About gut-directed hypnotherapy for IBS
In IBS, symptoms are exacerbated because your gut is being misdirected by your brain, not because your gut is physically damaged or diseased. You can think of your gut as an engine that’s being over-revved by a panicked driver. The more it’s revved, the worse the symptoms.
Gut-directed hypnotherapy is a technique that helps you to reset the conversation between your gut and your brain. Getting them to talk to each other in a calmer, more normal way leads to significant and lasting improvements in your IBS symptoms.
IBS is ideal for treatment with hypnosis, as there is no structural damage to the body. During hypnotherapy people learn how to influence and gain control of their gut function and then seem to be able to change the way the brain modulates their gut activity.Professor Whorwell, Gastroenterologist and IBS expert
How does gut-directed hypnotherapy help IBS?
Everyone’s IBS is different but it’s likely that you’re having to deal with a range of challenging symptoms. What everyone has in common is a self-perpetuating feedback loop, whereby an overly ‘shouty’ gut is triggering an overly ‘listening’ brain.
Gut-directed hypnotherapy puts you in a relaxed state of mind in which your brain is less jumpy. Instead of defaulting to its set reactions, firing off unhelpful commands to the gut at the first signs of trouble, it can start to create a new, more benign narrative around your symptoms. Over time, with regular repetition, this new narrative becomes dominant and your guts start to calm down.
Through the power of thought, you have literally rewired the neural circuitry that moderates gut activity.
The ability of the brain to do this, to dynamically ‘rewire’ itself when given the right prompts, is called neuroplasticity.
To find out more about neuroplasticity please click below.
Our thinking can be part of the problem and part of the solutionDr. Norman Doidge, Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst
Gut-directed hypnotherapy for IBS is supported by medical research
- Research shows that in 76% of cases, gut-directed hypnotherapy significantly reduces an individual’s IBS symptoms.
- It is effective at simultaneously reducing all IBS symptoms, including pain, bloating, constipation (IBS-C), diarrhoea (IBS-D), cramping, fatigue, back pain, anxiety and low mood.
- 83% of responders report that it produced lasting improvement for at least 5 years.
- It can also alleviate symptoms of other gut conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease symptoms (IBD), non-cardiac chest pain, functional dyspepsia, and IBS-related SIBO and IMO.
Links to more research on the treatment of IBS using hypnotherapy can be found at the bottom of this page.
Gut-directed hypnotherapy: my Retrain Your Gut™ Programme
I offer a supportive and personalised six-week gut-directed hypnotherapy programme to help you minimise your specific IBS symptoms and give you back control of your guts and your life. Available in Bristol (UK) in-person and online.
If you’d like to find out more about my Retrain Your Gut™ Programme, or book a free 30-min no-obligation Calm Your Gut consultation, please see:
Further Reading: Medical research into the treatment of IBS with hypnotherapy
The research papers below are a selection of the published research into the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) with gut-directed hypnotherapy.
Topics covered include studies that look into the effectiveness of gut-directed hypnotherapy in helping to reduce IBS symptoms, what symptoms are helped with hypnotherapy treatment, how long improvements in symptoms last, hypnotherapy and children, hypnotherapy given online over Skype, and IBS & SIBO.
Reduction of all IBS symptoms and improved quality of life scores after gut-directed hypnotherapy.
- 1984: Controlled trial of hypnotherapy in the treatment of severe intractable irritable bowel syndrome. Distention, pain, bowel irregularity and wellbeing scores all improved.
Positive impact on quality of life scores, work attendance and medical need after treatment with gut-directed hypnotherapy.
- 1996: Symptomatology, quality of life and economic features of irritable bowel syndrome — the effect of hypnotherapy. Compared patients on waiting list against after treatment. Pain, bloating, bowel problems all improved. Also, non colonic symptoms and majority of QUAL scores improved too. Also showed that people were able to go back to work, take less time be more effective at work. Also consult their GPs less about IBS and other conditions too.
- 2002: Hypnotherapy in irritable bowel syndrome: a large-scale audit of a clinical service with examination of factors influencing responsiveness showing effectiveness.
- 2002: Hypnotherapy and Refractory Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Positive impact of gut-directed hypnotherapy over the longer term
- 2003: Long term benefits of hypnotherapy for irritable bowel.
- 2013: Long-Term Success of GUT-Directed Group Hypnosis for Patients With Refractory Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial
- 2015: Hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome: an audit of one thousand adult patients. Background Gut‐focused hypnotherapy improves the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with benefits being sustained for many years.
Positive impact of gut-directed hypnotherapy over the longer term for treatment outside specialist centres.
- 2012: Abrahamsson Long-term effects of gut-directed hypnotherapy in patients with refractory irritable bowel syndrome in refractory IBS. Is an effective treatment option with long-lasting effects, also when given outside highly specialized hypnotherapy centers.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines
- 2017 Update, Section 22.214.171.124 Referral for psychological interventions (cognitive behavioural therapy [CBT], hypnotherapy and/or psychological therapy) should be considered for people with IBS who do not respond to pharmacological treatments after 12 months and who develop a continuing symptom profile (described as refractory IBS)
Gut-directed IBS treatment in children
- 2017 In children : HT is highly valuable in treating children with IBS or FAP(S), resulting in a significant decrease in pain scores and significant improvements in anxiety, depression, QoL, and pain beliefs.
Systematic Review into the Effectiveness of all Psychological Treatments for IBS in Gastroenterology Settings
- 2018: A Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of all Psychological Treatments for IBS in Gastroenterology Settings: Promising but in Need of Further Study
Online gut-directed hypnotherapy compared with face-to-face treatment
- 2019: Skype hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome: effectiveness and comparison with face-to-face treatment. Skype hypnotherapy appears to be a good alternative to face-to-face treatment in subjects when the availability of hypnotherapy locally is limited or under circumstances in which subjects find traveling difficult.
The link between IBS and SIBO
- 2020: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and Irritable Bowel Syndrome – An Update.