Hypnotherapy for IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, known as IBS, affects up to 1 in 5 people in the UK over the course of their lifetime. If you have been diagnosed with IBS, you may have been given certain dietary advice, perhaps been put on certain medication or maybe been told that “talking therapies” can help with the symptoms.

IBS can be debilitating, preventing you from achieving simple tasks such as going shopping or enjoying long walks. It may also be causing you serious discomfort on a regular basis.

But imagine what it would be like to be completely free of IBS. Hypnotherapy can help you break the cycle of pain and anxiety related to IBS, and has done so for thousands of people.

Research pioneered by Professor Whorwell, a gastroenterologist at Wymthenshawe Hospital, shows that hypnotherapy can make significant contribution to the treatment of IBS. Whorwell began investigating the application of hypnotherapy for management of IBS in the 1980s and his research shows that over 60% of IBS sufferers who undertake hypnotherapy see long term improvement, or complete disappearance of symptoms, often with no recurrence.

Hypnotherapy is now acknowledged within the wider medical profession as an evidenced-based therapy that can help reduce the symptoms of IBS, and sometimes alleviate those symptoms entirely. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) also lists hypnotherapy as one of the treatments to help with IBS.

We know that IBS can be exacerbated by anxiety or stress, and that the subsequent worry about the IBS can perpetuate the effects. Hypnotherapy can get to the root of the problem, giving you the tools to manage any stress that may be making the IBS worse, and by using positive suggestion increase your confidence in your well-being to reduce sensitivity in your gut.

What are the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Symptoms vary between individuals, but the following are common symptoms of IBS:

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Abdominal contractions, spasms or cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Excess wind
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion

IBS sufferers may experience a combination of some of these symptoms, with one symptom in particular occurring more regularly or with greater severity.

Symptoms vary from mild, where they do not really affect someone’s quality of life, to serious, prompting the sufferer to seek medical help.

Because IBS is such a loose collection of symptoms, there is no one definitive cure. However, there are a number of self-help treatments that can alleviate symptoms, such as a controlled diet and therapies such as hypnosis.

How do I choose a Hypnotherapist?

You can find a NCH registered hypnotherapist in our Hypnotherapy Directory. Look for a practitioner who lists IBS as one of their treatments, or alternatively telephone a few hypnotherapists and ask them questions about it.

Some hypnotherapists will offer a free first consultation, so do take advantage of this; it is important you find a hypnotherapist with whom you feel comfortable.

How long will treatment last?

Evidence shows that 6 hours of treatment over 6 one-hour or 12 half-hour sessions works well, with the opportunity to top these up in the longer term. Sometimes, hypnotherapy can work in a few sessions, or just one. Your hypnotherapist will monitor your progress on a session by session basis and make recommendations from there.

What will I expect?

Each therapist may take a different approach, but treatment for IBS will generally include:

  • Setting goals, visualising how you want to feel when you are free of IBS. You may have some specific goals, or a range of things you wish to achieve once you have the freedom to do what you want to do.
  • Processing any worries or fears that may be contributing to the IBS
  • Self-hypnosis tools (using “awake” hypnosis)
  • Visualisation and suggestions to decrease gut sensitivity and to increase confidence in your well being.

Some therapists will give you a CD to listen to between sessions to keep your progress at a comfortable, even pace.

What should I tell my Doctor?

Your hypnotherapist will need a detailed history of your condition and ask if you have been to a Doctor and had tests to rule out any other issues. Once your hypnotherapist is confident your Doctor has diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome, they may write to your doctor, with your consent, to let them know you are undergoing hypnotherapy. This gives your Doctor the opportunity to ask questions.

Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome is available on the NHS and through some surgeries, so it is worth telling your doctor that you are interested in pursuing this treatment.