Hypnosis May Soothe Irritable Bowel

Hypnotherapy Sessions Improve IBS Symptoms and Quality of Life

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on June 08, 2006

June 8, 2006 - Focusing the mind with hypnotherapy may help fix problems in the gut and improve the quality of life for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Researchers in a new study found hypnotherapy significantly improved the emotional and physical symptoms of 75 men and women with the common digestive disorder.

"It is estimated that between 10 to 15 per cent of adults may suffer from IBS and that the physical, emotional, social and economic consequences of the illness can be considerable," Graeme D. Smith PhD, of the University of Edinburgh, says in a news release.

"Physical symptoms include altered bowel habits, abdominal pain and bloating, together with other non-intestinal problems such as lethargy, problems sleeping, and indigestionindigestion. Anxiety and psychosocial problems are also common and these can have a detrimental impact on quality of life."

Hypnotherapy Eases IBS

In the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, 20 men and 55 women received between five and seven half-hour hypnotherapy sessions over a three-month period. During the sessions, each patient was instructed to place his or her hands on the site of maximum abdominal discomfort and induce feelings of warmth and comfort in that region.

The therapist also told patients to imagine their gut as a river that changes how it flows. Constipated patients were told to envision the river as motionless and then freely flowing. Patients with diarrheadiarrhea were told to imagine the river flowing more slowly.

Afterwards, patients reported a 5% reduction in abdominal pain and a 4% reduction in abdominal bloating.

Hypnotherapy produced other significant improvements in both the physical and emotional symptoms of IBS, including:

  • 30% improvement in emotional quality of life
  • 25% rise in energy
  • 21% increase in overall mental healthmental health
  • 18% improvement in sleep
  • 16% increase in overall physical health
  • 14% improvement in diet
  • 12% drop in anxiety
  • 4% decline in depressiondepression

Researchers say the biggest improvements were among women who reported abdominal pain as their primary physical symptom.

"There's no universal agreement about what causes IBS and traditional treatment is often disappointing," says Smith in the news release. "This study shows that hypnotherapy can effectively reduce symptoms and improve quality of life and underlines the valuable role that complementary therapies can play in modern healthcare."

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SOURCES: Smith, G. Journal of Clinical Nursing, June 2006; vol 15: pp 678-684. News release, Journal of Clinical Nursing.
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