Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition estimated to affect between 10 – 20% of the population in the UK in which people get repeated episodes of stomach pain and discomfort, along with bowel problems such as diarrhoea and constipation. The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) says IBS can be debilitating, preventing people from achieving simple tasks such as going shopping or enjoying long walks. It may also cause serious discomfort on a regular basis.
Some people get relief from lifestyle and diet changes or medicines, including peppermint oil and antispasmodic medication, but these treatments don’t help everyone.
In Australia, pioneering researchers at Monash University developed a low FODMAP (different types of short-chain fibres which don’t digest well in the gut) diet which has consistently been proven in trials to be very helpful in reducing the symptoms of IBS.
UK guidelines say people should be offered IBS-focused hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or psychological therapy if changes in diet and medications don’t work after 12 months. But just how effective is hypnotherapy for treating IBS?
In 2016, the researchers at Monash University also published the first randomised controlled trial which suggested that gut-directed hypnotherapy is as effective as treatment by low FODMAP dietary interventions. The effectiveness of hypnotherapy for IBS was also found in research carried out in the Netherlands and published last year that found “3 months of treatment with hypnotherapy was more effective than an educational control intervention”.
Gut-focused hypnosis uses suggestion, relaxation and imagery techniques to address the ‘miscommunication’ between the brain and gut. During sessions the client is guided into a focused state of awareness where they can learn skills which help calm and soothe their symptoms.
As IBS is a medical condition it is important to consult your doctor for a diagnosis. Unlike many medical conditions that have specific tests in order to confirm a diagnosis, IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion which can be considered 6 months after symptoms first begin.
A growing number of NHS clinics now offer hypnotherapy for IBS and your GP can provide you with a referral or you can you can find a NCH-registered hypnotherapist near you by clicking here.