Hypnosis Therapy Relieves IBS Diagnosis | Natural Health Blog

Date: 03/28/2013    Written by: Beth Levine

Hypnosis May Provide IBS Relief

The symptoms of intestinal disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are unpleasant, to say the least.  Sufferers deal with sometimes severe attacks of cramping, bloating, and other digestive distress.  Bouncing between pharmaceuticals to manage both constipation and diarrhea can be frustrating and leave you with additional side effects to cope with as well.  And for many people with IBS, this collection of medicines doesn't even do the trick.  However, recent research has found that hypnosis therapy may bring some relief to an IBS diagnosis without adding any more medication to the picture.

The two studies, which were conducted at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, found that when hypnosis was directed toward a focus on the digestive system, IBS patients experienced a noticeable decrease in their symptoms.1  The first of the trials included 90 adults with an IBS diagnosis whose symptoms had not improved after trying a regimen of dietary restrictions, pharmaceutical medications, and laxatives or fiber supplements.

The subjects were divided into two groups.  One group received 12 sessions of hypnotherapy with a locally-based trained practitioner. The treatments were focused on concepts such as visualization of a smooth river to promote the proper functioning of the digestive tract.  The second group consisted of control subjects who were provided with general relaxation exercises and nutritional counseling.  The difference was significant between the two groups, with 38 percent of the hypnosis therapy group reporting at least a 25 percent decrease in symptoms three months later, versus the control group, who had only an 11 percent decrease in symptoms.

The second trial had a total of 48 participants.  This version also had the volunteers separated into two groups.  The first group received the same type of hypnotherapy as in the prior experiment.  The second group was still a control, but instead of being provided with any sort of help, they were told that they had been placed on a waiting list to receive hypnotherapy.  In this experiment, 25 percent of the hypnosis group reported at least a 25 percent decrease in symptoms three months later, while the control group had a 13 percent decrease.

The small size of this research is a little troubling, especially when the results of the second portion were not as successful as the first.  The problem is that with such a tiny population to work with, it's possible that other factors affected the outcome for some patients and skewed the results.  It would be great to know how long the benefits lasted. It would also be great to see if a study such as this could be duplicated on a much larger scale.  Part of the problem with doing that, and with getting hypnosis help to begin with, is its lack of availability in many places.  Large cities will have plenty of trained and certified hypnotherapists available, and some will be proficient in gut-directed techniques.  But outside of urban centers, it may be difficult to find a practitioner to visit.  If you are having trouble, the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists not only certifies its members, but can help you locate one in your area.2

However, it really might come down to mind over matter in the case of many IBS sufferers.  All of the participants in this research showed improvements in their symptoms--even those who were just put on a waiting list.  Maybe it's simply the thought that they are doing something to help themselves that provides the patients with some relief.  A 2010 study from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, would seem to support this theory.  The scientists found that 59 percent of the IBS patients in their study who were given a placebo--and that was clearly marked placebo--reported an improvement in their symptoms similar to that typically reported by those taking standard IBS drugs.3

So, for IBS patients looking for some respite from their discomfort, doing almost anything may be better than doing nothing.  However, those with IBS who wish to get at the root of the condition and not just treat the symptoms might need to take a different slant.  A natural approach including intestinal detoxes twice a year, taking a probiotic formula containing L. salivarius, and antipathogens and immune boosters--coupled with adhering to a number of dietary changes--might very well enable you to forget about needing hypnosis, placebos, or any other type of IBS treatment.

  • 1. Cretu, Dana. "Hypnosis, even in "real world," may help IBS." Health News. 8 January 2013. Accessed 21 March 2013. http://www.healthnews.com/en/news/Hypnosis-even-in-real-world-may-help-IBS/1iVcpimX1DoffidMcS_BuE
  • 2. "Find a Hypnotherapist." National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists. Accessed 22 March 2013. http://www.natboard.com/index_files/Page548.htm
  • 3. Kaptchuk, Ted J., et al. "Placebos without Deception: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Irritable Bowel Syndrome." PLOS One. 22 December 2010. Accessed 22 March 2013. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0015591

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