There is growing evidence that psychiatric disorders, stress, or past trauma play a key role in the development of IBS. Since one of the causes of IBS is thought to be disrupted gut-brain interaction, it is expected that better mind function would also improve gut function. Although psychological therapies are quite common nowadays, hypnotherapy is a newer concept that could potentially be an effective way to treat IBS.
What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is a kind of therapy that uses the state of hypnosis in the treatment of a medical or psychological disorder. The state of hypnosis involves focused attention and is characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestions. The treatment involves a one-to-one session with a trained therapist, at weekly intervals, for 6–12 weeks.
Hypnotherapy with a focus on gut health uses suggestions to imply control and normalization of bowel functions.
Could it work for IBS?
Numerous studies with IBS patients were performed since hypnotherapy was shown to improve gastrointestinal symptoms in 1984. These studies showed that hypnotherapy does not only improve primary symptoms of IBS but also alleviates anxiety and depression. It is particularly effective in children with IBS. The effect was similar (or slightly less) effective when the therapy was done with a therapist online or using a video. It seems to be a cost-effective and easily accessible form of treatment for IBS.
What are the potential drawbacks?
- hypnotherapy might not work for everyone
- it can cause headaches, lightheadedness, or anxiety
- it requires a certain level of trust between you and your therapist since during the therapy you are not in complete control of your own thinking
This kind of therapy has proven benefits for IBS patients in terms of symptom improvement, especially alleviating pain. It is important to keep in mind that the effects of hypnotherapy do not come after one session and that there are risks that come with this type of therapy. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a medical professional before trying it out. Hypnotherapy might not work for everyone but it could be effective for some.
Császár-Nagy, N., & Bókkon, I. (2022). Hypnotherapy and IBS: Implicit, long-term stress memory in the ENS?. Heliyon, 9(1), e12751. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e12751