Are your bowels oversensitive?

Picture showing a body outline with red sensitive bowels.

Do you have pain in your bowels with no apparent cause? That could be from visceral hypersensitivity syndrome.
© Can Stock Photo

For the last few years there has been a lot of discussion about yet another possible cause of IBS symptoms.

It’s called visceral hypersensitivity  or visceral hypersensitivity syndrome, and it’s part of something called “functional gastrointestinal disorders.”

Whew! I try to keep things readable around here, but it looks like I’ll be slinging around some tough terms in this one.

Let’s get to it, shall we?



So what is visceral hypersensitivity syndrome?

First of all, viscera means the internal organs in the main part of the body, especially those in the abdomen, like your intestines.

Having hypersensitive viscera means that you are experiencing much more pain than would be expected, for the amount of stimulation.

Your bowels are basically screaming pain signals to your brain.

I’ve read where people compare this pain signal to a radio with the volume turned up too loud.

What causes visceral hypersensitivity syndrome?

There is a theory that damage to the lining or nerves of the intestines (or bowels) changes how they react to stimulation. The proverbial “raw nerve” might be one way to think of it.

This seems to happen after some kind of gastroenteritis (stomach flu) or similar bowel illness.

Then the the pain and other IBS symptoms (responses to  visceral hypersensitivity) just never seem to go away.

There are a number of illnesses that seem to have this in common.

Another study determined that people with visceral sensitivity issues had more pain receptors to hot peppers or spicy foods in their bowels.

Visceral hypersensitivity may be related to other illnesses.


Small bowel changes can cause BIG PAIN for people with visceral hypersensitivity syndrome.
© Can Stock Photo

Some people don’t have the chronic constipation or chronic diarrhea of IBS. They do have the abdominal pain when their bowels move though.

One name for this is “chronic functional abdominal pain.”

Are there tests for visceral hypersensitivity syndrome?

There is one that I know of, though it’s a bit awkward to describe.

What they do is they slide an inflatable tube up your rectum and inflate it until you start to complain of pain. I would think that would be as soon as they started sliding the tube!

But seriously, people with visceral hypersensitivity and IBS experience much more pain at less inflation rates than people without these disorders.

Interestingly, people with these syndromes often have a higher than normal tolerance to external pain (so we’re not wimps ;).

Is there a cure for visceral hypersensitivity syndrome?

The medical world doesn’t seem ready to fully agree that visceral hypersensitivity syndrome even exists. There are many doctor’s that doubt it is real, despite some seemingly convincing evidence.

Of course many doctor’s don’t believe in IBS either.

What this all means is, there hasn’t been a lot of movement toward a cure for visceral hypersensitivity syndrome… Except perhaps for a surprise one:

Hypnosis and visceral hypersensitivity:

Picture of spirals and a comfortable, hypnotized woman.

Hypnosis has been shown to help bowel troubles like visceral hypersensitivity syndrome!
© Can Stock Photo

There have been interesting studies in Great Britain. Somehow,there is a major connection between the bowels and the brain. Here is why I say that.

People who received hypnosis treatments, had relief from IBS symptoms for up to 5 years! Hypnosis has proven to be effective against both IBS-D and IBS-C (diarrhea and constipation, in other words).

What else can you do about visceral hypersensitivity?

First of all I think you should avoid foods  that give you gas. No use inflating YOURSELF!

Also reducing stress and anxiety should help keep your guts from grumbling.

Avoiding spicy foods should help if you have extra pain receptors to spicy foods.

Avoiding foods that you are sensitive to, should help as well, since this should cut down on the cramping and diarrhea or constipation of IBS.

Find out more about what causes IBS here.