Hypnotherapy For Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder than can cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and constipation. The uncertainty, unpredictability, pain and discomfort can have a hugely detrimental impact upon your well-being and quality of life.
When I help people with IBS, they often avoid certain places and situations due to the anxiety, stress and worry that their IBS will strike. I’ve come across clients who have avoided going out, who don’t eat all day to avoid the discomfort or who suffer extreme anxiety about finding a toilet or the possibility of being embarrassed in front of others (e.g. from needing the toilet a lot, from not being able to find a toilet in time or from letting people down if the IBS is too bad). The very nature of IBS means it is often one of things people don’t like to talk about or tell others about, which can add to the stress and anxiety about how your symptoms might be.
And whist it is usually a lifelong problem with no known ‘cure’, and with no universally agreed understanding of what causes it, the good news is that hypnotherapy has been shown to be very effective in helping you to alleviate your symptoms.
The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy For IBS
Hypnotherapy has a very strong and impressive evidence base for its effectiveness in treating irritable bowel syndrome.
For example, Whitehead et al (Hypnosis for irritable bowel syndrome: the empirical evidence of therapeutic effects. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 2006), looked at the results of eleven studies that assessed the therapeutic effects of hypnosis for IBS and found that, “hypnosis has been reported to be successful in impacting IBS symptoms in all the 11 outcome studies published to date. Where success rates have been reported, they have ranged from 61% to 100%…with a median success rate of 87%.”
These results are impressive, with the great majority of hypnosis IBS patients enjoying improvements. In addition, these positive results were achieved with people who had tried multiple other interventions and treatments without benefiting from them. The findings also suggested that issues like anxiety, which can exacerbate symptoms, were also reduced thorough hypnotherapy (of course, we also have a wealth of evidence to support the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for anxiety: The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy as a Treatment For Anxiety).
In addition, another review of hypnotherapy for IBS also showed consistent and positive results for the relieving the symptoms of IBS. Tan, Hammond and Gurrala (Hypnosis and irritable bowel syndrome: a review of efficacy and mechanism of action. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 2005) concluded that “hypnosis consistently produces significant results and improves the cardinal symptoms of IBS in the majority of patients.”
And again, ancillary issues such as emotional well-being and quality of life also improved throughout the hypnotherapy. In both these reviews, the positive effects were sustained over a considerable amount of time.
We also know that these positive results can be achieved using hypnosis via Skype where it isn’t possible to meet in person with a hypnotherapist (Hasan, Pearson and Whorwell, SKYPE HYPNOTHERAPY FOR IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME: Effectiveness and Comparison with Face-to-Face Treatment. 2019). For more about the effectiveness of online hypnotherapy, have a read of this article: The Effectiveness of Online Hypnotherapy: Skype and Zoom Hypnotherapy Sessions.
The research shows us, then, that hypnotherapy for IBS can be very effective at helping you to relieve your symptoms. What’s more, hypnosis can also help you to reduce anxiety, panic and depression symptoms, which are often found in people who struggle with IBS.
There’s more on the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for IBS and the link between anxiety and IBS in these articles:
More Support For Hypnotherapy For IBS
As if all the scientific support for the effectiveness of hypnosis for IBS above wasn’t enough, we also have a more recent systematic review and analysis to draw upon.
The results of the review by Krouwel et al (Systematic review, meta-analysis with subgroup analysis of hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, effect of intervention characteristics, 2021) suggest that high volume hypnotherapy is more beneficial than low and should be used for gut-directed hypnotherapy in the treatment of IBS. That is, treatment that involved eight or more sessions, or over six hours contact time with the therapist, delivered better results. When delivered on a weekly or more frequent basis, hypnotherapy for IBS was found to be significantly effective.
This fits with how I often describe the structure of hypnotherapy sessions with my clients. Rather than going for a ‘one hit wonder’ session or 2-3 sessions (which you often see in sales pitches online for hypnotherapy), the science suggests that a series of sessions will tend to support the likelihood of positive outcomes from your therapy. Starting weekly, building positive momentum, and then extending the time between sessions at that point, works well too.
There is an impressive body of research and evidence supporting the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for IBS. Hypnosis can help you to relieve IBS symptoms and to reduce other issues that can exacerbate your symptoms, such as anxiety and stress. Whilst IBS itself cannot be cured, the science suggests that hypnotherapy could help you to significantly alleviate symptoms, as well as feeling calmer and happier and boosting your quality of life.
If IBS is impacting upon, or even limiting and controlling your life, then hypnotherapy is something that has a good likelihood of helping you to feel better.
To your happiness,
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Hasan, S.S., Pearson, J.S. and Whorwell, P.J., 2019. SKYPE HYPNOTHERAPY FOR IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME: Effectiveness and Comparison with Face-to-Face Treatment. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.
Krouwel, M., Farley, A., Ismail, M.T., Jolly, K. and Greenfield, S., 2021. Systematic review, meta-analysis with subgroup analysis of hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, effect of intervention characteristics. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, p.102672.
Tan, G., Hammond, D.C. and Gurrala, J., 2005. Hypnosis and irritable bowel syndrome: a review of efficacy and mechanism of action. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 47(3), pp.161-178.
Whitehead, W.E., 2006. Hypnosis for irritable bowel syndrome: the empirical evidence of therapeutic effects. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 54(1), pp.7-20.