IMG_0289A recent meta analysis shows that patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome – IBS – are helped by psychotherapy. Not only do they feel better while the therapy helps them work with their emotions, but the benefit continues for six months to a year after therapy is ended.

I should point out that while this study thinks that a six month follow up is “long term” I would like to see something longer, such as two to five years.

In any case, this study appeared in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the Dec. 22 edition. It is a meta-analysis, so we have very solid indications of benefit.

Do many of you work with GI doctors? Are many of you seeing IBS patients?

I recall the first patient I saw with IBS was many years ago. I had opened a private practice, and was offering biofeedback. Fortunately I had also been trained in hypnosis by Milton Erickson and his students, and I had studied and used Autogenic Training, a kind of “self hypnosis for dummies.” I had a lot of flexibility in working with patients.

So the first patient was someone who had suffered. She had diarrhea and constipation. She had abdominal cramping. She had abdominal bloating. It was a very unpleasant condition, and the usual treatments had left her without much relief. I tackled the problem with my easiest approach, Autogenic Training, or AT. I showed her the basics, arms heavy and legs heavy; hands warm and feet warm. By the end of the session she could produce arm heaviness and some hand warming.

I had to be out of town the next week, so I was somewhat anxious when I saw her in two weeks. I hoped for some improvement, but cautious hope.

To my delight she asserted that she had experienced no symptoms for the past two week. Remarkable! I asked her how she explained this miraculous improvement. She explained that she was practicing AT five times a day for about ten minutes each time. Once in the morning, once at 10:30 during a workplace break, again after lunch, again at 3:00 in the afternoon break, and then again when she was home from work.

No symptoms! Following her for the next couple of months, I found she had a remarkable persistence of that miracle.

In working with IBS patients, I wondered if they were under more stress than others, or if they were higher in anxiety. A variety of psychological surveys showed me that was not a good assumption. They often scored in the normal range on stress or on anxiety.

I decided these are people with an unusual vulnerability to normal ranges of stress. Hypnosis, AT, and psychotherapy all help them move into the very low stress range.

Share this with your colleagues and reach out to GI doctors. We ought to expand who we work with, and this shows very good, very solid evidence.

Here is the link to the press release on the article:

Here is an earlier article showing the positive effect of hypnosis on IBS: