Since discovering gut-directed hypnotherapy, former college biochemistry teacher Evie* has put years of restrictive eating behind her.
With the Nerva hypnotherapy program offering her a path forward, Evie says she’s now back in control of her life, with food no longer dictating her every move.
Seeing the signs of IBS
Evie’s IBS symptoms began in earnest almost three years ago.
“But when I think about it, it was more like seven years ago that I first started experiencing symptoms that I just didn’t pick up on. There were all these little signs that I didn’t make anything of at the time.
“When I got to the full-on IBS stage where I was really struggling and pretty miserable, I could see that all of the tell-tale symptoms had been cropping up along the way. Though I initially wondered if my gut issues were connected to menopause.”
Searching for answers
Evie said a simple pasta meal was her tipping point with IBS.
“I had homemade pasta for dinner one night that I remember enjoying. But I had to get up in the middle of the night as it just went straight through me. This was really unusual and had never happened to me before.
“At the time, I didn’t think much about it. It didn’t occur to me to go to a doctor. I just thought, ‘Oh, that was weird’. It was more annoying than anything as I was going on a big trail run the next day.
“Then I went to see a doctor about four years ago for a different concern, and she just happened to ask me a few questions and I mentioned the pasta incident. She said, ‘Hang on a minute’, and organized a blood test to rule out diseases. Everything checked out, and I was fine with no major issues or anything like that.”
Despite her doctor giving her the all-clear, Evie felt like her quality of life wasn’t good.
“At that stage, I’d rate my life about a five out of 10. Other things were going on, like stress at work, but I was very low.
“And my pain was about an eight out of 10—sometimes it was a lie down on the floor and curl up into a ball kind of pain.”
Managing a restrictive diet
Evie reluctantly began making changes to her diet to try to solve her gut issues.
“I realized different foods were causing problems, and it got to the point where I wasn’t sure what I could eat anymore.”
As a scientist and college academic, Evie called on her finely honed intellect and professional research skills to learn more about the science behind her restrictive dieting, and she began to think more deeply about her IBS management options.
“I dove straight into the research papers—that’s my science background coming through—and I started reading about things like the low FODMAP diet. I began talking to people as well, and I ended up going down the path of simply cutting out certain foods altogether.
“I then went to see a nutritionist because I felt like trying to manage it by myself wasn’t working. They suggested similar strategies to what I had already been doing, which was more food exclusion.
“However, it was good to have a bit of accountability because talking to someone externally and paying them made me follow their instructions to a T! Though the truth is it only made me more miserable.
“While I had to cut out all dairy—and I love cheese!—things did improve, no doubt. I think if you start avoiding foods that aggravate your stomach, it’s only natural you’ll see some improvements. However, I also lost a lot of weight as I couldn’t eat enough, which is when I decided this wasn’t the right path to be going down.
“Also, I live with my husband and everything is harder when you’ve got different dietary requirements. Then, at one point, I went vegetarian for two years, which was good overall, but my iron levels were low. So for me, it didn’t make sense to completely exclude meat from my diet.”
Evie said socializing was another big issue for her during this time.
“Over the past two or three years, my gut issues had become evident to everyone as I’d turn up to events and friends and family would ask, ‘So, what dietary restrictions are you on this time?’ or ‘What do I need to cook differently for you?’
“It made me realize how my issues affected the people in my life. They were always checking in to see how they needed to accommodate me.
"Mostly I ended up going prepared and taking food I could eat with me. You just get into a routine of providing for yourself—and avoiding all those delicious things everyone else is enjoying.
“Looking back now, I can see what a complicated journey it was.”
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Finding gut-directed hypnotherapy
Evie said she first came across Nerva when she was scrolling through Instagram in early 2021 and decided to give it a try.
She enjoyed the hypnotherapy and noticed improvements in her symptoms, but Evie said learning how her anxiety connected to her gut was the turning point.
“I didn’t realize how much my anxiety and depression were linked to the whole thing. Before starting gut-directed hypnotherapy, I had experienced a lot of stress and anxiety over the previous two years; it really built up in my workplace.
“Since leaving that job, I’ve only recently acknowledged how it made me feel. That was honestly the biggest revelation.
“I can see now that if I could put it all on a graph, I know there would be a strong correlation between my IBS symptoms and the stress I was experiencing.
Freedom from dieting
For Evie, the best part about Nerva is she no longer has to exclude her favorite foods from her diet.
“I’ve recently reintroduced onions. I’ve been excluding them for a while, to my husband’s annoyance, as he loves cooking with them. On my last trip to the supermarket, I actually bought a whole bag of onions, rather than just one or two, to try it out. It is so good to have onions back in the pantry!
“I also went gluten-free for about a year, and I’m still a bit tentative about this one. But the other day, I went out for burgers and it didn’t even cross my mind to ask for a gluten-free bun, which I’d ordinarily do. So that was another big win. Plus, there’s not a lot of good gluten-free bread out there. Though, to be fair, I think it’s getting better and there’s a reasonable variety, but it’s often half the size and costs twice as much. It feels so good to be able to just grab a sandwich or have some toast with regular bread.”
Evie remained hesitant about reintroducing pasta to her diet, wondering if the pasta itself or the anxiety over just the idea of eating it would lead to a flare-up.
“It did take me a while to get back to pasta; I was a bit wary. But I’ve since tried fresh ravioli and I had no digestive issues. I even had a packet of two-minute noodles, and that was fine too.
“And now I’ve got into baking again as well. Admittedly it started as a boredom buster during lockdown, but I tried some puddings and biscuits that went down nicely. I also had some fresh Turkish bread in a restaurant the other week and had no problems. It is just such a good feeling to have all of these food options open to me again.”
Since completing six weeks of Nerva, Evie has now started the maintenance program.
“I’m using it a few times a week. I find the relaxation part of it really beneficial. I like to listen to it at night before bed.”
Evie wishes she’d known about Nerva at the start of her healing journey.
“This would have saved me all the pain of excluding foods from my diet,” she said.
“When I was researching my condition, I read a lot about the FODMAP diet and it just seemed like the best avenue for me at the time. Maybe back then I would have been a little suspicious about hypnotherapy too if I hadn’t tried everything else first.
“But seeing the connection between my stress and IBS was one of the biggest takeaways for me.
"I can’t really pinpoint the times I had a flare-up as I think I was in a constant state of high-level stress, and I felt it in my whole body.
“I did some reading about the sympathetic nervous system to learn more about how it’s connected to my experiences. I also read about cold water therapy for IBS and saw the awful suggestion of taking cold showers—that’s a terrible idea!”
Evie says her quality of life has improved significantly since she learned how to manage her gut issues with the right tools.
“Now, my life is a 10 out of 10. I don’t have any pain. Sometimes I might get a bit of bloating, but it resolves itself shortly afterward. I’ve got nothing to complain about!”