IBS Treatment – Hypnotherapy

IBS Treatment - Hypnotherapy

In the mid 20th Century, hypnosis was endorsed by major medical societies as a medical procedure.  Although hypnosis is not widely used, scientific evidence suggests that hypnosis relieves chronic pain by lowering the sensory and motor component of the gastrocolonic response.  Research has shown that hypnosis relieves the GI symptoms associated with IBS, especially in persons whose symptoms have not responded to conventional medications.  Generally the response rate for hypnosis has been about 87%, with about half of the people reporting improvement in bowel symptoms, with associated improvements in psychological symptoms and quality of life.  Most people maintain the benefits years after treatment.  Perhaps the reason why hypnotherapy works is that the symptoms of IBS are a response to a combination of biological as well as psychosocial factors.  People with IBS may have a different perception of symptoms and a more effective method of dealing with pain after applying hypnotherapy techniques.

Clinical hypnosis is defined as a state in which the mind is inwardly focused on ideas of therapeutic relief which produces a change in the mind and body.  All hypnotherapy is classified as self-hypnosis, in that no one can be hypnotized without their participation.  Usually, hypnotherapy related to IBS is gut-directed, consisting of relaxation and abdominal breathing exercises, gut function, pain control, and thinking relaxing thoughts.

A randomized control trial in the Netherlands of children with IBS showed that hypnotherapy cured 59% of patients after a 3 month session compared to conventional medical therapy.  Studies conducted in the United Kingdom found that hypnosis techniques used for 12 weeks improved the symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain, disturbed defecation, and anxiety.

Hypnotherapy as a treatment for IBS is gaining in popularity.  It is still not taken seriously in some medical arenas, because it has been associated as a form of entertainment.  As more time progresses and more clinical studies are conducted, it may be thought of as a first line of treatment instead of an alternative treatment for children and adults suffering from IBS.

Hayee B, Forgacs I. Psychological approach to managing irritable bowel syndrome. BMJ. May 26 2007;334(7603):1105-1109.

Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Hypnotherapy, hypnosis. [web page] www.naturalstandard.com. Accessed June 24, 2008.

Whitehead WE. Hypnosis for irritable bowel syndrome: the empirical evidence of therapeutic effects. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. Jan 2006;54(1):7-20.