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Hypnotherapy Can Help Patients with Irritable Bowel

Improvement is long lasting, Swedish researchers report

FRIDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Hypnotherapy can improve the quality of life and reduce symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a study presented at Digestive Disease Week in Los Angeles.

Magnus Simren, M.D., Ph.D., of Goteborg University in Sweden, led two studies testing hypnotherapy. In one, 87 patients with IBS were cared for in a university hospital setting. In another, 48 received care in a county hospital. In each group, half received "gut-directed" hypnotherapy sessions for one hour weekly for 12 weeks and the others were part of a control group that did not receive hypnotherapy. In the gut-directed therapy, patients were taught techniques such as visualizing a fully functioning gastrointestinal tract.

Patients were evaluated after treatment and again at six months and 12 months. A clinically significant improvement in the gastrointestinal symptoms could be seen after hypnotherapy in both groups but not in the control groups. Improvement was still evident at the one-year mark and in some cases even better. Improvement was best for bloating, distension and abdominal pain and not as good for bowel habits. Anxiety and depression improved at the one-year mark in the study of 48 but not in the study of 87.

It's not clear why the technique works, but it may alter the way the brain reacts to bodily arousal when faced with stress, Simren said.

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