Gut-directed hypnotherapy has been found to be effective in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, randomized, controlled studies are rare and few have been performed outside highly specialized research centers. The objective of this study was to study the effect of gut-directed hypnotherapy in IBS in different clinical settings outside the traditional research units.
The study population included IBS patients refractory to standard management. In study 1, patients were randomized to receive gut-directed hypnotherapy (12 sessions, 1 h/week) in psychology private practices or supportive therapy, whereas patients were randomized to receive gut-directed hypnotherapy in a small county hospital or to serve as waiting list controls in study 2. Gastrointestinal symptom severity and quality of life were evaluated at baseline, at 3 months follow-up and after 1 year.
We randomized 138 IBS patients refractory to standard management, 90 in study 1 and 48 in study 2. In both the studies, IBS-related symptoms were improved at 3 months in the gut-directed hypnotherapy groups (P<0.05), but not in the control groups (ns). In study 1, a significantly greater improvement of IBS-related symptom severity could be detected in the gut-directed hypnotherapy group than in the control group (P<0.05), and a trend in the same direction was seen in study 2 (P=0.17). The results seen at 3 months were sustained up to 1 year.
Gut-directed hypnotherapy is an effective treatment alternative for patients with refractory IBS, but the effectiveness is lower when the therapy is given outside the highly specialized research centers.