers had basically proved that our minds are not static. They evolve throughout our lives – like we are developing AI to do for robots. And it is totally possible to change unconscious reactions we have by “rewiring” the brain.

Could I reprogram my IBS triggers?

No-one was talking about doing that, but I sure was going to try!

I immediately wondered what you had to go through to be “rewired”. A brain scan and an operation?

It turned out to be much easier than I thought.

You needed to be put in a meditative state and consider new realities. Then reinforce those new realities so that they become the new default path of thinking.

And the mind cannot differentiate imagined and real states.

I tried hypnotherapy but I really wasn’t comfortable with being “put under”. Because I didn’t want to give over control to someone else.

I needed something else.

Improving the mind-body connection and IBS

Once I had seen the link to the mind-body connection and IBS, my next stop was NLP (neuro-linguistic programming).

I read an amazing book about all that NLP could do for releasing trauma, phobias, and strong past emotions.

There were no NLP practitioners where I lived.

So I enrolled in several courses and learned how NLP works. I was so impressed with NLP that I have since become a certified NLP practitioner.

NLP works in a similar way to hypnotherapy, but without “going under”. In fact the NLP practitioner is a facilitator. YOU keep total control (ideal if like me you have trust issues).

All you have to do is to relax. Which means you are fully conscious, and stop at any time if you don’t like it.

You can revisit (not relive) any memories that your amazing brain brings to the surface for release.

Why would you want to do that?

Because fear, worry and anxious thoughts contribute a great deal to IBS flare-ups. They can contract muscles in the body, causing cramps and constipation. The fight or flight mechanism diverts energy away from digestion. And if you are experiencing diarrhea, fear can set off involuntary muscular waves pushing food straight through your system, rather than holding on to it.

Our minds give labels to past experiences, creating trigger loops. And when we live something similar or that takes us back to that experience, we relive the fear.

That’s what often sets off those IBS flare-ups, and why a simple comment from someone at work can trigger you. And you may not actually have ever linked that to a past experience.

When we worry about or fear something, it is our thoughts about that “something” that get us stirred up. We react to the potential threat, where there is often no real threat right here, right now. But it certainly feels VERY real.

With NLP it is possible to discover those trigger situations as an observer, and take some, or all of the sting out of them. And that is truly liberating.

I no longer suffer with any IBS symptoms, and a large part of that is due to seeing and changing my unconscious IBS triggers.

NLP isn’t the only way of doing this, but for me it was the least intrusive.

Over time I have developed my own kind of NLP that I find particularly effective for IBS and releasing conscious but also unconscious IBS triggers.