There are many people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). According to Dr. Mercola from Vitesis.com, “Statistics show that one in ten Americans display the symptoms of IBS, accounting for more than 2 million prescriptions and 35,000 hospitalizations each year.” To help understand irritable bowel syndrome and how irritable bowel syndrome is treated I have interviewed Dr. Susan Becker, a Miami psychologist who treats patients with GI (gastrointestinal) disorders.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I’m a licensed psychologist in private practice in Coral Gables, Florida where I specialize in anxiety disorders, trauma resolution, and medical life issues in adults and children. I also teach marriage and family therapy at the University of Miami where I received my PhD in Counseling Psychology. I am president of the Florida Society of Clinical Hypnosis (FSCH) and the Newsletter Editor for the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH).”
What is irritable bowel syndrome?
“Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder of the GI (Gastrointestinal) tract involving recurrent abdominal pain with alterations in bowel movement patterns–diarrhea, constipation or a combination of both over months and even years. “Functional” means that structural or biochemical explanations of symptoms have been ruled out after the patient has undergone a thorough medical work-up by a gastroenterologist. For reasons that are thus far unclear, IBS exhibits predominance in women, who represent of 70% of its sufferers. Sometimes IBS symptoms emerge after an infection.”
What are the signs and symptoms of someone who has irritable bowel syndrome?
“Symptoms vary from person to person. Many physicians use a list of symptoms call the “Rome III Criteria” to differentially diagnose IBS from other bowel problems. IBS may be diagnosed if the bowel symptoms began at least 6 months ago, if the person has had abdominal discomfort or pain for a minimum of 3 days per month for the past 3 months, and if at least 2 of the following are true for the patient: the pain is related to a change in frequency in bowel movements, the pain is related to changes in stool consistency, and/or the pain is relieved by having a bowel movement. Bowel movements may occur much more frequently, as in having diarrhea, or much less frequently, as in having constipation. The person may also experience intestinal bloating and/or mucus in the stool.”
What type of impact does irritable bowel syndrome have on a person’s life?
“IBS can range from being mildly disruptive to debilitating to a person’s life. The physical symptoms may also be accompanied by anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Their symptoms often interfere in their social life, their work day, and their sleep patterns. Many of my patients experience significant distress and worry which may also exacerbate their physical symptoms. I become particularly concerned when my patients use alcohol or other substances to cope with their anxiety and depression symptoms related to their IBS, because that may worsen their symptoms and create further problems such as substance abuse.”
What type of help is available for someone who has irritable bowel syndrome?
“There are a variety of medical and “alternative” approaches, which include drug therapies that can be prescribed by a Gastroenterologist, changes in diet, and alternative approaches which include acupuncture and clinical hypnosis. Stress management should be an integral part of treatment, so I often recommend that my patients learn relaxation techniques and yoga.”
What advice would you like to leave for someone who has irritable bowel syndrome?
“I would advise people with IBS to work closely with their team of health care givers and to consider a combination of both medical and psychological intervention. I strongly advise my patients to learn all they can about IBS on an ongoing basis, because there is so much research being conducted on it right now, and because the cause of IBS is still unknown. Before I intervene, I always make sure my patients have been thoroughly evaluated by a gastroenterologist who has given them the IBS diagnosis and has ruled out other medical conditions. Patients should be careful not to self-diagnose. I have found that a combination of pharmaceutical intervention, alteration in diet, and the use of a clinical hypnosis treatment protocol are very helpful in relieving my patients’ symptoms.”
“As a psychologist, with my IBS patients I presently use a structured clinical hypnosis treatment protocol designed by Olafur Palsson, PsyD, an IBS researcher at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. This treatment includes 7 bimonthly sessions using scripted hypnosis supported by the home use of an audio recording and daily symptom diary. Dr. Palsson’s protocol has been found to be very effective in alleviating IBS symptoms, and I’ve had much clinical success using it with my patients. You can read more about the protocol it at www.ibshypnosis.com.”
“Thank you Dr. Becker for the interview. If you would like more information about Dr. Becker check out her website at http://www.susankellybecker.com/.”