Hypnotherapy sessions offer new treatment option for irritable bowel syndrome
Gut-directed hypnotherapy delivered by psychologists could be a new treatment option for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Hypnotherapy might help relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) complaints for some patients for as long as 9 months. A randomised controlled trial of 354 adults with IBS in primary and secondary care came to this conclusion. The findings have been published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology journal.
“It is also promising to see that group hypnotherapy is as effective as individual sessions, which may mean that more people could be treated with it at lower cost”
Any unexplained bowel movement without any damage to the gut is categorised as IBS. It is commonly associated with symptoms such as diarrhoea or constipation.
After 3 months of treatment, adequate relief of IBS symptoms was reported by more patients who received individual (40%; 41/102 for whom data were available) and group hypnotherapy (33%; 31/91) than those given education and supportive care (17%; 6/35). These benefits persisted at 9 months follow-up (42% [38/91], 50% [40/80], and 22% [7/31]).
Importantly, the findings suggest that group hypnotherapy is as effective as individual sessions, which could enable many more patients with IBS to be treated at reduced cost.
The study is the largest randomised trial of hypnotherapy for IBS to date, and one of the first conducted in primary care, where the vast majority of IBS patients are treated.
The study found that IBS patients undergoing hypnotherapy reported a greater overall improvement in their condition. They were more able to cope with, and were less troubled by, their symptoms compared with those who received educational supportive therapy. However, hypnotherapy did not appear to reduce the severity of symptoms.
While the findings are promising, the authors conclude that more research will be needed to test the optimum number of hypnotherapy sessions, the effect that patient expectations may have on treatment outcome, and the extent to which hypnotherapy outcomes are influenced by the magnitude of the psychological complaints of the patient.
“Our study indicates that hypnotherapy could be considered as a treatment option for patients with IBS, irrespective of symptom severity and IBS subtype,” says Dr Carla Flik from the University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands, who led the research. “It is also promising to see that group hypnotherapy is as effective as individual sessions, which may mean that more people could be treated with it at lower cost, should it be confirmed in further studies.”