If you’re suffering from IBS you’ve likely tried a lot of different things to try and get relief from gut symptoms. From the low fodmap diet to medication, to prebiotics, probiotics, gut powders, aloe vera juice, CBT oil… The list could go on and on.

But have you tried gut-directed hypnotherapy for IBS?

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.

That’s an impressive number, especially considering no single medication for IBS can claim to reduce symptoms to that extent. And all without side effects.

In fact, hypnotherapy for IBS can achieve similar results in reducing symptoms as the low FODMAP diet. This means that you can get the same level of relief without having to change your lifestyle or follow restrictive diets. This is huge.

No longer are your options limited to restricting your food choices, or relying on medication just to live your life and keep symptoms under control.

So does hypnotherapy work for IBS?

The answer is a resounding yes. And in this post, I’m going to share with you the findings of 5 IBS research studies that have been carried out over its 40-year history.

Yes, that’s right.

Gut directed hypnotherapy for IBS has been around for close to 40 years, and despite decades of solid evidence behind it, and 1 in 10 people suffering from IBS, it’s still a relatively unknown treatment approach.

So let’s have a closer look at what it can achieve and how it could work for you too!

A mind gut approach to managing IBS

You may be wondering at this point how hypnotherapy can be used to manage IBS, when hypnosis focuses on the mind. What does your mind have to do with your gut symptoms and IBS?

This is a great question to ask.

IBS is what we call a functional bowel disease. This means that there is no structural damage to your bowel, and the issue is actually not physical.

This is one of the main reasons why IBS is so hard to diagnose and why sadly many doctors can be dismissive of your symptoms. Because despite your gut pain, bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea, they are unable to find anything ‘’physically’’ wrong with you.

But there is good news I promise.

Because over the years we have discovered that functional bowel problems like IBS can be influenced by the mind through something called the gut-brain interaction or gut-brain connection.

What is your gut brain connection?

Your brain-gut connection is the two-way communication highway linking your brain and gut together, and it’s how your brain and your gut communicate with each other.

When you experience IBS symptoms, what’s happening is that this communication highway is not working as it should – your brain and gut aren’t on the same page.

There is a miscommunication between the two. Your brain is sending incorrect messages to your gut, and your gut is sending incorrect messages to your brain.

This is where gut directed hypnotherapy comes in, as it’s used to address this communication problem directly.

How does Hypnotherapy Work For IBS?

Gut directed hypnotherapy for IBS works by teaching you the mental skills and techniques to develop control over the physiological mechanisms influencing your gut.

These mechanisms are not normally under conscious control. 

Hypnotherapy also works to retrain your brain to reinterpret or ignore incoming sensory signals such as pain. This allows you to influence how much or how little pain, sensitivity, or discomfort you feel.

Since its development in the 1980’s, gut directed hypnotherapy has been successfully used to treat numerous functional bowel disorders including IBS. This includes helping those with severe symptoms who weren’t responding to a diet or medication approach.

By sharing 5 of the research studies demonstrating gut directed hypnotherapy’s effectiveness in helping to reduce IBS symptoms, my hope is that you see a way forward.

That you no longer see your IBS as a life sentence, and that there is definitely a way to treat your symptoms with long-term results.

RESEARCH STUDY #1: THE EARLIEST STUDY FROM 1984

Back in 1984, the earliest formal study of hypnosis for the treatment of IBS was undertaken.

Even today this study remains one of the best, as it was thoroughly placebo-controlled, and showed dramatically greater improvement for those recovering hypnosis vs the placebo.

The study was made up of 30 patients all with severe IBS symptoms that had been unresponsive to other forms of treatment. The patients were randomly chosen to receive either 7 sessions of hypnotherapy or 7 sessions of psychotherapy plus placebo pills.

After the participants had completed their sessions, their symptoms were reassessed.

The psychotherapy group showed a small but significant improvement in abdominal pain and distension (meaning visible bloating), and an improvement in general well-being. However, they did not see an improvement in their bowel activity.

The hypnotherapy patient group however showed a dramatic improvement in all IBS symptoms. This group also showed no relapses during the 3-month follow-up period.

You can read more about this study here.

RESEARCH STUDY #2: HYPNOTHERAPY IMPROVED QUALITY OF LIFE

In 1996 a study was set up to quantify the effects of severe IBS on quality of life and ”economic functioning”, and to assess the impact of hypnotherapy on these features.

The study compared 25 severe IBS patients treated with hypnosis to 25 patients with similar symptom severity treated with other methods.

The results from this study speak for themselves.

The hypnotherapy group reported less severe abdominal pain, bloating, bowel habits, nausea, gas, urinary symptoms, fatigue, and back pain compared with control patients.

In addition to significant improvement in all IBS symptoms, hypnotherapy recipients also had fewer visits to doctors, lost less time from work than the control group, and rated their quality of life as ‘’more improved’’.

In fact, those patients who had been unable to work prior to treatment resumed employment in the hypnotherapy group, but not in the control group. 

You can read more about this study here.

RESEARCH STUDY #3: IMPROVEMENTS SEEN 5 YEARS LATER

The next study I want to take you through was completed 6 years later in 2003.

In this study 204 IBS patients were treated with a course of hypnotherapy and were asked to complete questionnaires about symptoms, quality of life, anxiety, and depression.

The participants completed this questionnaire before, immediately after, and up to six years following the treatment. 

Of all 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. 

Patients also reported fewer doctor visits 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.

You can read more about this study here.

RESEARCH STUDY #4: HYPNOTHERAPY WORKS VIA THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

In 2018 a slightly different type of study was undertaken as it looked at whether the composition of gut bacteria (otherwise known as your microbiome) in the bowels of IBS patients changes after hypnotherapy. 

In this study, 38 IBS patients of all IBS subtypes were treated with 10 weekly group sessions of gut directed hypnotherapy.  Stool samples were collected before and after treatment for analysis of their gut bacteria.

What were the results?

On average, bowel symptoms were significantly reduced after patients had received hypnosis treatment. Their psychological distress and well-being had also improved significantly. In fact, adequate relief of IBS symptoms was reported by 84% of the patients after hypnosis. 

However, interestingly 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.

This is fascinating because it challenges the way you think about having to use restrictive diets, medications, and supplements to create improvements in IBS symptoms.

In fact, this study demonstrates that gut directed hypnotherapy works independently from diet.

You can read more about this study here.

This key outtake is further highlighted in the next IBS research study which compared hypnosis with the low fodmap diet.

RESEARCH STUDY #5: HYPNOTHERAPY AS EFFECTIVE AS LOW FODMAP

In 2016 a study was set up to compare the effects of gut-directed hypnotherapy to the low FODMAP diet. 

This randomized controlled trial took place over 6 weeks. 74 patients with moderate irritable bowel syndrome were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups:

  • Group 1 was the Hypnotherapy group where 25 patients received six weekly 1-hour sessions by a trained hypnotherapist. Audio recordings of hypnotherapy were provided, and patients were asked to listen to them daily.
  • Group 2 was the Diet group where 24 patients strictly followed the low-FODMAP diet, eliminating foods known to cause IBS. A qualified dietitian provided instruction, and adherence was monitored by regular phone calls.
  • Group 3 was a combined hypnosis and diet group where 25 patients received both of treatments.

With so many sufferers of IBS believing that their only options are taking long-term medication with side effects or restrictive and stressful diets, the results of this study could be life-changing.

What the researchers found was that hypnotherapy had the same effect as the low fodmap diet for alleviating gastrointestinal symptoms.

In both treatment groups, 70% of patients improved in quality of life and a range of individual symptoms of IBS such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation cramping, and abdominal pain.

These benefits were maintained at the six months follow-up after treatment.

It is interesting to highlight here that combining the treatment of dietary intervention and hypnotherapy did not benefit patients more than individual treatments.

This was surprising since the two treatments were believed to act via different mechanisms, and so effects were expected to add to one another.

This study also found, not surprisingly, that hypnotherapy was also associated with psychological benefits. Patients were less anxious and depressed in this group, but not in the low-FODMAP group.

These findings agree with data from other clinical trials and support the value of hypnotherapy for treating IBS.

You can read more about this study here.

What does this mean for you?

If you suffer from IBS, these studies bring good news. 

They demonstrate that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment and that IBS can be treated without needing to change what you eat. 

In fact, a six-week course of hypnotherapy improved symptoms in 70% of patients regardless of hypnotic susceptibility.

So if you have struggled with dietary treatments or found little benefit from them, hypnotherapy is a great alternative. In fact, this is exactly how I work with my clients who are suffering with IBS inside of my IBS gut directed hypnotherapy programs.

If you’d like to explore whether gut directed hypnotherapy is the right approach for you, then book a free 30-minute discovery call here, and let’s talk. In this call we’ll talk about  your current challenges, your IBS history, and determine the best approach for you and your IBS symptoms.

If you have any questions before booking this call, you can contact me here.

JAYNE CORNER - COPYRIGHT 2022 ©

The Calm & Happy Gut

Natural relief from IBS symptoms without restrictive diets or medications. Science backed gut directed hypnotherapy and CBT programs.

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