Gut Hypnotherapy: similar results to a low FODMAP diet!
Updated: Jun 4
Most people have heard of the low FODMAP diet as a way of managing irritable bowel symptoms but may not have come across GUT DIRECTED HYPNOTHERAPY.
Hypnotherapy directed at the gut is a way of teaching the sub conscious mind to manage symptoms such as tummy pain, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.
Typically, gut directed therapy involves presentation of how your gut can be protected followed by a transition to an altered consciousness state (in which you are fully aware of what is going on) when your subconscious mind is provided a different repertoire of gut responses different to the negative gut responses you have been experiencing. This process seems to be able to provide some 'thought protection' to your gut and reduce your upsetting gut symptoms.
While at first this may sound somewhat unusual, the results of this mind imagery has been shown in a number of well controlled research studies to improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms in 70 - 80% of cases. Most importantly, this symptom relief is maintained over time (1).
Gut directed hypnotherapy is seen to be just as effective as the low FODMAP diet yet despite this is less well known and understood.
In one interesting study, there was no difference in positive outcomes between a group of participants given just the low FODMAP diet or a second group treated with the gut directed therapy or a 3rd group treated with a low FODMAP diet as well as the gut directed hypnotherapy (2)! So while the low FODMAP diet is as effective as gut directed hypnotherapy, both together do not seem to further improve the outcomes.
It is not known how gut directed therapy protects against the debilitating effects of IBS but the very strong connection of the brain and the gut (gut-brain axis) is likely to play a crucial role. The brain and gut work closely together continuously to promote smooth operation and coordination of the gut.
This interaction works in a bilateral direction meaning information moves up and down between the brain and the gut through a variety of ways including nerves and body chemicals such as neurotransmitters. Central to this axis is also the gut microbiome, the 1 kg of bacteria that resides in our gut. Although this is a complex interplay, it is easy to see how coming in from different angles, be it altering food into the gut, taking probiotics or altering perception within the body can all potentially improve outcomes.
Gut directed therapy works equally well as the low FODMAP diet and is at least as good as some of the recent and expensive pharmacological options, with the added benefit of no known side effects (3).
The only drawbacks are the amount of time required to undergo multiple sessions and the associated costs (although costs can be reduced via a health care plan).
Is gut directed therapy for you? A psychologist who specialises in gut directed hypnotherapy can screen you for this treatment and help you decide if you wish to explore this option.
The beauty of having equally high quality effective treatment modalities is the choice as well as the availability of an alternative if one treatment modality does not bring the relief you are looking for.
More options for you to manage your IBS symptoms.
1. Monash Low FODMAP Dietitian Course 2018
2. Peters, S.L., et al., Randomised clinical trial: the efficacy of gut-directed hypnotherapy is similar to that of the low FODMAP diet for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 2016. 44(5): p. 447-59.
3. Lindfors, P., et al., Effects of gut-directed hypnotherapy on IBS in different clinical settings—results from two randomized, controlled trials. Am J Gastroenterol, 2011. 107(2): p. 276-285.