If you are suffering with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you’ll know firsthand the pain, discomfort and anxiety it can bring. Unfortunately IBS is not uncommon, with estimates of betwen 15-20% of the population experiencing the symptoms of abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation at some point in their lives. Not only can IBS be extremly uncomfortable, it can significantly reduce your quality of life and erode the confidence and trust you have in your body.
Some people with IBS find relief by changing their diet or taking medication, but for others these measures do not provide adequate relief, or any success is only short-lived. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself? So if diets and drugs aren’t working for you, or you’re tired of having to restrict your food choices, then what options are left? Well with close to 40 years of research behind it, gut directed hypnotherapy for IBS may just be the answer. With an average success rate of 70% (and results excedding this figure with my own clients), it can help you take back control of your gut, decrease anxiety, and rebuild lost confidence and self-esteem.
So in this blog post, I’m going to break down what gut directed hypnotherapy is for IBS and how it may help to improve your gut symptoms. If this is an approach you are looking into, I would encourage you to learn more about my Calm Gut IBS Hypnotherapy program here.
You can also book a free 30 minute online consultation to discuss whether this approach is the right one for you. You can book a time to chat here.
Why use gut directed hypnotherapy for IBS?
Unlike medication or restrictive diets, gut directed hypnotherapy is a behavioural approach to managing IBS symptoms. It is a special type of hypnotherapy designed to treat disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, and can also help to reduce the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Despite research being more limited in these two other areas, the results are impressive to say the least.
Many people wonder why a behavioural approach such as hypnotherapy is used to help manage IBS, so it can be helpful to first understand the role of the brain-gut axis.
The brain-gut axis is the connection between your gut and the brain and is made possible through nerves directly connecting the two. A good example of this connection is the fact that we feel ‘butterflies’ in our stomach when we are nervous. For us to feel this sensation, there must be a very strong connection between the brain (the central nervous system) and the gut (the enteric nervous system). And there is. That sensation of ‘butterflies’ in your stomach is made possible due to the nerves connecting the gut to the brain, and via the hormones released from the brain that act on the gut.
Whilst the brain and gut are always in communication with one another, the enteric nervous system (the gut brain) allows the gut to function on its own most of the time. However, the brain can override the enteric nervous system under certain circumstances in a positive or negative way. For example, we can delay going to the toilet to empty our bowels if it is inconvenient, or our stomach can become upset when we are nervous.
And it is this connection between the gut and gut (the gut-brain axis) that allows us to target the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system with behavioural therapies for IBS. Other behavioural therapies commonly used for IBS include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness.
What is gut directed hypnotherapy for IBS?
Hypnosis is a very misunderstood subject. So let me reassure you that there is no loss of control, and you cannot be made to do anything against your will. In fact the best way to think about hypnosis, is being in a deep state of relaxation where you can learn to control various functions of your body though the ‘power of your mind’.
For example, it has been shown that using hypnotherapy a person can alter the amount of acid that their stomach makes, alter the sensitivity of their gut, and even change the way the brain processes signals from the gut. Hypnosis also has the added benefit of helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
So, whilst hypnotherapy can be used to achieve many different outcomes, when it comes to IBS, gut directed hypnotherapy involves using hypnotic suggestions that are aimed at calming the digestive tract. For example, once a person is relaxed and is in hypnosis, a gut directed hypnotherapist such as myself, will then help them visualise their digestive system working properly. This can include helping them to reduce gut pain, sensitivity and discomfort. The gut directed hypnotherapist may also use other techniques such as positive affirmations to help the person create new, healthier beliefs about their gut and IBS.
An example of a suggestion used in hypnosis for IBS could be the following. If someone experiences a lot of bloating, they can be asked to imagine a ‘balloon inside their stomach’, followed by ‘you are now steadily deflating that balloon and your bloating is getting better and better.’
Metaphors are an important part of hypnosis and can help the brain to activate the necessary systems to bring about the changes without the person actually knowing how to make it happen.
How does gut directed hypnotherapy for IBS work?
Whilst the exact mechanism of how gut directed hypnosis works is unknown, we do know once you are in hypnosis you have access to processes that are not usually under your control. This includes subconscious processes such as your digestive system
Is there research to support its use?
Yes, there are many research studies showing the effectiveness of gut directed hypnotherapy for IBS. One study found that gut directed hypnotherapy was able to significantly improve IBS symptoms in a group of people who had not responded to other treatments. Another study found that gut directed hypnotherapy was more effective than a control therapy in reducing IBS symptoms.
On average, gut directed hypnotherapy has been shown to reduce IBS symptoms by over 70%.
In fact, recent studies show that gut directed hypnotherapy is as effective as the low FODMAP diet in managing symptoms. Which means you can get the relief from IBS symptoms without having to follow strict diets.
What are the benefits of hypnotherapy for IBS?
There are many potential benefits of this approach in managing IBS symptoms.
The first major benefits it that this type of therapy can be done in the comfort of your own home. I see clients from all around the world using telehealth, which removes the need to leave your home and travel.
Secondly hypnotherapy is considered safe and does not have any uncomfortable side effects in the case of medications. It also has the added advantage of reducing your stress levels which is often a key trigger for flare ups.
And perhaps lastly and most importantly, it’s been shown to provide long-lasting relief from symptoms. Follow up studies show that treatment success is maintained for up to five years. This does not mean it will reappear after 5 years, the study only followed the patients for 5 years.
Is gut directed hypnotherapy for IBS the right approach for you?
If you’d like to explore whether hypnotherapy for IBS and my Calm Gut Program is the right approach for you, then book a free 30 minute consultation. With almost 40 years of solid evidence behind it, gut directed hypnotherapy has been shown to reduce IBS symptoms in more than 70-80% of people. In this free 30 minute call, we will discuss:
- Your current IBS symptoms, health history and challenges you’re experiencing
- What you’ve already tried to get relief from IBS and why you’re still stuck
- How hypnosis for IBS (also known as gut directed hypnotherapy) works and determine a program of therapy going forward.
If you have any questions before booking this call, you can contact me here.