If you're living with a chronic illness, you're in the right place.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gut Directed Hypnotherapy for IBS

10:06 AM Posted by Tiffany Taft , ,
Today is the last day of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month, which brings attention to a chronic condition that impacts up to 20% of the U.S. population.  I've spent a lot of time working with IBS patients and know from their stories how awful of a condition it can be.  Unfortunately there aren't many treatment options available, especially in terms of pharmacological interventions.  Many of the IBS medications are not much better than placebo in controlling symptoms, and some have even been pulled from the market due to safety concerns.  Thankfully emerging data on the effectiveness of other treatments are offering hope for those affected by IBS who have, to date, struggled with getting it under control.

I saw on Twitter today a new research study on the effectiveness of Gut Directed Hypnotherapy for IBS.  Gut directed what?

I'm not sure how this is relaxing.
Hypnotherapy, contrary to stage, TV, and movies, is a treatment that is widely used for a variety of maladies.  It gained considerable attention as a way to help people quit smoking, all without making people run around and bark like a dog or cluck like a chicken.

Hypnotherapy involves deep relaxation combined with a "post hypnotic suggestion" that targets the problem area - so with IBS, it targets pain, discomfort, and motility in your digestive system.  You are always in control of your experience.  I like to describe it to people as the state we all get into right before we fall asleep, where our mind is quiet and we're just about to drift off.  Hypnotherapy can be effective in treating chronic pain, nausea, insomnia, migraine, and even overeating that leads to obesity.  I've heard of dentists who use it with people in lieu of anesthesia (Yikes!).  But what about its role in treating IBS and other chronic digestive problems?

Dr. Olafur Palsson at the University of North Carolina is a pioneer in the development of the effective use of hypnotherapy to treat IBS.  While at Northwestern, I became certified in hypnotherapy and learned the "Palsson Protocol" and witnessed first-hand how powerful of a treatment this can be.  Caveat:  It doesn't work for everyone, but most people I've done hypnotherapy with have received some benefit.  Some have had complete remission of their symptoms, while others described them as more tolerable.  Not too long ago I received an email from a former client about how hypnotherapy had helped her GI symptoms immensely:

For two years prior to our meeting I suffered tremendously with symptoms of my Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. The effects of the disease on my digestive tract made me miserable. Difficulty with swallowing made it almost impossible to eat, drink, or sleep. The throat discomfort prevented me from speaking most of the time. Dr. X was my last hope in easing some of my misery. I am so grateful to the two of you! It took just three weeks to notice a vast improvement in my comfort level. And now, one year later, I continue to practice the therapy every day.

Hypnotherapy can help.  It's not for everyone, so finding a practitioner who is trained in using it specifically for IBS or other health issues is key.  There are a lot of people out there who claim to be hypnotherapists and the level of training (and quality/lack of weirdness) can vary considerably.

I aim not to have a heart attack mid session.
Dr. Palsson has a website that explains gut-directed hypnotherapy for IBS in more detail, with reviews of the research that has been done to date and a directory of medical professionals who are certified to use it.


Best,
Dr. T