I have suffered from IBS for years. I have tried acupuncture, seen nutritionists and been on a low FODMAP exclusion and reintroduction diet via a dietician. Nothing really worked, and the list of food I am triggered by has got longer every year.
So, for the last six weeks, I have been persevering with the Nerva app, a hypnotherapy app which is clinically proven to improve IBS symptoms for 80% of users. It’s best if you do it every day for six weeks. I managed nearly all of the sessions. I had tried it twice previously but didn’t fully commit and couldn’t get past week one. This time I had a strict word with myself, saying there was no other option and that I had to do the sessions if I wanted to get better. I did really well until week 6, when we rehomed a rescue dog and my days/brain were fully consumed with dog-related tasks.
Nerva is an evidence-based digital therapeutic that uses gut-directed hypnotherapy to help you create a positive relationship between your gut and brain. It targets the source of the problem: oversensitive nerves in the gut, and teaches you how to address this miscommunication between the gut and brain.
As well as hypnotherapy, you get daily articles to read and breathing exercises to bring your body out of the fight-or-flight state (sympathetic nervous system response) that amplifies IBS symptoms.
Hypnotherapy is very relaxing. I found I have to do it in the daytime, as if I do it in the evening, I fall asleep. Being ‘under’ feels a bit like when you are nearly asleep and can hear everything around you but can’t move and are in a trance-like state. The positive suggestions I heard whilst hypnotised were very powerful. I felt myself smiling during and afterwards at the thought of my symptoms getting better and better. I hadn’t realised how hypervigilant I had become about food.
The results have been good, and I’d definitely recommend it. I am much more relaxed about eating foods which I would have previously seen as trigger foods, and I have had fewer symptoms. I went to a conference at the end of January where normally I would expect to have a bloated stomach, pain and wind because it would be impossible to avoid the things I stay away from at home – garlic and onion, for example. However, I was very chilled this time and even tucked into some of the batter on my fish and chips without even thinking about it, which is normally a no-no for me unless I know it’s gluten-free. I didn’t even ask what was in it and felt fine afterwards. It’s a huge relief to worry less, and I’m sure it will continue to reduce symptoms. Studies have shown hypnotherapy can provide long-lasting IBS management.
Moving forward, I will be much more relaxed when I eat out and will also start to experiment more with foods that have been on my no-list. I will continue with the maintenance programme they offer to ensure my progress continues.
Three things I’ve learnt during this process:
- I have to be really committed to introducing a new habit to my week – even finding 15-20 mins per day was hard and became impossible when I had a dog to fit into my daily routine.
- Hypnotherapy is powerful. I’d definitely consider it for other things. It can make a change; all you have to do is listen and be open-minded.
- Food is not the enemy! Rather, my brain and gut have become misguided, and they can be retrained.