Irritable bowel syndrome
(Irritable bowel syndrome, IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that is manifested by a variety of digestive complaints such as pain, flatulence, diarrhea or constipation. Around 11% of the population worldwide suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, with women being affected more often than men (1,2). The usual treatment methods consist of changing your diet or taking probiotics. The most effective diet for treating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome is the LOW-FODMAP diet (3). Hypnotherapy (abdominal hypnosis or intestinal hypnosis) now offers another even more effective method - and this has even been scientifically proven (4).
Diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome – the cause is often unknown
The exact causes of irritable bowel syndrome are not fully understood. Depending on which symptoms are in the foreground, irritable bowel syndrome is divided into four types: the diarrhea type, the constipation type, the pain type and the bloating type. In addition to these four main types, mixed types also occur. Possible causes include food intolerances, but an imbalance in the intestinal microbiome (dysbiosis) can contribute to irritable bowel syndrome. If the natural balance of bacteria in the intestine is out of balance, this can affect intestinal function. Irritable bowel syndrome is often triggered or made worse by stress or psychological problems (5). No wonder, because our intestines are in direct communication with our brain.
Science has long discovered that our brain communicates with our gut via the gut-brain axis - and vice versa. One of the main pathways for this communication is a nerve that runs the length of our body and connects our body organs (including our intestines) directly to our brain. This is called vagus nerve and acts as a highway through which the brain sends signals to the intestine and the intestine sends signals to the brain. So it can happen that when we feel stressed or anxious, it really hits us in the gut. Especially in irritable bowel syndrome, even minimal psychological stimuli often trigger strong intestinal activity. (6) And this is where hypnosis comes into play.
Hypnosis is a method that people use to put themselves or others into a relaxed state of consciousness
Hypnosis, what is it anyway?
Hypnosis is a method that people use to put themselves or others into a relaxed state of consciousness. The so-called hypnotherapy has proven itself in the treatment of a wide range of complaints. In psychology, hypnotherapy is used to treat anxiety, depression, compulsions and eating disorders. Addictions (e.g. smoking) and chronic pain can also be treated well with it. (7.8)
What is intestinal hypnosis? (well directed hypnosis)
Intestinal hypnosis is now recommended in national and international guidelines for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. It is the only causal therapy that targets the gut-brain axis directly and corrects faulty connections there. In contrast to other measures, intestinal hypnosis also takes into account the causes and not just the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
How does intestinal hypnosis work?
Intestinal hypnosis can either be carried out together with a therapist or as an alternative to self-administration with a suitable audio program. Studies have shown that both therapist-assisted and self-application of intestinal hypnosis lead to similarly positive results in irritable bowel syndrome patients (11).
The effectiveness of abdominal hypnosis for irritable bowel syndrome
The use of specific abdominal hypnosis to treat irritable bowel syndrome was first developed in the 1980s. It has already been suspected that there are psychosomatic causes behind irritable bowel symptoms. The gastroenterologist Prof. Peter Whorwell treated patients with hypnotherapy.
During 12 sessions, the hypnosis patients were suggested that their gastrointestinal tract was functioning calmly and rhythmically and that they were taking control of their digestion. This not only positively influenced and calmed the pain hypersensitivity of the gastrointestinal tract, but also the intestinal movements. To the scientists' surprise, hypnotherapy was able to significantly improve abdominal pain, flatulence and general well-being in around two thirds of the patients. Studies have shown that this positive effect of hypnotherapy lasts for months (12).
There are now studies that come to similar, positive results, which, among other things, has led to hypnosis being recommended for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. (9,10)
70 percent respond positively to treatment with hypnotherapy
The effectiveness of hypnotherapy was also confirmed by a study by the Medical University of Vienna, which was published in the specialist magazine “International Journal of Molecular Sciences”. According to the study, up to 1,000 people responded to the psychosomatic holistic treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with hypnosis 70 percent of those treated positive at. This percentage was significantly lower with purely symptomatic or probiotic nutritional therapies. (4)
Abdominal hypnosis – relaxation for the gut-brain axis
The intestines and nervous system are in constant communication via the so-called gut-brain axis
Nerve signals are constantly sent between the intestine and the brain, which, among other things, signal to us when we are hungry or when we have eaten too much - to name just two of countless connections. On the other hand, our mental well-being also has a direct connection to digestion: sudden fear can trigger an urge to defecate and stress can lead to nausea. Particularly in the case of irritable bowel syndrome, even minimal psychological stimuli often trigger strong intestinal activity.
Abdominal hypnosis is now considered a recognized medical relaxation technique that has proven its effectiveness in various scientific studies. Of course, hypnosis is not a panacea, but it is a side-effect-free way to relieve the symptoms of digestive problems.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical information or instructions. The recipes are intended for inspiration and are not intended as therapeutic measures. If you have any health problems, we recommend that you contact a doctor or other expert immediately.
- Endo Y, Shoji T, Fukudo S. Epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Ann. Gastroenterol. 2015;28:158–159
- Kim YS, Kim N. Sex-Gender Differences in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2018;24(4):544-558. doi:10.5056/jnm18082
- Martin Storr: The nutritional guide to the FODMAP diet. The slightly different diet for irritable bowel syndrome, wheat intolerance and other digestive disorders. Zuck Schwertt Publishing House
- Peter J, Fournier C, Keip B, Rittershaus N, Stephanou-Rieser N, Durdevic M, Dejaco C, Michalski M, Moser G. Intestinal Microbiome in Irritable Bowel Syndrome before and after Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Nov 16;19(11):3619. doi: 10.3390/ijms19113619. PMID: 30453528; PMCID: PMC6274728.
- Ohman L, Simrén M. Pathogenesis of IBS: role of inflammation, immunity and neuroimmune interactions. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010;7(3):163-73.
- Breit, S., Kupferberg, A., Rogler, G. & Hasler, G. .Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders. Front. Psychiatry 9, 44–44 (2018).
- Kossak, Hans-Christian: Hypnosis: Textbook for psychotherapists and doctors. With online materials, 3rd edition, Beltz Verlag, 2013
- Revenstorf, D. & Burkhard, P.: Hypnosis in psychosomatics and medicine: Manual for practice, 3rd edition, Springer Verlag, 2015
- Shahbazi K, Solati K, Hasanpour-Dehkordi A., Comparison of Hypnotherapy and Standard Medical Treatment Alone on Quality of Life in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized Control Trial., J Clin Diagn Res. 2016 May;10(5): OC01-4. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2016/17631.7713
- Miller V, Carruthers HR, Morris J, Hasan SS, Archbold S, Whorwell PJ, Hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome: an audit of one thousand adult patients, Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2015 May;41(9):844-55
- Rutten JMTM, Vlieger AM, Frankenhuis C, George EK, Groeneweg M, Norbruis OF, Tjon A Ten W, van Wering HM, Dijkgraaf MGW, Merkus MP, Benninga MA, Home-Based Hypnotherapy Self-exercises vs Individual Hypnotherapy With a Therapist for Treatment of Pediatric Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Functional Abdominal Pain, or Functional Abdominal Pain Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial, JAMA Pediatr. 2017 May 1;171(5):470-477
- Moser G, Trägner S, Gajowniczek EE, Mikulits A, Michalski M, Kazemi-Shirazi L, Kulnigg-Dabsch S, Führer M, Ponocny-Seliger E, Dejaco C, Miehsler W., Long-term success of GUT-directed group hypnosis for patients with refractory irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial, Am J Gastroenterol. 2013 Apr;108(4):602-9,