Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy for IBS: How does it help?
This article was written by Astrid Hancock from Mindset Health
Firstly, what is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the gut-brain interaction (DGBI). It affects the gastrointestinal tract and impacts 1 in 7 people worldwide. The vagus nerve is the direct channel, or ‘superhighway’, of communication between the brain and gut. If there is a speed bump in the transfer of information, the functioning of your gut may be impacted, leading to symptoms of IBS.
While IBS experiences vary from person to person, the most commonly seen symptoms include:
- abdominal pain
- diarrhea and/or constipation
Alongside the physical symptoms of IBS, psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression are commonly seen in IBS patients. While IBS does not cause anxiety or depressive disorders, it can contribute to them.
While there is a significant amount of information available online, please be sure to speak to your healthcare provider if you think you may have IBS. A professional diagnosis, following the Rome IV criteria, is recommended to prevent neglecting other conditions that may present with similar symptoms.
What is gut-directed hypnotherapy?
Gut-directed hypnotherapy (GDH) is a therapeutic tool used to assist in the management of IBS symptoms. By using personalised suggestions that target the subconscious mind, the miscommunication between the brain and the gut is directly addressed. Think of it as ironing out kinks in a shirt or detangling a piece of string.
A gut-directed hypnotherapy session, either in person with a professional hypnotherapist or via an app-based program like Nerva, involves gently guiding you into a state of focused relaxation which makes you more open to processing therapeutic suggestions. Gut-directed hypnotherapy is an exceptionally safe process that doesn’t resemble what you’re used to in dramatised TV shows or movies, so don’t worry!
The Nerva program, which comes to you as an app on your mobile device, is a 6-week IBS management program that uses gut-directed hypnotherapy. Each day you will be given a 15-minute hypnosis session, an educational reading, and from week 3, a daily breathing exercise. You can download Nerva from the App or Google Play Store.
How effective is gut-directed hypnotherapy?
Gut-directed hypnotherapy is used by medical professionals all over the world and has proved to be a successful way of managing IBS without the need for diet change or medication.
Research suggests that between 70-80% of people may benefit from using GDH to manage their IBS symptoms. Furthermore, extended research also shows that symptoms can be reduced for up to five years in certain cases!
According to a Monash University study, GDH is just as effective in managing IBS symptoms as the Low FODMAP diet. So, if you haven’t seen success from diet change, or would prefer to avoid restrictive diets, there are certainly alternative IBS management options available to you.
What other strategies, apart from gut-directed hypnotherapy, can I use for IBS management?
Finding the right management strategy for your own situation isn’t always easy, but you’ll get there! Let’s break down some of the existing IBS management strategies recommended by professionals:
Low FODMAP Diet
The FODMAP diet is a three-step process commonly recommended for those with diagnosed IBS. It’s a diet free from fermentable carbohydrates and the elimination process can help to determine if certain foods trigger your gut symptoms. Thankfully there is an excellent selection of certified FODMAP-friendly snacks out there (shameless plug, like Fodbods). We offer delicious and healthy, gut-friendly snacks that are free from preservatives, gluten, and anything artificial, yes, please!
Medications such as laxatives and antidiarrheals can help make day-to-day life a little more predictable. Depending on your IBS subtype (diarrhea, constipation, mixed, or undefined), your doctor may recommend experimenting with either of these options. In certain cases, antidepressants can also be used to manage IBS. They can help to manage stress and anxiety that may trigger a flare, while also having a positive impact on the digestive tract.
Keeping your body moving is important for general wellbeing, and especially helpful for your gut health! Gentle movements from swimming, walking, yoga, dancing, cycling, etc., encourage food waste to move at an efficient pace through the digestive system. Always remember to stay hydrated after exercise and throughout the day.
The Wrap Up
Gut-directed hypnotherapy for IBS has proven to be an effective way to manage symptoms of IBS that include pain, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea and/or constipation. GDH helps to enhance communication between the brain and the gut when information attempting to be transferred along the vagus nerve is interrupted. Other forms of IBS management include the low FODMAP diet (which helps to identify trigger foods) medication, and regular exercise.