STUDY INTO THE LINK BETWEEN IBS AND CHILDHOOD TRAUMA
A study conducted by Halland (2014) examined the link between childhood trauma and IBS and involved 409 individuals with the condition who were required to self-report their experience of childhood trauma by completing the Bremner Early Trauma Inventory
A control group of 415 individuals who did NOT have IBS (formally referred to as the control group) also completed the inventory.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY:
- 74℅ of those with IBS were deemed by the researchers to have experienced trauma.
- 59% of those who did NOT have IBS (i.e. individuals in the control group) were deemed by the researchers to have experienced trauma.
These findings support the theory that childhood trauma increases an individual’s chances of going on to develop IBS in later life.
THE BRAIN-GUT AXIS
This makes sense as it is known that the brain communicates with the gut and the gut communicates with the brain. This bi-directional communication channel is often referred to as the BRAIN-GUT AXIS and means the brain can affect the stomach (e.g. when you are nervous and experience ‘butterflies’ in the stomach).
IBS, CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, STRESS, AND ANXIETY
Up to fifty percent of adults who suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) report having experienced significant trauma during their childhoods. Indeed, the researchers Saito-Loftus theorize that the experience of trauma may affect the brain and the stomach in an adverse way that makes future susceptibility to IBS more likely.
We have seen in previous articles posted on this site that those who experience significant childhood trauma are more likely than those who have not to go on to experience higher than average trauma (eg severe relationship problems, dysfunctional behaviors leading to crisis etc) and levels of stress and anxiety in their adult lives.
This is highly relevant as stress and anxiety are known to exacerbate symptoms of IBS. Furthermore, a study conducted at the Mayo Clinic found that trauma suffered in adulthood also increases the likelihood of the development of IBS or the worsening of existing symptoms, reinforcingHalland’s findings.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE TREATMENT OF IBS
It follows from this that therapy to help IBS sufferers to resolve issues relating to any traumas they may have experienced may, in many cases, be of benefit.
IBS AND HYPNOTHERAPY
Clinical studies have demonstrated that hypnotherapy can be an effective treatment for IBS. Usually, it involves the use of progressive relaxation techniques, imagery, and visualization. Such uses of hypnotherapy have been shown to help alleviate symptoms of IBS, including stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, and constipation, as well as the fatigue which is often associated with IBS. Additionally, hypnotherapy can help to treat anxiety and stress.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
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