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Alyssa Simpson RD, CDE, CLT
Alyssa Simpson

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Sibo Doctor Approved
certified gastrointestinal nutritionist
Sibo Doctor Approved
certified gastrointestinal nutritionist

Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy — The IBS Solution You’ve Been Looking For?

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Woman lying on a therapist’s couch receiving gut-directed hypnotherapy for her IBS.

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Have you ever considered gut-directed hypnotherapy to address your IBS symptoms? Yes, I’m serious. Hypnotherapy is a real thing. And now we’re learning that it can be a game-changer for IBS and other digestive conditions.

If you’ve been following along here for a while, you already know that the gut and the brain are very closely linked. That’s why we feel so many of our emotions in our gut. Scientific studies have proven this over and over. Your gut and your brain share common real estate through nerves. They even make some of the same feel-good chemicals like serotonin.

Even if this is news to you, I’ll bet your personal experience backs it up. The connection between the brain and the gut shows up in our everyday language too. Ever have a “gut feeling”? Have you ever described nervousness as “butterflies in your stomach”? Ever gotten bad news that felt like a “punch to the gut”?

So it stands to reason that if you do things that improve your mental or brain health, it could also improve your gut health. But you don’t have to take my word for it. There are lots of studies that back this up.

Enter gut-directed hypnotherapy.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not in any way suggesting your IBS symptoms are “in your head”. Far too many patients have come into my practice after a doctor has used that dismissive language.

Your symptoms are real. You aren’t imagining them or making them up. Yes, your brain is involved. But this is a neurological issue — not a psychological one. Gut-directed hypnotherapy addresses the way your brain and your gut communicate.

And it’s proven to be an effective treatment for people with IBS, IBD, and GERD.

What is Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy?

As the name suggests, gut-directed hypnotherapy is a type of hypnosis. It’s adaptable and customized. So listening to a basic recorded meditation won’t have the same effect.

Gut-directed hypnotherapy has emerged as a promising approach for managing IBS symptoms. Several prestigious medical centers, including Mount Sinai, the University of Michigan, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, now offer or recommend hypnotherapy to IBS patients.

Studies show that this treatment is often superior to standard medical care. At least 30 studies have been published that highlight the benefits of this type of therapy. Patients’ experience includes improvements in abdominal pain, bloating, and the severity of bowel issues.

And it comes with bonuses. Gut-directed hypnotherapy can also help with anxiety, depression, and quality of life. Many studies have shown that gut-directed hypnotherapy improves symptoms in people with IBS by 70-80%. And yes, the improvements are maintained over time.

How Does Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy Work?

The mechanism of gut-directed hypnotherapy isn’t fully understood. But we do know that it addresses the neurological aspect of the gut-brain connection, retraining how the brain and gut communicate. In fact, this is the only IBS treatment that specifically targets the gut-brain connection. We also know that this type of therapy can improve motility — how quickly food moves through your digestive tract.

Hypnotic suggestion targeted toward the gut-brain connection directs the central nervous system to make the nerves in the gut less sensitive. Gut-directed hypnotherapy can help keep your stomach calm even when you’re under stress.

This form of therapy involves meeting with a therapist in person or via video-conference, or listening to specific recordings that guide patients into a relaxed state. Once in a hypnotic state, visualization exercises and calming suggestions are used to address the miscommunication between the gut and the brain that often contributes to IBS symptoms.

A practitioner will take you through a series of visualization exercises. They’ll give you suggestions designed to calm down your digestive system and help minimize your focus on your IBS symptoms. Your practitioner will help you learn to relax the muscles in your colon and gain control of your physiological responses.

This isn’t a one-and-done deal though. Effective gut-directed hypnotherapy takes time and practice. You’ll likely have weekly sessions over a period of 2-3 months. And yes, there’s homework too. So this approach takes patience and effort. But it’s proven to be effective. So many patients find it’s worth it.

And yes, gut-directed hypnotherapy can be specifically targeted to your unique symptoms.

Is Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy Right For Me?

This type of therapy can be a game-changer if it’s a good fit for you. It even outperforms the low FODMAP diet for some people. But it isn’t right for everyone.

If you have a lot of anxiety about your symptoms or spend a lot of time in your head worrying about your IBS, this therapy might not work as well for you. It’s best for people who feel their symptoms physically, but don’t have as much anxiety attached to them. If you tend to be more anxious, there is evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help with your IBS symptoms. CBT focuses on changing mental habits.

Also, if you have a history of unresolved trauma, hypnotherapy can be triggering because you have to give up control during your sessions. If you’re concerned about how past trauma may impact your hypnotherapy, CBT might be a good choice for you as well.

Thinking Outside the Box

IBS is a complex condition. And there isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all answer. And I love that science is continuing to discover new ways to help people feel better.

Generally, our medical system is focused on symptom relief, rather than addressing root cause issues. We’re used to going to the doctor and walking out with a prescription, hoping it will help us feel better. But if you can expand your thinking, let go of any skepticism toward unconventional treatments, and consider alternatives, you may find solutions you never expected.

If you’re fed up with your IBS, and going to the doctor hasn’t helped, let’s talk. You can book a free 15-minute strategy session.

If you’re looking for discussion in an open-minded community of others who struggle with the same symptoms as you, I invite you to join my free Facebook community, The Healthy Gut Solutions Group. It’s a great place to learn about different approaches and connect with others who understand what it’s really like to live with IBS. And yes, I’m there too, ready to chat and answer your questions.

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