Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy and CBT for IBS: Do They Work?
Read about gut-directed hypnotherapy and gut-directed cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), two noninvasive complementary therapies for irritable bowel syndrome.
·November 6th, 2021
Gut-directed hypnotherapy and gut-directed CBT are complementary medicine approaches that address the gut-brain axis to reduce symptoms of IBS without the adverse effects.
Gut-directed CBT and hypnotherapy have been shown to be effective at the long-term reduction of IBS symptoms.
Traditional IBS treatments include medications that may have side effects.
Bright Belly’s behavioral therapist search can help you connect with a provider who meets your needs.
There is no cure for IBS. There are numerous ways to manage symptoms, but traditional treatment approaches aren’t always effective. A newer, noninvasive complementary approach called gut-directed therapy shows promising results in treating IBS symptoms using gut-directed hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with little to no risk of side effects.
Traditional treatment for IBS symptoms
In traditional Western medicine, treatment for IBS mostly addresses the physical aspects of the condition. If you seek traditional treatment, you’re likely to be treated with one of the following approaches or medications:
Tricyclic or SSRI antidepressants
Alosetron, eluxadoline, rifaximin, lubiprostone, or linaclotide
Although these treatments can be effective, they often cause side effects like nausea, pain, bloating, and diarrhea. The low-FODMAP diet is an exception, but it requires controlled, restrictive eating that many find difficult to follow.
What is gut-directed therapy?
Gut-directed therapy is a complementary or alternative method that uses the connection between the gut and brain to address gastrointestinal conditions like IBS.
The gut-brain axis concept refers to the effect of the body’s nervous system on intestinal functions. Some researchers believe that your mental health and gut health are intertwined through the bidirectional signaling of microorganisms — from gut to brain and brain to gut.
The theory is that by addressing mental conditions such as anxiety and depression along with learning to manage stress more effectively, you can improve the severity of your IBS symptoms.
Types of gut-directed therapy
Two main types of gut-directed therapy are used to treat IBS symptoms: hypnotherapy and CBT.
With hypnotherapy, your therapist will help you reach a trance-like state. This state helps you calm your nervous system and lower your cognitive guard.
You do not lose control during a hypnosis session; rather, your therapist can use verbal repetition and guided mental imagery to help you alter your perception and encourage your intestines to function normally.
Hypnotherapy is used to treat IBS symptoms because it effectively reduces your mental stress levels and physical pain. It essentially addresses both the mental and physical aspects of the condition, using the gut-brain connection to help you manage your IBS.
CBT is a psychological therapy that focuses on the connection between thought and behavior patterns. It’s effective in addressing multiple mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, and addiction.
CBT principles focus on the idea that people suffer from stress and anxiety in part due to faulty thinking patterns. These thoughts cause them to behave in non-helpful ways that further the problem. CBT seeks to identify and address these harmful ways of thinking to develop healthy thought patterns and behaviors.
For people with IBS, CBT is used to address the stress, anxiety, and emotional dysregulation that can exacerbate IBS symptoms and help the patient cope with the mental strain that IBS creates.
Are gut-directed therapies effective?
Gut-directed therapies have proven to be effective at reducing symptoms of IBS for many people. CBT has been shown to reduce pain and improve bowel function, and in one study, 60% of patients who received CBT saw a decrease in symptoms.
In a 2016 randomized clinical trial, 72% of participants who received hypnotherapy treatment for IBS reported improvement in symptoms, and 74% reported improvement six months after the trial was completed.
What’s more, the hypnotherapy participants showed better improvement in anxiety and depression symptoms than those in the low-FODMAP diet group.
Safety considerations for gut-directed therapy
You can engage in gut-directed therapy in conjunction with traditional medical treatment, or try it as a stand-alone approach. It is noninvasive and doesn’t require putting any type of substance into your body.
However, there are minimal risks associated with hypnotherapy and CBT. These risks involve mental discomfort or short-term, minor physical sensations. These are typically brought on by the mental changes these therapies can facilitate.
With CBT, you may feel emotionally uncomfortable, anxious, or distressed when addressing long-standing thought patterns or triggering issues. This is normal and should improve as you continue your sessions.
Following a hypnotherapy session, you may experience:
These physical symptoms are typically brief and do not affect the majority of those who undergo hypnotherapy.
Finding the right provider
Although there is little risk in CBT or hypnotherapy for IBS treatment, it’s important that you find the right therapist. Working with an unqualified provider may create issues that compromise the effectiveness of our treatment or cause you to feel heightened negative emotions due to improper therapeutic strategies.
Take the time to research any holistic therapy provider you consider, ensuring they are certified to practice CBT or hypnotherapy. Additionally, ask if the provider has experience treating conditions such as IBS, as this can ensure more effective treatment.
Explore alternative treatments for your gut health
If you struggle with IBS symptoms, you may find integrative, alternative or complementary treatments such as gut-directed hypnotherapy or CBT can be effective for reducing your gastrointestinal pain and discomfort.
To learn more about gut-directed therapies and other complementary and alternative therapies, follow our blog.
To find a practitioner near you, visit Bright Belly’s provider directory and get started on improving your gut health right away.