IBS Relief through Chi Nei Tsang

by Peter TS Melnychuk

Many people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) feel like their gut is their enemy. They are often distracted by some degree of physical belly pain.

But eight years of experience treating IBS sufferers has proved to me it is fruitless to be at war with your body. Beneath the inflammation in the IBS belly there is invariably some emotional discomfort and indigestion.

The traditional oriental belly therapy of Chi Nei Tsang (CNT, pronounced chee-nayt-song) is superb at unwinding the emotional roots that lie hidden beneath physical pain symptoms. Chi Nei Tsang also addresses the digestive system physically through gentle abdominal massage. This makes it very effective therapy for those with IBS.

IBS is an odd phenomenon. As late as 1980 almost no one had heard of it. Yet now, the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research currently estimates 13-20% of Canadians suffer from IBS.

Cramping & Bloating, Diarrhea & Constipation

With Irritable Bowel Syndrome, clients invariably report abdominal pain, with variations of cramping and bloating. There is usually constipation or diarrhea and often an uncomfortable lurching between these two states. Interestingly, these physical symptoms diminish in periods of calm, and resurface with vigor in times of stress and emotional conflict. The IBS client often has a parent, grandparent, and/or sibling with a similar pattern of ‘bumpy’ physical and emotional indigestion. Something inherited, something learned. Many IBS clients recall childhoods in which emotional difficulties were supposed to be quietly internalized.

Why would this be? Regular readers of this column might recall that the gut has more neurons (that feel and remember) than the entire length of the spinal column. When you have IBS you have trouble eliminating and forgetting. Any event that is particularly difficult to digest emotionally will physically aggravate the bowel. The result will be cramping, bloating, bowel spasms and either a drawn out struggle to let go of the emotional ‘morsel’ (physical constipation) or a complete rejection of it (diarrhea).

IBS Success Story

My CNT colleague Laurelle Johnson recently had a great IBS success story to share. Her new client arrived for her first session in week five of an IBS flare-up. She had experienced constant pain in most of her belly, along with referred pain in her back. She had been seeing a deep tissue massage specialist and had also seen her physician. She was prescribed two pain medications, neither of which gave her much relief.

In the first session, as Laurelle performed CNT, she had the client connect energetically and physically with the scars from (the client’s) three caesarean sections. The residual pain from these (for her) traumatic events welled up, as they tend to, but the client stayed present and maintained the relaxation breathing Laurelle had taught her. Gradually, the pain began to dissipate. A month later the client returned for her second CNT session. She said she had had no recurring IBS symptoms whatsoever.

On her own she had discontinued use of the pain medications – she had no more pain. She continues to dissipate stress herself with CNT techniques learned in her CNT sessions. At last report (three months since her first session) she has had only one mild 24 hour IBS episode.

Resolving the Root of the Conflict

I have seen many successes with IBS clients. While the approach with each person is individual, each also involves a gradual integration of the brain above (in the skull) with the brain below (in the gut).

In the best outcome, the client learns (or remembers) how to successfully digest not only food, but also difficult emotional events. You keep what you need and you release the rest. In this way the root of the client’s internal conflicts are resolved and his/her IBS symptoms recede or disappear.

Peter TS Melnychuk, LMT, is a certified Instructor and Advanced Practitioner in Chi Nei Tsang. He is not a licensed physician.

Note: This information is for educational purposes only. It is intended to supplement your current health program and not to replace the care of a doctor. For diagnosis or treatment of any disease please consult a licensed physician.

c. 2008 Peter TS Melnychuk. First published in ___________ of Mosaic Magazine.