Research indicates that it's miscommunication between the brain and the gut which contributes to hypersensitivity and the chronic symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Behavioral approaches to IBS, such as hypnotherapy, target brain-gut communication and teaches your mind to control your gut.

Although there are many misconceptions about hypnosis and plenty of skepticism, the truth is that research has proven its effectiveness when it comes to treating IBS. IBS is deeply impacted by the effects of stress, and hypnotherapy can help you learn how to manage stress effectively.

A hypnotic state involves a deep level of relaxation, where you focus your mental attention and use guided imagery and suggestions to specifically target the symptoms of IBS, including gut sensitivity and stress sensitivity.

To get the most out of your sessions, hypnosis techniques may be used in your hypnotherapy sessions and once you learn these techniques, you may use them on your own to alleviate IBS symptoms.

After undergoing hypnotherapy treatment, you may still have intermittent symptoms, but you may find they are less severe, or controllable using self-hypnosis techniques. IBS flare ups may also be less frequent.

Hypnosis and IBS

Many research studies have shown the efficacy of hypnotherapy for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In a study by Galovski and Blanchard, hypnosis treatment significantly improved the individual symptoms of abdominal pain, constipation, and flatulence among IBS sufferers. Anxiety scores were also seen to decrease significantly.

In a study by Gonsalkorale, 71% of patients suffering from IBS considered their symptoms very much or moderately better after receiving 12 weekly 1-hour hypnosis sessions. In a second research project by Gonsalkorale, patients saw improvements in bowel and extracolonic symptoms, quality of life, anxiety and depression after 12 sessions of hypnotherapy over a 3-month period. In addition, these patients practiced self-hypnosis techniques in between sessions.

In these research studies, quality of life was defined through the following five areas:

  • Psychic well being (coping with problems, confidence, usefulness, security)

  • Physical well being (sleep, energy levels, aches and pains, feeling physically well)

  • Mood (irritability, worrying, hopefulness, enjoyment of life)

  • Locus of control (feeling in control of life, helplessness, ability to make decision)

  • Social/relationship (relationships with family/partner, ability to maintain friendships, inferiority, feeling wanted, enjoyment of leisure).

Video: Hypnosis Treatment for IBS

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Peter Whorwell, MD, Professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology at the University of Manchester, UK, describes the usefulness of hypnosis in treating IBS.

Video: Medical Hypnosis to Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Sarah Kinsinger, PhD., Gastroenterology Psychologist at Loyola Medicine discusses how she offers hypnosis as part of her digestive health program.


Galovski, T.E. & Blanchard, E.B. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback (1998) 23: 219.

Gonsalkorale WM, Miller V, Afzal A, Whorwell PJ. Long term benefits of hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome. Gut. 2003;52(11):1623-9.