Any research on efficacy of guided imagery for managing Crohns Diseease?  My 20 year old daughter is recently diagnosed and I want to find resources for her.
Thank you.


Dear Paul,

There’s nothing definitive - I can only find small pilot studies - but I can certainly point to some promising results from them.  One study out of the University of Manchester yielded excellent results with 15 patients suffering from severe inflammatory bowel disease, who were on corticosteroids but were not responding to their medication.  These patients were given “gut-focused hypnotherapy” (guided imagery) and were followed for an average of 5.4 years.

Two of the patients (13.4%) failed to respond and required surgery. But at follow-up for the remaining 13 patients, 4 (26.6%) were in complete remission, 8 (53.3%) had mild severity, and 1 (6.7%) was moderately severe. Quality of life became good or excellent in 12 (79.9%). Corticosteroid requirements dramatically declined with 60% of patients stopping them completely and not requiring any during follow-up. 

So that’s pretty promising.  The study concludes that this seems to be a promising adjunctive treatment and has steroid-sparing effects. The citation, if you want to read more, is:  Miller V, Whorwell PJ. Treatment of inflammatory bowel disease: a role for hypnotherapy? International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2008 Jul; 56 (3): pages 306-17.

In a similar ballpark, there’s a small study out of the Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry, London that also shows impressive results from “gut based hypnotherapy” on inflammation and mucus output (systemic and mucosal inflammatory response) in 17 patients with ulcerative colitis.  That citation is: Mawdsley JE, Jenkins DG, Macey MG, Langmead L, Rampton DS. The effect of hypnosis on systemic and rectal mucosal measures of inflammation in ulcerative colitis. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2008 Jun;103(6):pages 1460-9. Epub 2008 May 28.

I think this is promising enough for you to encourage your daughter to go ahead and use guided imagery or gut-specific hypnotherapy to help deal with her condition. (We have a gut-directed program that garners some good feedback, called Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Inflammatory Bowel Disease; and I’m sure there is a lot more out there that I haven’t discovered yet.)