Gut directed hypnotherapy is a highly effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I use gut directed hypnotherapy with clients in London and online who find the relaxing visualisations helpful for managing IBS symptoms. Click here for more information.
Is Gut Directed Hypnotherapy effective?
A July 2020 study, published in the Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, compared patients with IBS who received either standard care or a multidisciplinary approach that included gut-directed hypnotherapy. The research found that 83 percent of the patients in the multidisciplinary group had symptom relief, compared with 63 percent of the standard care group. Patients in the multidisciplinary group also were far more likely to have a significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life than those found in the group that received standard care from a gastroenterologist only. This and other evidence is pointing to the effectiveness of gut-directed hypnotherapy.
Gut Directed Hypnotherapy can help in relieving IBS symptoms and improving gut function. Indeed the American College of Gastroenterologists to recommend its practice in its 2021 clinical guidelines.
In January 2022 the journal Gastroenterology noted that hypnotherapy is not only effective in helping IBS for individuals but also is effective in a group setting, and it can be done in person, virtually, or via an app.
As a hypnotherapist in London, I have been helping people using Gut Directed Hypnotherapy for several years. I have also now created an online self-directed Gut Directed Hypnotherapy programme called Sirona. Though there already exist Gut Directed Hypnotherapy apps, such as Nerva, my programme looks directly at anxiety, stress and gives tools to manage symptoms besides hypnosis. My IBS hypnosis programme is at a lower price point and you have life-long access.
How does hypnotherapy help IBS?
With IBS, the brain gets a little confused! It interprets normal gut sensations as pain. But through the power of hypnotic suggestion and the brain-gut connection, gut-directed hypnotherapy acts on the central nervous system to reduce the sensitivity of nerves in the gut.
“Patients who have completed treatment often find that the intervention has helped them learn how to relax not only their gut, but their mind,” explained Megan Riehl, PsyD, of Michigan Medicine Gastroenterology Clinic in Ann Arbor. “This is helpful for managing stress, which significantly impacts IBS. Patients are also thrilled to report that as their stress and IBS gets better, so do other areas of health — such as their mood, sleep or muscle tension,” she added.
Gut Directed Hypnotherapy and IBS flare-ups
IBS sufferers might get stressed about potential flare-ups. This can happen in everyday situations, such as driving to work or school. The stressful thought itself could agitate the digestive tract. But with gut-directed hypnotherapy, you can be taught to envision that your stomach is strong, smooth, calm, and protected when you’re driving.
“It teaches the gut to be less reactive to strong emotions, and changes the way the brain processes information sent from the gut,” says Kathyrn N. Tomasino, PhD, specialist in gastrointestinal behavioural health psychology at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. So gut-directed hypnotherapy helps people with IBS reduce overreacting to symptoms and stresses.
“Patients with IBS experience miscommunication between the brain and the gut,” says Dr. Riehl. “Gut-directed hypnotherapy specifically targets the gut-brain pathway in a way that other treatments do not. We see patients who have suffered with their symptoms for decades achieve life-changing results.”
“People who often describe themselves as having a difficult time with relaxation find that the intervention changes that. They are able to learn skills to relax their body and their mind, which transforms their experience with IBS. It is empowering to patients when they feel better and gain confidence in their ability to manage something that once controlled so many aspects of their life,” she adds.
Tailored Gut Directed Hypnotherapy IBS treatments
Hypnotherapy sessions at my London practice can be tailored to your specific symptoms and concerns. If you have problems with the way your stomach muscles contract and relax, known as gut motility, we can add in more suggestions that focus on the rhythm of your digestion. If you’re experiencing some pain, the suggestions can emphasise the perception of pain and the sensitivity of the nerves in the gut.
Between gut-directed therapy sessions, you may be asked to practice self-hypnosis at home four to five times per week. In these sessions, you’ll listen to a recorded version of your guided hypnotherapy. Though this is a commitment, I do find that for some this is incredibly beneficial.
What if I’m not hypnotisable, can IBS hypnotherapy still work?
Research has shown that 85 percent of people can get into at least a light trance. Indeed for hypnotherapy just a light trance, a mild feeling of relaxation is really all you need.
Hypnotherapy is also very safe and there’s nothing mystical or fearful about being in a gut-directed hypnotherapy trance. It’s simply a state of inner concentration, and focused attention, similar to when you are absorbed in a task or immersed in a good book. When you’re in this relaxed zone, the rest of the world is tuned out, but you still can hear someone call your name and you can choose to respond or not. The hypnotherapy trance is exactly like this.
If you would like to discover more about how Gut Directed Hypnotherapy can help IBS, click here of more details.