Hypnotherapy May Improve IBS Symptoms

According to a new study, hypnotherapy may improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms.

Various forms of hypnosis, trance, and altered states of consciousness have been documented in a number of cultures throughout history. How hypnosis works is not completely understood. Some changes in the body have been associated with hypnosis, including changes in skin temperature, heart rate, intestinal secretions and immune response. Preliminary research suggests that hypnotherapy may lower the sensory and motor component of the gastrocolonic response in patients with IBS. However, evidence of benefit is not conclusive.

Researchers recently conducted two studies to evaluate the effects of hypnotherapy on IBS symptoms. In the first study, 90 patients were randomly assigned to receive 12, one-hour, weekly gut-directed hypnotherapy sessions in specialized private practices, or standard supportive care. In the second study, 48 patients were randomized to 12, one-hour, weekly gut-directed hypnotherapy sessions in a small county hospital or to a waitlist control group. In both studies, the severity of IBS symptoms and quality of life were evaluated before treatment, after three months and again after one year.

The researchers found that IBS symptoms significantly improved after three months in both study one and study two hypnotherapy groups when compared to the control groups. Furthermore, symptom improvements maintained through the one-year follow-up. The authors noted that patients who received hypnotherapy in private practices saw significantly greater improvements in IBS symptoms over control group than those treated in the county hospital.

The authors concluded that gut-directed hypnotherapy may be an effective treatment option for patients with IBS, particularly when conducted in a specialized private practice. Further research is necessary to confirm these findings.

Lindfors P, Unge P, Arvidsson P, Nyhlin H, Björnsson E, Abrahamsson H, Simrén M., “Effects of Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy on IBS in Different Clinical Settings-Results From Two Randomized, Controlled Trials“. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2011 Oct 4. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2011.340.

Republished with permission of Natural Standards Research Collaboration ©2011.