Hypnosis has been tested as therapy for irritable bowel syndrome in eighteen studies published to date in the scientifically literature, including eight randomized controlled trials. Generally the studies have found this form of therapy to have substantial therapeutic effects on IBS. Hypnotherapy with specific therapeutic suggestions and imagery to soothe bowel symptoms was first demonstrated to be effective for IBS by Dr. Peter Whorwell in Manchester, England in a randomized placebo-controlled study he published with a couple of colleagues in The Lancet in 1984. Since then, Dr. Whorwell and his team have published several additional studies that have further demonstrated that hypnosis intervention can help the majority of patients who have not responded to regular medical care, with marked improvement seen in all the bowel symptom that in most cases lasts for years after the end of treatment. Dr. Whorwell established and directs a hypnotherapy unit associated with the gastroenterology clinic where he works in Manchester, specifically in order to offer hypnotherapy as a treatment option for treatment-refractory patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders. This unit has now been in operation for a couple of decades, and currently has six therapists dedicated to delivering gut-directed hypnosis.
Yesterday, May 19, the Manchester team presented data at Digestive Disease Week 2012 from 1000 IBS patients who completed hypnosis treatment in their unit. This is the largest case series ever presented for this form of treatment for IBS, and showcases what can be accomplished when this intervention is routinely offered to patients who have not improved from more conventional gastroenterology treatment approaches.
The patients in this large series ranged in age from 17 to 91 years (the mean age was 51.6 years) and almost all of them had moderate or severe IBS at the time of treatment. They generally received a 12-session course of treatment. Seventy-six percent of the patients showed clinically significant improvement in their overall bowel symptoms from to the treatment, and on average psychological symptoms of anxiety and depression, the amount of non-gastrointestinal body symptoms and the impact of illness on the patients lives were reduced as well. This report is a further illustration of the reliable benefit that can be obtained with gut-directed hypnosis for IBS. The results are quite impressive considering how severe the symptoms of these patients were and the fact that these were individuals who had generally failed to respond to regular gastrointestinal interventions.
Poster Presentation: “Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: an Audit of 1000 Patients”. Vivien Miller, Syed S. Hasan, Sharon Archbold, Helen R. Carruthers, Julie Morris, Peter J. Whorwell. Department of Medicine, University Hospital of South Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom. Presented May 19, 2012 at Digestive Disease Week, San Diego