Irritable Bowel Syndrome and hypnotism.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Professional Data: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)


Also known as "IBS," irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders seen in physicians' offices. IBS is not a life-threatening condition. There is no overt disease or structural defect, in fact, the intestinal tract appears normal for the most part in people with IBS, making the diagnosis harder to pin down. Typical symptoms include distension of the abdomen, pain relieved by bowel movements, constipation alternating with diarrhea, mucous in the stools, and a feeling of incomplete bowel movements. These problems may be constant or they may come and go. People are generally not diagnosed as having IBS before these complaints have persisted for at least three months.

Mental and emotional health seems to play an important role in IBS. While there is no proof that chronic emotional stress is the cause, IBS sufferers often experience flare-ups when angry and upset, especially at mealtime. It is estimated that less than half of people with IBS actually seek medical attention for it, but those that do are often diagnosed with some sort of psychiatric disorder. What's more, when psychosocial issues are addressed and dealt with, the symptoms often improve.1 Psychosocial factors do not cause IBS, but they do have a major influence. Diagnosing IBS is largely a matter of ruling out more serious conditions. IBS generally does not cause any abnormalities that a doctor can spot during a physical exam, and routine laboratory tests are typically normal.

Recently published in the journal Gut, 204 IBS sufferers engaged in hypnotherapy for up to six years. These patients completed questionnaires regarding stress, depression, and symptoms before and at the end of this hypnotherapy treatment. Out of the 204 subjects 71% responded to the therapy. Of these 81% continued with improvement of symptoms, although 19% stated that they experienced a small decrease in improvement. In addition, these patients also reported a decrease in medical visits and medication use. The authors of this study concluded that, “the beneficial effects of hypnotherapy appear to last at least five years. Thus it is a viable therapeutic option for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome."2


1. Gaynes BN, Drossman DA. The role of psychosocial factors in irritable bowel syndrome. Baillieres Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 1999;13(3):437-52.
2. Gonsalkorale WM, et al. Long term benefits of hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome. Gut. Nov 2003;52:1623-29.