Hypnotherapy as an IBS Treatment Option

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hypnotherapy (and probably just about anything that will help you ease your symptoms) may sound appealing.

Woman undergoing hypnosis
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Though not life-threatening, IBS can be debilitating for some people who have it. Treatments for IBS include changes to diet, anti-spasmodic medications, muscle relaxants, and stress reduction. But, unfortunately, you may have already learned that these treatment methods do not help every person with IBS. When relief isn't achieved, complementary therapies like hypnotherapy may become of interest.

But does hypnotherapy for IBS really work?

Hypnotherapy for IBS Patients

Gut directed hypnotherapy (GDH) was developed specifically for IBS patients. People with the typical symptoms of IBS—abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation—have had the highest success rates with GDH.

GDH has been studied as a form of treatment for IBS since it was first introduced in 1984, when a study noted that those given GDH had dramatic improvements that lasted past the completion of treatment, as compared to participants who were given a placebo and psychotherapy.

What Hypnotherapy Involves

Hypnotherapy treatment plans vary based on the practitioner and the patient. GDH was developed with a guideline of 12 sessions conducted weekly. Some hypnotherapists may conduct fewer sessions, such as 6 or 8, and may have a longer interval between sessions.

Your first session may be devoted to taking your history of IBS symptoms. Thereafter, each session will be recorded, and you will be instructed to listen to the tape once each day until the next appointment. You may receive other "homework" tasks to do between sessions.

The success of hypnotherapy is directly related to your commitment to it. Attending all the sessions and completing all extra assignments outside of sessions gives you the best chance of a favorable outcome.

There are many myths surrounding hypnotherapy. Hypnosis can not make a person do something they don't want to do—it's not brainwashing or witchcraft. The patient is always in control and can come out of the hypnotic trance at any time. Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist Ken Steinmetz aptly described how hypnosis feels: "In the morning when you hit the snooze button on your alarm, and you are aware of yourself lying in your bed with eyes closed, not quite asleep, but not quite awake either."

Hypnotherapy is considered a low-cost, non-invasive, and comfortable method of treatment. Several people can actually attend a hypnotherapy session at the same time. GDH is not intended as a cure for IBS, but it can help provide a structure in which the patient can assert some measure of control over IBS symptoms.

Find a Hypnotherapist Near You

There are several online resources that can connect you to directories.

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By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.