Hypnotherapy is one of the best known and most widely used treatments for IBS, and can offer sufferers a drug-free solution to their symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain and bloating.
There are now many hundreds of hypnotherapists who offer what is called "gut-directed hypnotherapy" for IBS, which takes the general techniques of hypnotherapy and applies them directly to the abdominal pain and digestive symptoms which IBS sufferers struggle with. This type of hypnotherapy has been clinically tested and found to be very helpful to many IBS patients.
One of the first studies of hypnotherapy for IBS was conducted by Dr Peter Whorwell, a leading expert on IBS and hypnotherapy in the UK. A trial he conducted in the 1980s found that a group of IBS sufferers who had failed to respond to other treatments showed dramatic improvements when treated with gut-directed hypnotherapy. Since then, other therapists have shown similar results.
What hypnotherapy involves
Hypnotherapy in a medical setting bears no relation to the kind of stage hypnosis where volunteers are made to do ridiculous things in the name of entertainment. In fact, patients remain entirely in control of their own actions, and are simply coaxed into a kind of deep relaxation state.
While the patients is in this state the therapist will talk to you and make positive suggestions - one typical method for IBS is to ask you to place your hand over your abdomen and imagine that a healing warmth is flowing from your hand to your stomach.
Some hypnotherapists will record each session for you so that you can listen to them again between your appointments, and therefore increase the effectiveness of the therapy.
If you don't have the time or the resources to visit a qualified hypnotherapist, you might find some relief in one of the self-hypnosis CDs available, which can be listened to in the comfort of your own home.
While you will not get an individual treatment program from a ready-made CD, you will be able to benefit from the general hypnosis approach, and you can choose to listen to the CDs whenever you have the time.
The IBS Audio Program, developed by the UK hypnotherapist Michael Mahoney, is the most widely used program for IBS sufferers, and is available on audio CD and cassette. The program is designed to be used over 100 days, and includes four CDs and a program booklet. The makers claim that around 80% of listeners experience a significant reduction of pain and bowel dysfunction.
The program consists of three therapeutic session CDs, with an introduction and five different hypnotherapy sessions. It also includes a bonus fourth CD (the IBS Companion), which explains IBS to non-sufferers.