Therapy, Hypnosis for Irritable Bowel?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Hypnosis May Help Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Symptoms Lessened With Hypnosis
"The hypnotherapy groups improved significantly in both studies regarding
gastrointestinal symptoms and the control groups did not," Simren says.
Significant improvement (meaning improvement not likely due to chance) in
gastrointestinal symptoms was seen in 52% of the hypnotherapy groups, compared
with 32% of the comparison groups.
The improvements were mainly seen with symptoms of abdominal pain, distension, and
bloating, rather than for bowel habits, the study
"We believe that with this study we have really demonstrated that this can
be performed outside highly specialized GI centers," Simren says, adding that
hypnotherapy seems to have a "good effect" with symptom relief sustained after
The long-term results were "promising," says Simren. "So it was good in the
short-term; it also seemed to work in the long run with these patients."
Learning to Cope With IBS
Another team of researchers tested cognitive behavioral therapy on 59 IBS
patients, most of whom were women.
The researchers included Jeffrey Lackner, PsyD, of the University of
Buffalo, which is part of the State University of New York.
"Our work was based on a couple of beliefs," Lackner told reporters, in a
teleconference. "One is that at this point, there are no pharmacological
treatments or drug therapies that seem to be satisfactory for the full range of
symptoms. And so the real burden of managing
IBS really rests on the shoulders of patients on a day-to-day basis."
"Managing symptoms really comes down to having a set of skills," Lackner
says. Those skills are often taught over 10 to 20 weeks, which is "very
impractical for a significant proportion of patients," says Lackner, noting a
shortage of therapists trained in cognitive behavior therapy for IBS
Lackner and colleagues randomly split participants into three groups:
- 10 weekly sessions of cognitive behavior therapy.
- 4 weekly sessions of cognitive behavior therapy with a manual to use at
- Wait list for cognitive behavior therapy (comparison group).
Both therapy groups covered the same material and had 60% to 75% achieving
"adequate relief and describing their symptoms as improved significantly,"
Lackner says. The comparison group showed no improvement.
"What we found, just in a nutshell, was that whether patients are treated
with a 10-session treatment or a four-session treatment they achieved
clinically significant improvement in symptom relief, in quality of life, and
they were satisfied," Lackner says.
The four-session treatment was about 2.5 times as efficient as the lengthier
treatment, Lackner notes.
No 'Head Shrinking'
"While we have a psychological treatment, our treatment is not shrinking
heads," Lackner says.
"Our treatment is teaching patients to manage their illness. This is what is
done with cardiac rehabilitation. This is done with diabetesdiabetes
management, arthritisarthritis management. We need to use that same
approach for IBS."
The therapy covered information on IBS, muscle relaxation training,
developing a flexible set of problem-solving skills for IBS, and curbing worry
For instance, Lackner says someone with IBS going on a date might worry that
their date will think they're "weird" if they have to go to the bathroom during
"We encourage them to say [to themselves], 'Listen, I don't really know
what's going to happen four hours down the road. I can only deal with the
evidence, the information I have available to me and I'll deal with that when
it comes up."
The bottom line: "Our goal is to try to teach them to control that worried
thinking in a way that reduces their symptoms," says Lackner. He and his
colleagues developed the at-home workbook used in the study.