A number of newly archived studies show strong support for including hypnosis/imagery as an important and useful element in standard treatment for irritable bowel syndrome..

Researchers at Washington State in Pullman, Washington, conducted a modest, clinical pilot study in order to provide preliminary data on the effects of hypnosis on irritable bowel syndrome sufferers. Eight patients who were unresponsive to other forms of treatment were assigned to either individually tailored hypnosis or a generic form of hypnosis.

The study found that all 8 subjects showed favorable responses to treatment, immediately post treatment and at 10-month follow-up.

Citation: Barabasz A, Barabasz M. Effects of tailored and manualized hypnotic inductions for complicated irritable bowel syndrome patients. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2006 Jan; 54 (1): pages 100-12. [email protected] .

Researchers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill created a 3-month home-treatment version of a scripted hypnosis protocol previously shown to improve all central IBS symptoms (in an attempt to reduce cost and increase availability).

The trial was completed by 19 IBS patients. Outcomes were compared to those of 57 matched IBS patients from a separate study receiving only standard medical care. Ten of the hypnosis subjects (53%) responded to treatment by 3-month follow-up (response defined as more than 50% reduction in IBS severity) vs. 15 (26%) of controls.

Hypnosis subjects improved more in quality of life scores compared to controls. Anxiety predicted a poor treatment response. Hypnosis responders remained improved at 6-month follow-up. Although the response rate was lower than previously observed in therapist-delivered treatment, the researchers conclude hypnosis home treatment may double the proportion of IBS patients improving significantly across 6 months.

Citation: Palsson OS, Turner MJ, Whitehead WE. Hypnosis home treatment for irritable bowel syndrome: a pilot study. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2006 Jan; 54 (1): pages 85-99. [email protected]

Researchers from the Dept of Internal Medicine at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Goteborg, Sweden reviewed recent studies in order to shed light on the mechanisms of action that make hypnosis such an effective treatment for IBS. They conclude that hypnosis may affect IBS partly through changes in colorectal sensitivity and improvement in psychological factors. The effects on GI motility and the autonomic nervous system are less clear and need further evaluation.

Citation: Simren M. Hypnosis for irritable bowel syndrome: the quest for the mechanism of action. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2006 Jan; 54 (1): pages 65-84. [email protected]

Principal investigator William Whitehead at UNC, Chapel Hill, provides a meta-analysis of studies investigating the benefits of hypnosis plus cognitive-behavioral therapy for IBS. He examines 11 studies, including 5 controlled trials, which assess the therapeutic effects of hypnosis for IBS. He concludes that the literature has significant limitations, such as small sample sizes and lack of parallel comparisons with other treatments, but that this body of research consistently shows hypnosis to have a substantial therapeutic impact on IBS, even for patients unresponsive to standard medical interventions. The median response rate to hypnosis treatment is 87%, bowel symptoms can generally be expected to improve by about half, psychological symptoms and life functioning improve after treatment, and therapeutic gains are well maintained for most patients for years after the end of treatment.

Citation: Whitehead WE. Hypnosis for irritable bowel syndrome: the empirical evidence of therapeutic effects. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2006 Jan; 54 (1): pages 7-20. [email protected]