November 26, 2018
2 min read

Hypnotherapy viable option for relieving IBS symptoms

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Hypnotherapy in both individual and group sessions helped patients with irritable bowel syndrome achieve symptoms relief, according to research published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

Regardless of the severity of their symptoms or their subtype, patients with IBS should consider hypnotherapy treatment, Carla E. Flik, PhD, of the Julius Centre for Health Sciences and Primary Care and University Medical Center in Utrecht, the Netherlands, said in a press release.

“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,” she said in the release. “What's striking about these findings is the extent to which patient's perception of their illness has an effect on their suffering, and that their perception of symptoms appears to be as important as actual symptom severity.”

Researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial in 11 hospitals in the Netherlands. They enrolled patients with IBS aged 18 to 65 years who were referred from primary and secondary care, and randomly assigned them to undergo six sessions of individual hypnotherapy (n = 142), group hypnotherapy (n = 146) or group educational supportive therapy as a control group (n = 54). Patients completed assessments on their level of symptom severity and other factors following treatment at 3 months and again 9 months later.

After 3 months, investigators found that 40.8% of patients in the individual treatment cohort (95% CI, 31.7-50.5), 33.2% in the group hypnotherapy cohort (95% CI, 24.3-43.5) and 16.7% in the control cohort (95% CI, 7.6-32.6) achieved the study’s primary endpoint of adequate relief of IBS symptoms. Additionally, they found the benefits persisted at 12 months with 40.8% (95% CI, 31.3-51.1), 49.5% (95% CI, 38.8-60) and 22.6% (95% CI, 11.5-39.5) of patients in each group achieving adequate response, respectively.

Researchers found that hypnotherapy could be a viable option for patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
Source: Adobe Stock

“We do not know exactly how gut-directed hypnotherapy works, but it may change patients’ mindset and internal coping mechanisms, enabling them to increase their control over autonomic body processes, such as how they process pain and modulate gut activity,” Flik said in the release.

However, Olafur S. Palsson, PsyD, of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, was a bit more doubtful about whether hypnotherapy would be beneficial for patient with IBS, at least in primary or secondary care.

In an accompanying editorial, he wrote the study failed to achieve any of its secondary outcomes and the responder rate was around the lower range compared with other studies of hypnotherapy in IBS.

“Despite this impressive investigative effort by Flik and colleagues, it remains unclear whether gut-directed hypnotherapy is well-suited for the treatment of patients with IBS in primary and secondary care, and future trials are needed to provide definitive answers,” he wrote. – by Alex Young

Disclosures: Flik reports no relevant financial disclosures. The other authors report no relevant financial disclosures. Palsson reports that he is a scientific board member and stockholder of MetaMe Health.