MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM. It is estimated that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects about 15-20 per cent of the population in western countries. It accounts for approximately half of the workload of the average gastroenterologist and engenders a significant amount of lost work hours. The syndrome is about twice as common among women as among men. The most common symptoms are abdominal distension (bloating), abdominal pain, altered bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation), backache, urinary symptoms, and flatulence. IBS can also lead to anxiety and depression and an overall reduction in the quality of life. Several studies have found that hypnotherapy is effective in alleviating IBS. The National Health Service (UK) has just set up the first Hypnotherapy Unit devoted exclusively to the treatment of IBS patients. The Unit has six therapists on staff and has treated several hundred patients since its inception.
Medical researchers at the University Hospital of South Manchester have just completed a major study to
evaluate the effect of hypnotherapy (12 sessions over a three-month period and "homework" in between) in
the first 250 people treated at the Unit. They found that the overall IBS score (sum of score for pain severity
and frequency, bloating, bowel habits and interference with life; maximum score of 500) had decreased from
300 for male IBS patients and 343 for females to 178 and 151 respectively; this corresponds to a 56 per cent
improvement in females and a 40 per cent improvement in males. An impressive 78 per cent of all
participants had significantly improved bowel habits after treatment. The observed reductions in anxiety
score (33 per cent) and depression score (43 per cent) were also impressive. The researchers conclude
that hypnotherapy is an extremely effective treatment for IBS.