Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder that involves abdominal pain and discomfort along with abnormal bowel habits of constipation, diarrhea, or an alternation between the two. Symptoms outside the digestive tract are also common in IBS. An estimated 15 to 20 percent of people are affected by IBS, though only a small proportion of them see a gastroenterologist for the condition. That said, half of all gastroenterologist outpatient visits are for IBS, and it is also one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions diagnosed by general practitioners. IBS is more common among women, with a female/male ratio of about 2:1.
IBS treatment is based on addressing individual symptoms, but because of the range of symptoms involved in IBS, pharmacological treatment is not always effective. Dietary changes and supplements can be very helpful for people with IBS. Certain psychological treatments have also been found to benefit IBS patients, including cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation therapy, stress management, and gut-directed hypnotherapy.
In a recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, gut-directed hypnotherapy was evaluated by utilizing hypnotherapy in the hospital and psychology private practice settings as opposed to specialized hypnotherapy centers in order to more closely reflect a widely available treatment option. The study found that gut-directed hypnotherapy, which is based on muscular and mental relaxation, and general hypnotic suggestions used to either focus on symptoms or distract from them, resulted in a significant reduction in IBS symptoms, especially sensory symptoms like pain and bloating.
When comparing the response rate to hypnotherapy against the response rate of other new IBS drugs on the market, the researchers stated, “hypnotherapy seems to be at least as effective and without any known side effects.”