IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a chronic gastrointestinal condition with symptoms including diarrhoea, constipation, cramping, gas, pain and bloating. Unfortunately, traditional treatment for IBS such as diets and medications only offer relief 25% of the time, leaving many people struggling to gain relief from their symptoms which can be extremely debilitating. In fact many IBS sufferers are frequently told that they just have to ‘’learn to live’’ with their symptoms, and that there is nothing that they can do about them.
I’m here to tell you, that this is simply not true.
Hypnosis for IBS has a wealth of clinical research studies behind it since the 1980s, and with a success rate of 70-80%, it has been shown to not only reduce gut symptoms, but to reduce anxiety and improve the quality of your life - meaning that you can get back to doing what you love.
Hypnotherapy for IBS, also known as gut-directed hypnotherapy is a specific type of psychotherapy used to reduce IBS symptoms and treat IBS naturally without medication or using restrictive diets. With close to 40 years of research behind it, it is a well-tested therapeutic approach, and has been shown in many clinical research studies to reduce the symptoms of IBS by as much as 70-80%. This includes not just reducing gut symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and gas, but also non-gut issues such as anxiety. What’s more, the improvements achieved by undertaking a program of gut directed hypnotherapy have been found to be long lasting, with the longest current study showing improvements lasting for 5 years.
Both gut directed hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy are the two leading psychological treatments with the greatest amount of evidence of effectiveness in treating IBS. This is why these two approaches are combined in the work I do with my clients.
To understand how gut directed hypnotherapy works and why it is so effective for treating IBS, you first need to understand the underlying reason for your IBS symptoms. And this is due to the miscommunication happening between your gut and your brain. This is why IBS is known as a disorder of the gut-brain interaction (DGBI). You can learn more about the connection between your gut and your brain, and the role it plays in IBS here: Understanding your gut-brain connection in IBS.
But simply speaking there is a two-way flow of information happening between your brain (your central nervous system) and your gastrointestinal tract via a superhighway of nerve fibres called the vagus nerve.
When this flow of information gets disrupted, the communication between your gut and brain malfunctions resulting in incorrect messages being sent between the two. When this happens, IBS symptoms can develop such as gut pain, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and gas. The main two issues which develop when this information flow or gut-brain connection becomes ''faulty'' are:
The bowel can become overly sensitive to normal sensations such as gas or fullness and misinterprets stimuli inside of your bowel as pain. This happens because the nerves inside of your gut have become hyper alert, signalling pain and discomfort when they might not need to. Your brain can also amplify these signals, leading to increased perceived levels of pain.
The movement of food inside your bowel can become irregular resulting in constipation, diarrhoea, or a mixture of the two. This irregular movement can also lead to an increase in pressure inside of your GI tract causing further pain. Motility issues and uncoordinated and uncontrolled movement inside of the bowel are also the reason behind painful gut spasms.
In 2019 nearly 30 studies on gut-directed hypnotherapy over the last 30 years were reviewed. This review found that majority of studies showed that hypnotherapy significantly improved bowel symptoms, and in many cases, the associated quality of life and emotional symptoms.
Due to the effectiveness of hypnosis for IBS the American Gastroenterological Association recommends the use of gut directed hypnotherapy for patients early in the course of managing symptoms, and not saved as a as a ‘last ditch’ treatment option.
More recent IBS research studies from Monash University continue to support the use of hypnosis in the treatment and management of IBS, with results so positive that even the researchers were surprised. These results showed that hypnotherapy used specifically to address IBS reduced gut symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating and nausea by up to 72%. Incredibly these results showed that hypnotherapy was as beneficial as the low FODMAP diet. This means that you can get the same level of symptom control without having to change what you eat, or following stressful and restrictive diets.
There are many research studies showing the success of using gut directed hypnotherapy for IBS, and you can view additional IBS hypnosis research studies here.
During a session, you can expect three stages to occur. These stages occur whether you are working with me privately one-on-one or inside of the self-management online program, The Mind Gut Reset.
When working One-to-One hypnotherapy sessions are tailored to your specific symptoms and concerns. For example, if you have problems with gut motility, additional suggestions will be given that focus on the rhythm and flow of your digestion. Similarly, if pain is a dominating symptom for you, suggestions will be included that focus on soothing and protective changes happening inside of your bowel.
After each session you will be asked to listen to a support hypnosis recording to help reinforce the positive changes you are making inside of your gastrointestinal tract. In the beginning, these recording also get you used to my voice and the way in which I work with you in hypnosis.
The first stage is called hypnotic induction. This is the deep relaxation phase. During this stage, you’ll be guided through a full body relaxation exercise with your eyes closed, and gently be induced into a focused state of relaxed and absorbed attention. This is the state of hypnosis.
Typically my clients experience a significant reduction in their symptoms within 4-6 sessions, even for clients who have been suffering for decades.
However, please keep in mind that everyone is different and will respond in their own way. Occasionally some clients may require extra sessions to achieve symptom reduction. Research also shows that not everyone will respond to gut directed hypnotherapy, which is a further reason I integrate CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) into all of my sessions and programs so that we can increase the success rate of positive outcomes.
If you are currently suffering with the debilitating IBS symptoms and are still struggling to control your bowel then gut directed hypnotherapy is a safe and highly effective approach.
And the good news is that almost anyone experiencing IBS symptoms may try gut-directed hypnotherapy, also known as gut-targeted hypnotherapy or hypnotherapy for IBS.