If you’ve been battling gastrointestinal issues, you might be wondering if hypnosis can be an option. Well, we’re sharing about gut-directed hypnotherapy and highlighting research on this alternative treatment.

What is Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy? 

Gut-directed hypnotherapy is a special form of hypnosis that was started out by Dr. Peter Whorwell, a U.K. Professor of Gastroenterology in the early 1980s. At that time, he was trying to find treatment options for his patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Symptoms of IBS

Symptoms of IBS

Since he was interested in hypnotherapy, he taught his patients how to relax under hypnosis. Incredibly, his patients’ symptoms improved over time. Initially, he found that his patients improved by a whopping 70%.

Today, clinical therapists use gut-directed hypnotherapy not only in patients with IBS but other gastrointestinal disorders. They work with the subconscious mind to help calm down symptoms that are often linked to anxiety.

How does Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy work?

Typically, gut-directed hypnotherapy consists of 4-6 weekly sessions, though this may vary according to the patient’s needs.

There are two ways this kind of therapy helps patients.

First, several gastrointestinal disorders are stress-related. Symptoms worsen when the patients feel stressed. For example, you might notice this if you’re suffering from IBS, inflammatory bowel disorders such as ulcerative colitis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Stress can also be elevated as a result of poor sleeping habits. One of the positive “side effects” of hypnosis happens to be better sleep.

Now, gut-directed hypnotherapy teaches you relaxation which can lower stress levels. In turn, you may feel much better as you go with your treatment.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety is Key in Treating Gut Disorders

Reducing Stress and Anxiety is Key in Treating Gut Disorders

Another mechanism is it helps resolve the “miscommunication” happening between your brain and gut. Though gut disorders are quite complex, one cause for pain and motility problems is visceral hypersensitivity.

Three Brains

Three Brains


This means your brain seems to be overreacting to what’s normal in the body. So, the acid you use to digest food can already feel like heartburn.

But through focused awareness, powerful imagery, and hypnotic suggestions, you can start taking control and calming the sensitive nerve endings in your gut.


Head Brain Heart Brain Gut Brain

Did you know you have 3 Brains?

Is it effective in treating gastrointestinal disorders?

Does gut-directed hypnotherapy work? Well, we found considerable research supporting its effectiveness.

First, let’s highlight some studies on gut-directed hypnotherapy for IBS.

When someone has irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, doctors would often advise him or her to go on a low FODMAP diet. They need a diet that’s low on fermentable oligosaccharides, di-saccharides, mono-saccharides, and polyols.

What does that mean exactly?

They need to avoid certain foods such as dairy, legumes, wheat, and pitted fruits because these foods can cause bloating.

Now, what does this have to do with gut-directed hypnotherapy?

Studies supporting gut-directed hypnotherapy for gastrointestinal disorders

Well, a 2016 randomized clinical trial found that it’s as effective as having a low FODMAP diet for patients with IBS.

Moreover, gut-directed hypnotherapy can work for young children. A Dutch study done that same year concluded that specialized technique is even superior compared to standard medical care for children with IBS and functional abdominal pain.

Next, we have some studies on gut-directed hypnotherapy for ulcerative colitis.

When you have ulcerative colitis, your body mistakenly attacks the lining of your colon thinking they’re intruders. It’s an inflammatory disorder that’s autoimmune in nature.

As for research on how gut-directed therapy helps people with this disorder, a study in 2013 noted that it prolonged the remission of people with ulcerative colitis. An average of 68% didn’t experience flareups compared to 40% who had a one-on-one verbal psychological intervention.

More recently, a 2020 study concluded that this kind of hypnotherapy delivered via teletherapy is also effective in improving gut symptoms.

This means that if you book a gut-hypnotherapy session online, it’s just as effective as going for an in-person session.

So, if you’re ready to explore a cost-effective, convenient, and effective treatment option for your gut disorder, Everybody in Mind Wellness, Hemisphere Hypnotherapy founder and certified clinical hypnotherapist, Carla Chalah, can help. Carla offers gut-directed hypnosis sessions in-person in her Sudbury, Massachusetts office, as well as online worldwide via Zoom. If you are looking for in-person sessions, simply search “hypnosis near me” and check the practitioner’s experience and credentials.