Discovering gut-directed hypnotherapy for retired sales rep Libby* came at the end of a long and frustrating 26-year journey with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). After so many setbacks, Libby said the Nerva program offered her new hope, and life has never been better.
When IBS and stress combine
“My gut problems began right after my son was born 26 years ago. That’s my earliest memory of IBS.
“I also had my gallbladder removed and thought that might have contributed to the changes I was experiencing in my gut. My doctor assured me nothing would change after the procedure. But for me, the change was significant. My bowel was different somehow, and I felt like I couldn’t leave the house as I got too anxious. Since this time, I’ve been battling with my gut.”
As a busy sales rep and mom of two, stress and erratic eating habits were a mainstay in Libby’s life at the time, which only worsened her health issues.
“My life used to be very stressful, and I do believe this affected my gut. I spent over 30 years working 50- to 60-hour weeks managing 130 retailers, which was challenging. My job’s ever-changing environment added to the stress, even though I managed to do it for all those years.
“I was often traveling for work too. So, I’d have a good breakfast, but once I was out in the field, I wouldn’t eat again until I was starving at dinnertime. Mostly I’d stop by convenience stores during the day to grab an energy bar or some chips.
“But if you were to ask if I was feeling anxious while traveling, I’d say no. It didn’t feel that way; it was all very internal. I think my body had learned to live with stress and hide it really well.
“I’d just take Pepto Bismol and try to make it through.”
Searching for IBS solutions
Libby spoke to her doctor about IBS treatment options and finding a possible source of her pain.
“My doctor recommended anti-anxiety medication, which I took for about three years. It did help me feel a bit less anxious, but I actually think it exacerbated my irritable bowel.
“I then went to a gastroenterologist for the first time about 20 years ago, and that was very frustrating. They recommended I get a colonoscopy, which didn’t uncover anything. They said I had a few polyps but no real issues and I was fine.
“Well, I wasn’t fine!
“Later on, a gastroenterologist suggested it could be IBS. However, she said, ‘You know, there’s really nothing we can do about it. You just have to learn to live with it.’
“So, I struggled on, and it got worse and worse.”
Libby also had a hysterectomy, hoping it might improve her gut issues.
“Doctors thought I had pelvic congestion syndrome. And the hysterectomy did help for about two months. But the pain just returned afterward.”
About 10 years ago, Libby started seeing a naturopath for new treatment options.
“She discovered some other health issues I had related to my autoimmune system, so we worked together on that. Unfortunately, it was a thyroid problem, which can cause a lot of gut issues too.
“Sometimes I wonder what came first: did the gut issue cause the autoimmune problems or vice versa?”
The day-to-day experience of IBS
Learning to live with IBS wasn’t easy for Libby. Each solution she tried often brought nothing more than temporary relief. She continued to struggle with the day-to-day issues that IBS can bring on.
“Oh my gosh, it was always the urgency—the urgency to have a bowel movement was always there. And then there was the bloating, and I had heartburn on and off.”
Libby also experienced gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which meant her muscles at the bottom of her esophagus were not working correctly, leading to acid reflux.
“Honestly, once food entered my mouth, everything felt like it never went the way it should. That’s really how I would describe my whole situation.
“Though early on it wasn’t painful, but it was annoying. It was embarrassing and uncomfortable, and I felt a lot of uncertainty.
“Because I was untreated for so many years, I ended up with SIBO as well, and that was painful.”
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is an under-recognized problem for people like Libby. It often leads to painful abdominal bloating, gas, distension, and diarrhea. Usually, SIBO is treated with antibiotics that work to wipe out bacteria in the small intestine, which can provide relief from painful symptoms.
“With the SIBO, often within 10 minutes of eating, I’d look like I was three months pregnant. And other changes started happening too, like instead of having diarrhea, I’d have chronic constipation. I was always back and forth with those symptoms.
“So, with the bloating, the gas, the pain, it was just total discomfort. And the SIBO was reoccurring for six years. It felt like all of these different gut issues were just circling around my IBS.”
Libby continued on a path of trial and error with her naturopath and tried things like magnesium and an elemental diet, which involves replacing solid foods with liquid nutrients.
“I tried all kinds of things to calm everything down and have what I’d call a normal schedule.”
Perhaps the most challenging part of her experience was Libby said her IBS held her back from living her life.
“I missed out on social things all the time because of my gut. I just didn’t feel like I could do things; I was always feeling uncomfortable or unwell. It was so challenging.
“If I had to rate the quality of my life out of 10 at this time, I’d say I was around a three. I remember telling my husband, ‘I can’t live like this forever’. It was just a constant struggle and it wore me down.”
“I did lots of research on my own throughout my journey,” Libby said. “I read about hypnotherapy and talked to my naturopath about it, who thought it was a great idea. At this point, she didn’t really have anywhere else to steer me.
“I saw an ad on Facebook for the Nerva program. I started to learn more about it and I read through all of the reviews. I like reading about other people who are experiencing IBS and on the same journey.
“Nerva sounded intriguing and I thought I’d give it a try. I’d wanted to do something similar and I just hadn’t found a program till now.”
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The benefits of gut-directed hypnotherapy
Libby said there have been so many benefits to working her way through the Nerva program.
“I like how easy it is to do and it’s really relaxing. But my favorite thing is how I gradually saw a change in myself.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I’m not feeling anxious about leaving the house’. This almost felt like a weird discovery as it was a subtle change. I didn’t even realize it at first. And then I was feeling the best I’ve felt in 26 years.
“Nerva really helped with my stress overall, and it helps me sleep. It helped me calm my mind.
“Even my husband has commented that I’m much better.
“Plus, I haven’t really had a flare-up for several months, my SIBO hasn’t returned, and I don’t have any pain.”
Moving forward with IBS
“I wish more health care providers knew about hypnotherapy. It’s inexpensive, it’s easy to do, and it works. I cannot tell you the amount of time and money that I’ve spent on my pursuit to feel better. It’s been nothing but diet and pills and supplements and more diets—it’s been agonizing. Finding hypnotherapy earlier in this journey could save everyone a lot of heartache.
“And for Nerva to just fall into my lap, so to speak, is incredible. It’s so fascinating to me how it works. Though I still think there’s so much more to explore with the whole mind-gut relationship.”