Hypnotherapy Treats Irritable Bowel Syndrome
People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may find improvement in their symptoms by participating in a series of hypnotherapy sessions, according to a new study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology (2002;97:954–61). This study confirms findings from earlier studies that hypnotherapy is a highly effective treatment for IBS and has no adverse side effects.
The most common symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, bloating, and alternating constipation and diarrhea. Some people with IBS may also experience nausea, fatigue, back pain, urinary urgency, and muscle aches. The cause of IBS is unknown, although some physicians suspect stress and lifestyle factors may be to blame. The condition affects females more than four times as often as males. No conventional treatments for IBS have been proven to be effective in controlled studies.
As a result of the earlier reports on the success of hypnotherapy in treating IBS, a hospital in the United Kingdom established the first unit of its kind, dedicated to providing this treatment to people with IBS. This new study examined the effects of hypnotherapy on the first 250 people with IBS treated at this hospital. Participants, ages 19 to 79, underwent 12 sessions of hypnotherapy with a therapist for three months and also practiced relaxation exercises at home on a daily basis. Questionnaires asking about symptoms, quality of life, depression, and anxiety were completed initially and at the conclusion of the study.
After three months of hypnotherapy, significant improvement was noted in pain severity, pain frequency, bloating, fatigue, body aches, back pain, and urinary urgency. Bowel habits improved in 78% of the people, while 13% reported no change and 9% suffered slight deterioration. Hypnotherapy also significantly improved quality of life measurements and reduced feelings of anxiety and depression. For reasons that are not clear, males with diarrhea did not respond as well as did others in the study.
Another study found that some people with IBS have difficulty absorbing certain sugars, such as lactose (found in milk and other dairy products), sorbitol (found in some candies and chewing gums), or fructose (found naturally in fruits or added to soft drinks and other sweets). Symptoms improved when these sugars were eliminated from the diet. Other studies suggest that sensitivity to common foods, such as wheat, may be a triggering factor in some cases of IBS. Food sensitivities can be difficult to identify and are often not detected by conventional allergy tests. An elimination diet may help uncover food sensitivities, but such a diet requires the guidance of a healthcare practitioner.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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