Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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Please keep in mind that before treating any condition, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), as TMS, it is vitally important to consult with your physician in order to rule out any serious medical conditions.

To learn more about TMS and to help you figure out if you have it, visit our An Introduction to TMS page and watch the video there. Some more guidance in figuring out if this approach is right for you can be found in the video at the top of our So You Think You Might Have TMS page.

IBS In TMS Books

On pages 127-128 in To Be or Not To Be Pain Free, Marc Sopher writes

"Irritable bowel syndrome is the reincarnation of "spastic colon." The good news here is that many physicians believe that there is a psychological component; the bad news is that they don't know how to teach their patients to address the psychological cause. It's not about stress management or positive thinking. It's about understanding how psychology can affect physiology."

On page 65 in Pain Free for Life, Scott Brady writes

"Treatments for IBS usually focus on eating fiber, avoiding foods that make you feel worse taking pills to help relax the intestines, and finding ways to manage your stress. Still, such treatments don't answer some basic questions: Why do my bowels squeeze abnormally? What causes it in the first place? Will finding the cause enable me to discover a treatment and stop having IBS altogether? In my practice, just another expression of AOS (Brady's term for TMS).

IBS and TMS Success Stories

Jackmat's Story

"I was really messed up, too. Just like you I was bloated and constipated and just like you the stools were coming up out soft and incomplete. All this happened to me in late September 2008. I suspected it was stress related.

I was able to reduce the symptoms by identifying the foods that were bothering me, but I couldnt identify what was causing my intolerance to foods that had previously never been a problem for me.

And then in late February this year, a friend of mine told me about TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome). He was basically saying that I was suffering from emotional scarring and that my MIND was trying to DISTRACT me from my emotions by creating physical pain.I accepted that TMS could cause physical pain, but I was a little skeptical as to whether it could cause my stomach symtoms. Surely the toilet bowl was proof that the problem was in my stomach, not my head? He referred me to a book by John Sarno. I read it, applied the principles and saw dramatic improvement within 10 days. I slowly, re-introduced foods that were bothering me. And each time I felt an adverse reaction beginning, I would apply TMS principles and the reaction would diminish or disappear. The last 2 months for me have been great. I've told a lot of my suffering friends about TMS but nobody wants to listen. Begin the journey and you will get your life back."

IrishFrenchCanadian's Story:

"I found the book "The Divided Mind" by John Sarno to be very helpful, because it validated what I was experiencing rather than trying to pretend the symptoms don't exist (I've had IBS/GERD/chronic hunger pangs for over four years). Unllike most doctors, Sarno is not afraid to admit he doesn't know the exact physical mechanism that causes certain symptoms, but he does hypothesize psychological reasons for why these symptoms occur. By hypothesizing psychological reasons for the symptoms he does not, however, say they have no physical cause. Instead, he argues that psychological pain triggers some as-yet undiscovered physical mechanism that causes the pain."

Gracie's story:

"I had suffered with IBS-C for the last 4 yrs. and for the last 4 weeks have been totally symptom free. I have no more pain , no food allergies or intolerances, etc. I eat whatever I want to.I am on no medications, herbs,etc. I was cured by reading a book called The Mindbody Prescription by Dr. John Sarno. It is a book about the cause and solution for many chronic pain diseases for which doctors currently have no cure ,IBS being one of many including migraines,fibromyalgia, back pain, etc. I recommemd this book strongly to anyone with IBS or any chronic pain. If it worked for me and many others it may just be the answer for some of you. . Id be happy to answer any questions about my particular experience."

nd2139's story

"When I started law school two years ago, I started having IBS (irritated bowels syndrom) and back pain. After applying the principles in Sarno's books, the IBS got a lot better. The main comfort is the knowledge that there is nothing structurally wrong with me, that TMS is harmless."

Amazon reviews for Dr Salt's Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the Mind/Body/Brain/Gut Connection

A Customer

"For more then 10 yrs I fought with my body and did not understood why I lost this fight so often. I asked for explanation and help many times, but nothing gave me proper insight information in my body-functions and how to re-establish the mind/body-connection. (IBS and its specific symptoms were never mentioned to me!) [snip] At page xxi Dr. Salt makes the following promise: "You can learn to be healthy. With this book you can explore your diagnosis and treatment options and then, armed with information and knowledge about your problem, you will be better able to partner with your doctor to heal." I have read the book and 'Thank you Dr. Salt' this is exactly what you did!


"Because of this book, I know I am not the only person with IBS. My life was run at the mercy of my gut. I was depressed. It was impossible to go anywhere before noon. Now I run my life. Every point that was meaningful to me from this book I brought up to my family physician. He knew & agreed with each point."

Amazon reviews for Dr Schubiner's Unlearn Your Pain


Dr. Schubiner's book was recommended to me after 20 years of severe pain associated with digestion. Doctor after doctor diagnosed me with IBS and lactose intolerance, yet gave me no solution to ease symptoms or hope for a cure. Years later, I was in constant pain and suffering from deep depression when I began to open the pages of 'Unlearn Your Pain'. This book was the vital link which helped me make the connection between my mind and body. The exercises and activities in his book were the first great step in my therapeutic process of recovery, and I am now living my life completely free of pain and all IBS symptoms. Dr. Schubiner has changed my life, and I can't thank him enough!

Other (brief) mentions

scottjmurray's story:

sonora_sky, salamander, FlyByNight, redrockrick and Suz mention recovery from IBS in this thread.

Sam908 mentions recovery from severe IBS in this thread.

Other resources

A recent study investigating the power of placebo concluded that even when IBS patients were told that they taking a placebo, they still showed significant improvements relative to a control group. This can be seen as demonstrating that some of IBS symptoms are psychosomatic in nature, and can be alleviated through non physical methods.

In a meta-analysis of IBS studies "the researchers looked at a total of 73 controlled clinical trials comparing the effects of pharmacological treatment versus placebo, for a total of over 8000 patients. Pooling the results of all of these studies, the researchers found a rate of 37% improvement based on placebo alone." This is a much higher placebo effect than for most other conditions and strongly points to a non-physical component.

Women with IBS are more likely to have suffered emotional abuse. Dr. Jeanette Raymond (PhD) discusses the coping styles including self-silencing and self-blame which appear to add to stress and increase symptoms. Expressing your feelings without fear of loss or worry about being wiped out can ease the incidence and flare up of IBS episodes.

The MindBody Digestive Center in New York has been set up by gastroenterologist Charles D. Gerson, M.D., and clinical psychologist Mary–Joan Gerson, Ph.D., "to help patients with functional gastrointestinal (GI) syndromes that are resistant to ordinary medical treatment, with a focus on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)." They employ a mindody approach

Dr. Gerson says in an interview that for patients who are seriously impaired by I.B.S., medications help but "there is no magic pill that solves the whole problem. Patients need a more holistic approach. Those who accept emotional as well as physical causes of their condition do better."

While it is destructive for patients with I.B.S. to be told it is all in their heads, it is also wrong to ignore the psychosocial factors that play a role, he said. "I tell patients that if they don't deal with the emotional factors that relate to their problem," Dr. Gerson said, "they are likely to continue to have symptoms."

They have conducted research on the impact of stress and mindbody approaches to treating IBS. One peer reviewed conclusion was that "If patients thought their symptoms were predominantly caused by physical factors (e.g. food allergies or intestinal parasites), symptom severity was worse. If they recognized that IBS symptoms could be caused by emotional factors, symptoms were less severe. And If family relationships were conflicted, symptom severity was high. If family relationship showed depth and support, severity was low."

Other IBS and TMS pages:

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