Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy and its Role in IBS Management

Gut-directed hypnotherapy is a form of hypnosis that aims to calm the digestive tract and take the focus away from the body (and symptoms) to relax the mind. This practice targets the miscommunication between the gut and brain that we see with IBS, and is used by trained therapists for IBS treatment.

Gut-directed hypnotherapy is relatively new, in terms of a go-to recommendation for IBS treatment, but research is promising. Studies show that this therapy is effective for IBS and can be effective for children. That’s huge, because a low FODMAP diet and other dietary interventions can be much more difficult for children living with IBS.

So, how does this work? Gut-directed hypnotherapy starts with relaxation, then uses guided visualization exercises designed to calm the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This practice is different than meditation, because it has been standardized and tested to specifically target the gut. It is most effective for the symptom of pain and may be beneficial for anxiety-induced spasms. Studies show that the benefits could last a year and is thought to be as effective as the low FODMAP diet, with 53-94% of patients responding to treatment.

Gut directed hypnotherapy may be a great option for some, but may also not be ideal for all. While it sounds like a “quick fix,” the therapy sessions happen over many weeks, depending on the provider of choice. Most I have seen work over 7 sessions. I would recommend this approach for those with an eating disorder history and those who are not able to fully work through the low FODMAP diet. This could also be a great option for those that know their symptoms are more triggered by stress and anxiety.

Like every approach to IBS management and treatment, there’s no guarantee that one specific approach is going to work for your mind and body. If this is something you are interested in learning more about or trying, click here for a list of providers near you!