Gut focused hypnotherapy, also know as gut-directed hypnotherapy is considered one of the leading psychological treatments for managing IBS, and has close to 40 years of research behind it. Here at The Calm and Happy Gut research plays an important role in my work with clients, and the following research studies will help you understand just how effective gut hypnotherapy can be in helping you taking back control of your IBS symptoms. They may also be of interest to your GP and referring specialist.

Clinical Research for Gut Directed Hypnotherapy

success rate in IBS symptom reduction


years of research into the effectiveness for IBS


sessions undertaken by study participants


years of improvement in follow up studies


In 2016 Australian researchers took part in a randomized controlled trial and showed that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. The team from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, showed hypnotherapy was equal in effectiveness to the low FODMAP diet for relieving symptoms of IBS such as bloating and abdominal pain.

The study directly compared participants who had received 6 weeks of hypnotherapy vs 6 weeks of following the low FODMAP diet. In both treatment groups, 70% of patients improved in quality of life and in a range of individual symptoms of IBS such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping and abdominal pain.

The results showed that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for IBS. The study also demonstrates that this effect is clinically significant, equal to that of the low FODMAP diet.  

Randomised clinical trial: the efficacy of gut-directed hypnotherapy is similar to that of the low FODMAP diet for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

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peters SL, et al. alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics 2016, 44: 447-59.

30 patients with severe refractory irritable-bowel syndrome were randomly allocated to treatment with either hypnotherapy or psychotherapy and placebo. The psychotherapy patients showed a small but significant improvement in abdominal pain, abdominal distension, and general well-being but not in bowel habit.

The hypnotherapy patients showed a dramatic improvement in all features, the difference between the two groups being highly significant. 

In the hypnotherapy group no relapses were recorded during the 3-month follow-up period, and no substitution symptoms were observed.

Controlled trial of hypnotherapy in the treatment of severe refractory irritable-bowel syndrome.

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Whorwell PJ; Prior A; Faragher EB. The Lancet 1984, 2: 1232-4. 

This study compared 25 severe IBS patients treated with hypnosis to 25 patients with similar symptom severity treated with other methods, and demonstrated that in addition to significant improvement in all central IBS symptoms, hypnotherapy recipients had fewer visits to doctors, lost less time from work than the control group, and rated their quality of life more improved.

Those patients who had been unable to work prior to treatment resumed employment in the hypnotherapy group but not in the control group.

The study is notable in that it quantified the substantial economic benefits and improvement in health-related quality of life which results from hypnotherapy for IBS on top of clinical symptom improvement.

Symptomatology, quality of life and economic features of irritable bowel syndrome-the effect of hypnotherapy.

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Houghton LA; Heyman DJ; Whorwell PJ. Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 1996 Feb, 10:1, 91-5.

In this study, 204 IBS patients treated with a course of hypnotherapy completed questionnaires about symptoms, quality of life, anxiety, and depression before, immediately after, and up to six years following the treatment.

Off of the treated patients, 71% showed improvement in response to treatment initially, and of those, 81% were still fully improved when re-contacted up to five years later. 

Quality of life and anxiety or depression scores were also still significantly improved at follow-up but showed some deterioration. Patients also reported fewer doctor visits rates and less medication use long-term after hypnosis treatment. These results indicate that for most patients the benefits from hypnotherapy last at least five years.

Long term benefits of hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome.

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Gonsalkorale WM, Miller V, Afzal A, Whorwell PJ. Gut. 2003 Nov;52(11):1623-9.

This was the first-ever study to examine whether the composition of gut bacteria (intestinal microbiota) in the bowels of IBS patients changes after hypnotherapy. 38 IBS patients (by Rome-III diagnostic criteria) of all IBS subtypes were treated with 10 weekly group sessions of GHT, and stool samples were collected before and after treatment for microbiota analysis.

The bowel symptoms of IBS were significantly reduced on average after hypnosis treatment, and psychological distress and well-being also improved significantly.

Adequate relief of IBS symptoms was reported by 84% of the patients after the hypnosis treatment. However, no significant changes were found in intestinal gut microbiota composition. The findings of this novel study suggest, perhaps not surprisingly, that hypnosis improves IBS mostly via effects that are relatively independent of microbiota composition -- most likely, through alterations in the central nervous system's control of the gut.

Intestinal Microbiome in Irritable Bowel Syndrome before and after Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy.

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Peter J, et al. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Nov 16;19(11). pii: E3619.

Fifteen patients with the irritable bowel syndrome were studied to assess the effect of hypnotherapy on anorectal physiology. In comparison with a control group of 15 patients who received no hypnotherapy significant changes in rectal sensitivity were found in patients with diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome both after a course of hypnotherapy and during a session of hypnosis. Although patient numbers were small, a trend towards normalisation of rectal sensitivity was also observed in patients with constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome

This study found IBS patients to be less sensitive to pain and other sensations induced via balloon inflation in their gut while they were under hypnosis. Sensitivity to some balloon-induced gut sensations (although not pain sensitivity) was reduced following a course of hypnosis treatment as well.

Changes in rectal sensitivity after hypnotherapy in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

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Prior A, Colgan SM, Whorwell PJ. Gut 1990;31:896

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