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A Question; and an Answer
By Nick Turnbull writer & broadcaster

The most frightening thought is that we know so little about it.

DOCTORLet’s re-phrase that. We know what happens to the poor sufferers. We know that it affects over twelve million people in the UK alone, year on year. We know that, second only to the common cold, it is a prolific cause of absenteeism in the workplace, accounting for over sixty percent of the stay-aways.

And we know that it is indifferent to race, gender, age or even lifestyle. It is wholly indiscriminate, and reduces quality of life for most sufferers.

All this, we know; and what we also know is that conventional medicine can’t cure it.

‘IBS’ or Irritable Bowel Syndrome: – a syndrome is a cluster of symptoms which, in the case of IBS, range from acute gut pains, constipation and bloating to stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Often, hour by hour, day by day. And it’s a syndrome that puzzles and frustrates patients and the medical profession alike.

To say that conventional medicine is baffled by the condition might seem unkind. Over the years, everyone from the local GP to the highly acclaimed international gastroenterologists, pouring over their textbooks and journals, have tried more or less everything known to medical man. Laxatives, antibiotics, probiotics, antispasmodic medicines, loperamide, peppermint oils. And even, in extreme cases, anti-depressants. All have played their part in mitigation, however partial. And yet, to date, conventional medicine has completely failed to find a cure for IBS. Some in the medical profession know of the benefits of using hypnotherapy with IBS sufferers, but don’t know enough about this proven psychological intervention to refer their IBS patients, and there are not enough experienced IBS hypnotherapists to meet the potential demand. Busy caseloads in primary and secondary care also restrict the time available for clear understanding of the benefits of this proven psychological intervention.

Enter the dieticians.

Few can reasonably question the link between a healthy body and a healthy diet. ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is an axiom that might have begun life in medieval Devon but, despite its humble origins, nonetheless it serves its purpose. The fruit’s Vitamin C supports our immune system. Its phenols reduce cholesterol and, in turn, slow tooth decay, while its quercetin protects our brain cells. ‘An apple a day can sort out Alzheimer’s doesn’t have quite the charm of the original Devon rhyme but its counsel is equally clear.

But, can apples, or indeed any other fruit, address the issue of IBS? Is it possible that a disorder of the bowel can be brought under control simply by ordering what it ingests? The dietician would almost certainly say yes. And later, may then fall back on the word ‘perhaps,’ when confronted with the hard facts of experience.

The internet is littered with dietary advice for the IBS sufferer and, whilst the individual prescriptions may seem blindingly obvious and a very good idea, the chances that any one of them will solve the problem are virtually nil.

Avoid processed foods, pastries and savoury snacks. Cut back on alcohol. Beware of ready meals. Reduce caffeine. Eat slowly.  It’s the nagging voice we regularly hear in the media and, whilst sensible, supposedly ‘healthy’ eating might occasionally afford relief, it will neither treat nor cure the condition.

So, is there anything that can be done to help sufferers if there isn’t any cure?

One man set out on a mission to find another way to help those suffering from IBS, initially at his busy practice, and later to bring the solution into the home of sufferers.  Michael Mahoney, a medical centre based Clinical Hypnotherapist based in North-West England since 1986, took an interest in IBS in 1991 when he saw at first hand patient suffering.

Although at the time it was new to him, he endeavoured to research the subject fully, which then led on to clinical patient trials.

Within five years he had developed a structured protocol, which formed the basis of several patient trials.  The results were immediately obvious and equally remarkable. An average 80-90% success rate was achieved through the development of a systematic clinical hypnotherapy protocol.

Hypnotherapy research into its effects on the IBS condition has been ongoing since the 1980’s, however these protocols were not available to the public outside of the universities and gastroenterology departments of some hospitals.

The mind and body connection. The holistic truth that welds body and soul together. Often ignored, misunderstood or simply not recognised by many in the medical community.

However in 2008, the National Institute of Clinical Health and Excellence (NICE) finally stepped in and issued guidance to the medical community that, hypnotherapy was a proven medical treatment for IBS, indeed a proven psychological intervention, no longer classed as alternative or complementary, in the treatment of IBS, hypnotherapy had earned the recognition of the national medical guideline issuer.

Mahoney’s independent work continued; the results of the clinical patient trials were already painting a masterpiece, with tens of sufferers, growing into hundreds, and then thousands, and now hundreds of thousands of users, via self-help audio tapes, then CD’s, followed by MP3’s and more recently the production of an IBS App and accompanying symptom reporting system.

Now his IBS program is used widely around the world, a treatment method not only medically sound but also an imperative course to follow where drugs, diet and due diligence had conspicuously failed.

Many of Michael’s patients have provided glowing testimonials over the years, one in particular wrote: “Mr. Mahoney, you’ve given me my life back. If you’d been around all those years ago, I’d have had a completely different life.”

She was seventy-four. She’d suffered from IBS for forty-seven years. And now it had gone. No medication. No procedures. No curious diets. Just the quiet voice delivering a structured process and words of a man called Michael Mahoney.  For young and old, male and female the IBS program has an enviable track record of helping many sufferers where all else has failed.

Hypnotherapy; for too long a science and a life-line that has been, at best, side-lined and, at worst, ridiculed, by the conventional medical world; and yet there are, and have been, a dedicated few in the medical profession, who have worked hard within their own confines to find, and deliver varying Hypnotherapy IBS protocols to help IBS sufferers.

Yet this is a discipline that, like the ugly duckling, has blossomed into the swan. Hypnotherapy is moving toward the centre stage and is increasingly the treatment of choice when dealing with a range of conditions, perhaps most significant of which is IBS.

Not a concept that might have sprung too readily to the lips of many in the medical profession in years gone by, when asked to consider treatments for the condition. Michael Mahoney has proved during his many years of working so effectively on a 1-1 basis and remotely with thousands of sufferers, that hypnotherapy is most definitely an effective treatment of choice, affording a high recovery rate and improved quality of life for sufferers. 

On one hand, it may be frightening that we officially still know so little about the causes of IBS. However, it is widely known, because of work carried out by Michael Mahoney, and others in his field, that the individuals’ emotions have a large part to play in re-establishing a positive quality of life for the IBS sufferer.

It is a privilege to announce that this proven treatment option is now being launched within an mHealth App. Not your general run of the mill type of ‘App’ but including a full symptom reporting system that can be used by the medical profession, employers and insurance companies, to help support the sufferer in their recovery from IBS.  Further information can be found on the website:  www.soundslikeibs.com

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