Yes, Hypnosis Really Can Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Using gut-directed hypnotherapy to treat IBS can have long-lasting benefits.
When you have abdominal pain — and bathroom issues — wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could send your digestive tract soothing messages?
They’ve been looking especially for a new option to treat IBS, as up to half of IBS sufferers are dissatisfied with the results of standard medical management, and continue to have frequent symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and sharp stabs of pain in the abdomen or continual aches.
A new option
Gut-directed hypnotherapy is a form of hypnosis. Patients meet in person or by video conference with a therapist or listen to recordings that guide them step by step into a relaxed state.
Once patients enter the hypnotic state, they are taken through visualization exercises and hear suggestions designed to calm their digestive tract and wean them away from focusing on gut sensations.
Unlike a meditation tape anyone might pick up, this therapy has been standardized and tested — a key reason it has won acceptance from gastroenterologists at major hospitals.
More than 20 years ago, clinical psychologist Olafur Palsson, PsyD, at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, began using a specific set of scripts in a protocol that now has been studied extensively.
From 53 to 94 percent of IBS patients responded to the treatment, depending on the trial, with benefits lasting as long as a year.
The therapy addresses a problem that seems to accompany several gastrointestinal ailments: miscommunication between the gut and the brain. The smooth muscles of the intestinal wall can be hyper-reactive, altering the normal patterns of muscle contraction. Additionally, the brain can also be misinterpreting normal signals from the gut.
This disconnect between the gut and the brain can trigger the many possible symptoms of IBS — and play a role in other problems.
Recent early research suggests, for example, that hypnotherapy can prolong remission in colitis patientsTrusted Source and soothe unexplained chronic heartburnTrusted Source.
Hypnotherapy has been found to be most effective with abdominal pain, cutting it by an average of half or more in many studies.
Many people struggle with digestive symptoms but never mention them to a doctor. It’s common to try many remedies on your own — probiotics, avoiding spicy foods, or going gluten-free.
But after one or two close calls of barely making it to the bathroom, people begin to rearrange their lives to avoid crises.
Anna’s experience of growing fear is common.
“The things I was trying weren’t working, and it seemed to come out of nowhere,” she explained.
Over time, and especially in periods of stress, that fear makes the problem worse.
Getting a diagnosis is a step to effective help. To diagnose IBS — which is estimated to affect up to 15 percent of American adults — doctors look for these signs: at least three months with frequent abdominal pain that is relieved after you defecate and that originally began with a change in the frequency or quality of your stool.
IBS also tends to follow the stomach flu or round of antibiotics.
Blood in your stool, weight loss, fever, or anemia suggests other possible diagnoses. You should be checked for an autoimmune problem like Crohn’s, colitis, or celiac if you’re experiencing these symptoms. You may also want to have a radiologic test of your abdomen looking for growths.
By definition, IBS does not have one clear cause. But new science has been suggesting possible factors like genetic variations and altered gut microbiomes for subgroups of patients.
One of the more common treatments is the low-FODMAPs diet, which rules out many vegetables and fruits as well as gluten. FODMAPS stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, all molecules in food.
In a 2016 studyTrusted Source, gut-directed hypnotherapy matched the results of the low-FODMAPS diet. This is welcome news for IBS patients since it clears a potentially easier path to eventually enjoy a broader, healthier diet.
To find out how I can help you with your IBS just contact me.