Hypnotherapy effective for Irritable Bowel Syndrome


New research from Edinburgh University's School of Health (Nursing Studies) adds to the growing body of evidence showing the value of
hypnotherapy in treating IBS.

Significant improvements in both physical and emotional symptoms were reported by the 20 male and 55 female patients who took part in the study and who were described as being typical of people seen routinely in gastroenterology clinics, where up to 50% of referrals are for IBS.

Participants had between five and seven half-hour treatment sessions over three months, which focussed on the use of visualisation and relaxation techniques. Self-hypnosis was taught at an early stage and patients were given audio tapes for home use to reinforce the effects of the hypnotherapy sessions.

Diaries were kept by the participants during the study and detailed questionnaires were completed before and after treatment. Analysis of these showed a reduction in abdominal pain and bloating and a significant improvement in overall physical health and energy levels as well as in several aspects of emotional health. (Journal of Clinical Nursing 2006; 15: 678-684)

Another recent study showed a 70% success rate in 250 patients who had suffered from IBS for over two years and who were given 12 one-hour sessions of hypnotherapy. This was conducted by Peter Whorwell, Professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology at Manchester University's Medical School and Director of the South Manchester Functional Bowel Service, who has been researching the use of gut-directed hypnosis for over 20 years.

Professor Whorwell says that hypnotherapy is an ideal treatment for IBS because there is no structural damage to the body, and the approach has been found to help all symptoms, unlike some drugs. In spite of being labour-intensive, hypnotherapy is actually less expensive than some of the drugs which are now coming on to the market.

Peter Whorwell has founded a dedicated unit at Wythenshaw Hospital in Manchester which treats patients from all over the UK, as the treatment can only be carried out by a practitioner trained in gut-directed hypnotherapy, and as this is not yet widely available on the NHS.

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