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Digestive Disorders

Digestive disorders have grown more and more common in modern-day living, for various reasons. And while digestive disorders are experienced physically in the abdominal viscera, mainly the gut tube - stomach sac, liver, pancreas, spleen, small intestines, and colon – diseased condition of the gut can also create a lot of discomforts and impact on people’s mental health, relationships, capacity to sleep, capacity to concentrate, and overall engagement in everyday life.

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Of the global population struggles with IBS

Study shows 60%

of IBS patients are more likely to be diagnosed with Migraines

Up to 94%

Have anxiety or depression

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Holistic Approach to Therapy for Digestive Disorders

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Digestive disorders can have multiple symptoms and can affect different aspects of a person’s life. It is also common for people with digestive disorders to struggle with at least one other health condition.

For instance, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, up to 94% of IBS patients also struggle with the psychological conditions of anxiety and depression. Separate studies on Migraines, Fibromyalgia and TMJ (temporomandibular syndrome) also found a pattern of co-occurrences with IBS at 60%, 33%, and 16% (Iffgdalyssa, 2023).

An important part of managing IBS and other digestive disorders includes beneficial lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Lifestyle medicine such as choosing the right food and supplements to support gut health specific to each person’s sensitives and needs, and making exercise a regular part of life, will improve gut conditions. 

Studies have shown that among people who report struggling with IBS, those who exercise regularly have significantly less occurrence of flare-ups than those who do not. Further, a study exploring the benefits of yoga practice found that people who practice 1-hour of yoga, 3 times a week also had significant improvement in their IBS pattern. Including lifestyle medicine as part of comprehensive healthcare is both valuable and empowering.

A pilot study finds 63% of participants have a major improvement in their IBS presentation through homeopathy treatment.

Homeopathy for Digestive Disorders
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When it comes to treating syndromes, individualized step-by-step modalities that adjust as the symptoms shift can be helpful. For instance, the struggle experienced with IBS is different from person to person. Although various pharmacological treatment options are available, alternative remedies are often sought out when patients continue to struggle with managing their IBS or when they have concerns about side effects as a result of chronic use of pharmaceutical medication. A pilot study found homeopathy treatment resulted in a major improvement in IBS symptoms for 63% of the participants. Homeopathy presents a naturalist alternative for consideration.

A review of 41 research studies shows psychotherapy decreased (IBS) symptoms immediately and maintained reduction for 12 months.

Holistic Psychotherapy & Digestive Disorders
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Many people may not realize that working with a holistic, somatic therapist to develop mindfulness skills and self-awareness in relation to body processes can increase their regulation capacity and ability to reduce stress

physiology - both of which significantly help alleviate the IBS pattern. As seen, there is a strong correlation between mental health and gut health. In fact, some of the risk factors for IBS include anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a history of childhood abuse (Professional, nd-b). Addressing these factors is important.

However, even people who do not have a specific mental health diagnosis can benefit from including holistic psychotherapy in their treatment plan for digestive issues. The correlation between psychological health and digestive health is being recognized and included as an important part of treatment. A review of 41 research studies has “...shown that psychotherapeutic interventions decreased symptoms immediately after treatment...” and that the reduction in the symptoms remained 12 months post-treatment. 

Preliminary studies find a significant reduction of IBS abdominal pain and constipation with manual therapy approaches (such as tissue stretching, craniosacral treatment, and visceral manipulation).

Holistic Physiotherapy & Digestive Disorders
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IBS, like many other syndromes, continues to present healthcare providers with challenges in treatment. “ date, there is limited evidence regarding the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of the IBS therapies...[and] patients’ responses vary from individual to individual...” (Buffone et al., 2023). Presenting alternative approaches to treat different aspects of the syndrome is worth exploring and may lead to a better outcome.

Body-based methods of treatment such as massage therapy, craniosacral therapy, visceral manipulation, and so on are natural, non-invasive approaches that can be helpful in offering direct support in relieving physical pain. Pelvic floor physiotherapy can help relieve IBS symptoms that may be exacerbated by dysfunction in the muscles of the pelvic floor, which is an important and multi-layered web of muscles that controls the functions not only of genitalia but also of the urethra and the anus, both serving important functions in eliminating toxic waste from the digestive system specifically and from the body as a whole.

In addition to addressing locations specific to the gut track, holistic physiotherapy can also bring significant relief to comorbid conditions such as migraines and fibromyalgia. When the head and neck can be supported to relax, the gut relaxes too, and vice versa. Similarly, when support can be experienced in relieving chronic pains in the joints and muscles of the body, the relief can be felt by the visceral system too.

Holistic approaches to working with digestive disorders are resoundingly needed and offer far improved quality care and relief since they understand the system’s multi-layered functioning, not only as absorbing and breaking-down food and eliminating waste but also as a reference to the quality of engagement with life as a whole and the overall levels of stress and support that exist in the context through which the digestive disorders emerged. Supporting the mind and the body to have wider scopes of resilience also supports healthy digestion.

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