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In Hong Kong, digestive problems have become increasingly common in the population. One million people suffer from constipation every year, half a million from IBS symptoms, and it is reported that 12,2% of the population suffers from gastric reflux. Alternative medicines have been developed to help support allopathic treatment for patients with these complex conditions. Gut-directed Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic approach that aims to improve digestive disorders by harnessing the power of the mind to influence gut function. Recent research has shown its critical benefits in releasing digestive discomfort in various conditions.


What is Hypnotherapy?


Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic technique that uses hypnosis to induce focused attention, heightened suggestibility and deep relaxation to facilitate positive changes in thoughts, feelings, or behaviours. During hypnotherapy sessions, a trained therapist guides the individual into a trance-like state where they are more receptive to suggestions aimed at addressing specific issues or goals. This can include overcoming phobias, managing stress, improving confidence, alleviating pain, and addressing various psychological or behavioural challenges. Hypnotherapy is often used with other therapeutic approaches to enhance effectiveness and promote holistic well-being.


What are the benefits of Hypnotherapy for gut-related conditions?


Gut-directed Hypnotherapy has also been shown to reduce symptoms in various digestive conditions. Hypnotherapy is very well known to be efficient with pain management. Studies have also demonstrated significant improvements in bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation following hypnotherapy sessions in different conditions like IBS, gastric reflux, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 

In addition, unlike some conventional treatments that may provide temporary relief, gut-directed Hypnotherapy offers the potential for long-lasting symptom relief. Research suggests that the benefits of Hypnotherapy can persist for months to years after the completion of treatment, providing patients with sustained improvement in their digestive symptoms.

By decreasing the symptoms, Gut-focused Hypnotherapy can help reduce the need for medication reliance in managing digestive disorders. This is particularly beneficial for individuals who experience side effects or limited efficacy with conventional medications. 

Compared to long-term medication use or invasive procedures, gut-focused Hypnotherapy has been shown in studies to be a cost-effective treatment option for digestive disorders. While the initial investment in hypnotherapy sessions may vary, the potential for long-term symptom relief and reduced healthcare utilisation can result in overall cost savings for patients and healthcare systems.


How Hypnotherapy works specifically on improving Gut Health

Emotional Management 

The exact cause of most digestive imbalances, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), is not fully understood. It involves a complex interplay of physiological, psychological, and environmental factors. Emotional imbalance and stress are commonly recognised as triggers or exacerbating factors for digestive symptoms in many individuals. Hypnotherapy is especially effective in managing the emotional roots of these conditions. IBS patients have found significant improvement thanks to Hypnotherapy by addressing the underlying psychological and physiological factors contributing to digestive symptoms.

Digestive disorders can significantly impair an individual's quality of life, affecting their daily activities, social interactions, and emotional well-being. Gut-focused Hypnotherapy not only targets physical symptoms and their emotional roots but also addresses the psychological distress often associated with these conditions. Research indicates that Hypnotherapy can lead to improvements in overall quality of life, including reduced anxiety, depression, and stress related to digestive symptoms.


The gut-brain axis.

The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication network that connects the central nervous system with the enteric nervous system in the gut. This communication pathway allows constant communication and interaction between the gut and the brain. It plays a critical role in regulating multiple physiological processes, including digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function, metabolism, and psychological functions such as mood, stress responses, and cognition. Dysfunction or dysregulation of the gut-brain axis has been implicated in the pathophysiology of various gastrointestinal disorders.


Hypnotherapy can have several beneficial effects on the gut-brain axis, allowing a decrease in digestive symptoms through a healthier connection between the brain and the gut. Through a state of deep relaxation, Hypnotherapy helps reduce stress and anxiety levels by decreasing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, thereby mitigating their negative effects on gut function and the gut-brain axis. Simply by promoting a state of relaxation and balance in the gut, Hypnotherapy can help normalise abnormal gut motility patterns observed in conditions like IBS, reducing symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, and erratic bowel habits.


Using techniques of suggestion and visualisation, a person can modulate their brain's perception of sensations from the internal organs. It allows to reduce the intensity and frequency of symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort associated with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The different hypnotherapy techniques can be used based on suggestions. First, direct suggestions like visualisations can allow for a smoother and more coordinated movement in the digestive tract and relaxation of specific muscles involved in digestion. With positive suggestions, the therapists aim to reprogram subconscious patterns that may be contributing to digestive issues, such as stress-induced muscle tension or irregular peristalsis. Finally, positive associations between eating certain foods and digestion can be created. By associating these activities with feelings of relaxation, pleasure, and well-being, suggestions can help reduce stress-related disruptions to digestive function.


Body Mind Connexion

By harnessing the power of the mind to influence the body, Hypnotherapy empowers individuals to modulate their gut-brain axis and improve digestive health through techniques such as visualisation, guided imagery, and suggestion. Suggestions not only help reduce symptoms; through repeated exposure to positive suggestions, individuals can strengthen neural pathways associated with healthy digestion, improving digestive mobility over time.

Going deeper, Hypnotherapy addresses the psychological aspects of gastrointestinal disorders by helping individuals manage emotional stress, trauma, and unresolved issues that may contribute to their conditions. Emotions are stored in our bodies, and diseases can be the expression of unreleased emotions not released. Hypnotherapy strengthens the body-mind connection.  The patient can find and remove traumas and emotions contributing to the apparitions of body malfunctions. By promoting emotional resilience and coping skills, Hypnotherapy can reduce the impact of negative emotions on gut function for long-lasting benefits and health recovery.  


Hypnotherapy offers a holistic approach to optimising gut-brain axis function by addressing the interplay between psychological, physiological, and emotional factors. Through relaxation, suggestion, and mental imagery, Hypnotherapy promotes harmony between the gut and the brain, leading to improved digestive health and well-being. One of the strengths of gut-directed Hypnotherapy is its ability to tailor treatment to each patient's needs. Hypnotherapy sessions are personalised to address specific symptoms, triggers, and psychological factors contributing to the digestive disorder. This individualised approach enhances the effectiveness of treatment and ensures that patients receive targeted interventions based on their unique experiences and challenges.


Research References:

- Whorwell, P. J., Prior, A., & Faragher, E. B. (1984). Controlled trial of hypnotherapy in the treatment of severe refractory irritable-bowel syndrome. The Lancet, 2(8414), 1232-1234.

- Palsson, O. S., Whitehead, W. E., & Törnblom, H. (2012). Hypnosis treatment of gastrointestinal disorders: A comprehensive review of the empirical evidence. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 54(4), 245-262.

- Lindfors, P., Ljótsson, B., Bjornsson, E. S., Abrahamsson, H., Simren, M., & Engström, J. (2012). Patient satisfaction after gut-directed hypnotherapy in irritable bowel syndrome. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 24(4), 369-e170.

- Peters, S. L., Yao, C. K., Philpott, H., Yelland, G. W., & Muir, J. G. (2016). Gut-directed hypnotherapy significantly augments clinical remission in quiescent ulcerative colitis. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 44(3), 447-461.

- Mayer, E. A., Tillisch, K., & Gupta, A. (2015). Gut/brain axis and the microbiota. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 125(3), 926–938. doi:10.1172/jci76304

- Cryan, J. F., & Dinan, T. G. (2012). Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 13(10), 701–712. doi:10.1038/nrn3346

- Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of Gastroenterology, 28(2), 203–209.

- Foster, J. A., & McVey Neufeld, K. A. (2013). Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in Neurosciences, 36(5), 305–312. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2013.01.005

- Bonaz, B., & Bernstein, C. N. (2013). Brain-gut interactions in inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterology, 144(1), 36–49. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2012.10.003

Certainly! Here are some references that discuss the use of suggestion in hypnotherapy to improve digestive mobility:

- Vlieger, A. M., Menko-Frankenhuis, C., Wolfkamp, S. C., Tromp, E., Benninga, M. A., & Engelberts, A. C. (2007). Hypnotherapy for children with functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Gastroenterology, 133(5), 1430-1436. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2007.08.072

- Gonsalkorale, W. M., Miller, V., Afzal, A., & Whorwell, P. J. (2003). Long term benefits of hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome. Gut, 52(11), 1623-1629. doi:10.1136/gut.52.11.1623


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