Updated: Apr 25, 2019
One of my clients, Bella, has been living with IBS for many years. She was surprised to find out it wasn't just the physical symptoms that were affecting her.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms include abdominal spasms, cramping, flatulence and diarrhoea and it can be a painful and unpredictable condition. Living with a chronic (long term condition) can be challenging, placing additional stress on both our digestive systems and our mental wellbeing.
A number of years ago it was widely thought that only a third of cases of IBS were of food allergenic cause. As both a Holistic Practitioner and Horticulturist, I feel that with our ever changing landscape of food production methods - use of pesticides and herbicides, soil degradation from over intensive agricultural farming, widespread use of steroids and antibiotics in meat and dairy production and the increasing use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in food - it is important to consider that the numbers of people affected by allergenic IBS may now be greater than we think.
This means that the majority of IBS cases are still considered to be of psychomatic origin, caused or aggravated by internal conflict or stress. In my practice, I have found that this is most certainly one of the main contributing factors of IBS and this is why a holistic approach is incredibly beneficial for helping to manage the symptoms of IBS, by looking at addressing the root cause. One of my clients own experiences shows how her IBS was much more than just physical symptoms.
Bella* lives with IBS and has experienced its symptoms since puberty. She attends regular treatment sessions, initially attending sessions to help address a separate, seemingly unrelated, health condition. But it is my role to consider all things to be related and look beyond what appears to be isolated symptoms.
After a few sessions Bella told me that her IBS had been quite bad recently. I asked her if she had eaten or drank anything that she wouldn't normally and she had said she hadn't. I asked her what her week had been like, were there any changes in work, family or her social life? She had said that she had been on holiday from work and had attended a few nights out but that she hadn't eaten or drunk anything out of the ordinary.
During her treatment, I used both Reflexology and Energy Therapy. Reflexology indicated some inflammation at her bowel reflex and some inconsistencies in appearance; 'bumpy' and uneven at certain areas. Working this reflex with specific acupressure techniques can help to reduce inflammation and encourage healthy bowel function but it also helps stimulate the meridian, or line of energy, that runs throughout the body, including other reflex areas that lie on this line.
During Energy Therapy, there was a strong pull to an area to the left hand side of her abdomen and, on focusing energy at the area and intuitively tuning in to Bella's energy field, it appeared that there were mental and emotional factors connected with her IBS symptoms, specifically related to personal style and appearance.
On discussing this with Bella, I asked about her own personal style of clothing and what she liked to wear when she went out for a special occassion. She said that she liked to express herself with her clothing - it gave her an opportunity to do this outwith the clothing she wore to work, which was often expressively limited. She said her social clothing would sometimes be a little unusual and different from 'the norm'. I asked if she felt comfortable expressing her individuality this way and she replied that, while she likes to express her personality with her clothes, she feels very uncomfortable when she receives looks from other people - 'I hate it, it really irritates me'. Bella considered the looks she was receiving from others to be judgemental and disapproving and these thoughts made her feel uncomfortable. When we talked about it further, I encouraged her to consider another point of view, that the looks from others were an inquisitiveness of where she bought her clothing or an appreciation and admiration of her expressing her own style. This was something she had not considered before. Bella's assumption that other people's glances were critical and not complimentary had created a feeling of vulnerability and the emotional responses of anger and irritability that had no outlet. The way her body responded to these unexpressed emotions was to direct them towards her digestive system. Bella literally 'couldn't stomach' these feelings and had no way of expressing them in a social situation.
In Aboriginal culture, our digestive systems are thought of as a 'third mind'. There is a reason why we use expressions such as 'gut feeling' to describe when something feels right or wrong. In Bella's case, the gut mind and heart mind were playing their part but the head mind was feeding her a narrative that she was used to, a mentally conditioned response that makes assumptions without a clear basis for those thoughts.
For Bella, this appeared to be a contributing factor to her IBS symptoms but was only one indication toward a possible root cause, which is perhaps much more about personal confidence and her own acceptance of the unique individual that she is, that we all are. For many people this is often the case. If we express ourselves as our true selves we risk the judgement and criticism of others. If we are used to being told to 'go with the crowd' then our minds begin to believe that we must change the appearance of who we are to 'fit in', that we must censor ourselves in order to make others comfortable. Our bodies find ways of communicating to us when we need to address something that is inhibiting the development and expression of our true, beautiful, unique selves. Trust it, it has your best interests are heart. Go with your gut.
*Bella is a pseudonym to maintain client confidentiality and privacy
Copyright © Andrea Doran, Flourish and Contributors - Original Date of Publication May 2018 | For personal use and information only