Hyperventilation, or ‘over-breathing’, is both a cause and symptom of IBS in many patients. When stressed or anxious, breathing can become fast and deep, which results in a lot of air being swallowed.
A large amount of air in the digestive tract can increase pressure inside your bowels and therefore pain and discomfort. It can also encourage bacterial growth which in turn can increase the amount of fermentation in the gut . Rapid breathing also increases stress-related effects within the body, exacerbating symptoms.
Some people learn bad breathing habits without even realising it. These may develop in response to pain or some other trigger. The problem is that once your breathing becomes disordered, it can generate its own discomfort, particularly if air becomes trapped in the stomach. What is more, many people do not realise that the breathing pattern is incorrect.
As hyperventilation and disordered breathing both happen due to wrong habits, the main treatments available are aimed at improving breathing technique. The treatment consitsts of graded exercises to re-train the breathing. This leads to less air-swallowing which gives a relief from abdominal pain. Retraining the breathing also help a person to feel more relaxed in general.
If you experience a hyperventilation episode it is important to minimise the amount of air you take in to the body to reduce the after-effects in the digestive system. Techniques you can try include trying to relax, breathing through pursed lips and breathing only through your nose. Unfortunately, simple approaches like this are not usually enough. Formal teaching is needed for many people to achieve sustained benefit.
If you have taken a lot of air into your digestive system and it is causing discomfort or pain, it may help you to undergo soft tissue manipulation. This involves an intense, deep massage of your abdomen to loosen the pockets of air trapped in your bowel and relieve muscular cramps.
The value of therapeutic massage is generally overlooked in medicine. This is a great pity as it has the ability to bring enormous benefits to sufferers if it is used wisely.
It may be necessary for you to see a physiotherapist or behavioural therapist to best learn how to ease your hyperventilation. At the London Gastroenterology Centre, we have access to these specialists.
In addition, acupuncture is thought to be an effective treatment for hyperventilation, mostly because of its general effects on anxiety relief and improvement of blood circulation.