By Lara Evans Bracciante
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, April/May 2004.
Hypnotherapy can relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for at least five years, according to findings published in the November issue of Gut. While several studies in recent years have proven hypnotherapy provides short-term relief from IBS, which affects nearly 12 percent of the U.S. population, the new study proves long-term benefits — great news for those who experience the diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, lethargy, and bloating associated with the condition.
More than 200 IBS patients received 12 weekly, one-hour hypnotherapy
sessions that included individualized ego-strengthening suggestions and image-based suggestions to induce warmth in the abdomen. Subjects were also given an audiotape for home practice. Immediately after the 12-week treatment and up to six years later, patients completed a questionnaire to measure symptoms, including quality of life issues such as anxiety and depression. Researchers concluded that 71 percent of patients enjoyed significant benefits from hypnotherapy and 81 percent of those maintained improvement during the 5- to 6-year time span. The remaining 19 percent of those who originally benefited from the treatment reported that symptoms only got slightly worse.
The study is especially relevant as conventional medicine has had great difficulty in relieving IBS symptoms, and currently less than 10 percent of patients are offered or educated about psychological treatments.