Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: the research - part 1

It is IBS Awareness month so I thought it would be an apt time to write a couple blog posts on Irritable Bowel Syndrome and how hypnotherapy can help with it. In this first post I am going to talk about some of the research studies which have been conducted over the years showing the efficacy of hypnotherapy for IBS.

Here in the UK in Manchester, Peter Whorrell et al have been carrying out extensive research in to the efficacy of hypnotherapy in treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I have isolated this particular researcher as I feel that his research was a turning point in hypnosis gaining ground in the medical world in modern society and a step closer to it being actually recommended by GPs. The results of Whorrell’s studies enabled hypnotherapy to make it on to the NICE guidelines for treating IBS. The NICE guidelines are evidence based guidelines which all medical professionals must follow when treating patients. So for example, if a patient was to go see their GP about a digestive complaint and they were diagnosed with IBS, then the GP must follow the NICE guidelines as to what treatment to provide, refer or recommend to the patient. Often The Royal Society of Medicine opines that the NHS should make use of hypnotherapy more widely and it is my hope that it will start to features more on the NICE guidelines as a recommended therapy for various mental health issues and dealing with some physical conditions.

Below are just a handful of research studies that stood out for me and highlight how powerful our mind can be at helping with issues relating to our physiology as well as our mental health.

“Symptoms Improved Significantly for Nine in Ten”
Dr Roland Valori, editor of Frontline Gastroenterology and a Gastroenterologist at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, referred some of his patients for hypnotherapy. He said of the first one hundred of his patients treated with hypnotherapy, symptoms improved significantly for nine in ten. Dr Valori studied the first one hundred cases he referred for hypnotherapy and found that the symptoms stopped completely in four in ten cases with typical Irritable Bowel Syndrome. He says in a further five in ten cases patients reported feeling more in control of their symptoms and were therefore much less troubled by them.

“Hypnotherapy Alleviated Symptoms in 40% of Those Affected by IBS”
A recent Swedish paper, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, outlined 138 patients with IBS who received hypnotherapy treatment for one hour a week over twelve weeks. The research showed that hypnotherapy alleviated symptoms in forty per cent of those affected by the digestive condition. One of the researchers, Magnus Simrén, said "The treatment involves the patient learning to control their symptoms through deep relaxation and individually adapted hypnotic suggestions. The idea is for the patient to then use this technique in their everyday life."

“85% of Those Who Had Hypnosis Still Felt Benefits up to Seven Years Later”
Another Swedish paper, published in Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, examined two hundred and eight patients who had previously received hypnotherapy. The research showed that 85 per cent of those who had been helped by hypnosis still felt the benefits of the treatment up to seven years later and that the majority still actively use the self-hypnosis techniques learnt in their everyday lives. The group also showed that the use of the healthcare system as a result of stomach and bowel symptoms had also reduced by seventy percent. The study concluded “gut-directed hypnotherapy in refractory IBS is an effective treatment option with long-lasting effects”.

“Hypnotherapy is Effective in Improving Both Symptoms and Quality of Life”
Impaired quality of life and psychological distress are common in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and may be associated with unhelpful thinking patterns. Hypnotherapy is effective in improving both symptoms and quality of life in patients with IBS, and this study was designed to determine whether this improvement is reflected in cognitive changes. Seventy eight IBS sufferers were assessed in this study. before and after having twelve sessions of hypnotherapy, they completed various questionnaires to assess their levels of anxiety, depression and other cognitive dysfunction. Hypnotherapy resulted in improvement of symptoms, quality of life and a reduction in anxiety and depression. IBS-related thinking also improved, so less negative thoughts about bowel function, symptoms, needing to use/find a bathroom etc.

This is just a few of the more recent research papers published but there are many more which provide further evidence for the efficacy of hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

As a member of the Professional Hypnotherapy Network (PHN), I have access to the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. In this peer reviewed journal, a paper was published on the Manchester Approach (the work of Dr Whorell et al) to treating irritable bowel syndrome with hypnotherapy. I have been following a protocol very similar to this with my IBS clients and they have found it very useful. I have purposely not detailed that research in this post but will talk more about the approach used within the study in more detail in a future post.

If you are suffering with IBS and would like to find out more about how Hypnotherapy can help you, please do get in touch. For more information, visit my Hypnotherapy for IBS page.

Related posts:
Hypnotherapy Provide Support for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Sufferers

- Lindfors, P., Unge, P., Arvidsson, P., Nyhlin, H., Björnsson, E., Abrahamsson, H., Simrén, M. (2012) Effects of Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy on IBS in Different Clinical Settings—Results From Two Randomized, Controlled Trials. The American Journal of Gastroenterology 107, 276–285
- Lindfors, P., Unge, P., Nyhlin, H., Ljótsson, B., Björnsson, E.S., Abrahamsson, H., Simrén, M. (2012) Long-term effects of hypnotherapy in patients with refractory irritable bowel syndrome. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 47(4):414-20]

Valori’s information came about as a result of an interview and as such I have not been able to find a paper that details the study he carried out. However, one paper he published does looking at the interactions between brain and gut and how it helps us to understand how hypnosis helps alleviate bowel symptoms. I include the reference to that paper below:
- Valori, R. (1992) Small intestinal motility. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology vol 8, issue 2