A Swedish study says regular hypnotherapy treatments can help patients who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and whose symptoms are not improving.
IBS is a functional bowel disorder characterized by chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, diarrhea and constipation in the absence of any detectable organic cause.
Although the main cause of the disease remains unclear a number of treatments have found to be effective such as following special dietary guidelines, medications, and psychological treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), hypnosis and relaxation.
A new study by University of Gothenburg found that gut-directed hypnosis by local therapists can also help some people with IBS.
Two separate studies were conducted on 138 patients with IBS that had resisted standard therapy. Participants were randomly divided to two groups either undergoing a dozen hypnotherapy sessions or receiving only advice on diet and relaxation techniques.
During the first study which involved 90 patients, after 3 months 38 percent of the hypnotherapy group showed at least 25 percent reduction in their symptoms especially pain and bloating compared with 11 percent of the other group.
In the second study, of 48 patients, one-quarter of the hypnosis group experienced fewer symptoms compared with 13 percent of those who were on a wait-list for receiving hypnosis therapy. The difference, however, was not statistically significant, which means it could have been affected by chance.
Although the success rate of hypnotherapy was lower in these studies compared with previous investigations, the new findings showed that hypnosis could help IBS patients in real life and not just in sophisticated medical centers which are not available for many.
The other positive aspect of using hypnotherapy for IBS patients is that its effects seem to last longer. In the current pair of studies, benefits were still apparent one year later, researchers wrote in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
IBS-directed hypnotherapy is not widely available for many people and has therefore been partly used only for IBS patients who do not respond to standard care, lead author Dr. Magnus Simren told Reuters Health.
Experts suggest hypnotherapists to use gut-directed hypnosis for treating IBS patients which gives them a feeling of control over their digestive symptoms. Only a limited number of therapists, however, have the skill to do that.