We have been researching the use of hypnotherapy, especially in IBS, for many years (143).

Hypnosis has had a rather chequered history (141) but has started to be taken more seriously in recent years. It is unfortunate that stage hypnosis gives the medical use of the phenomenon a bad name and that is unlikely to change in the near future. This is unfortunate as medical hypnosis does not at all resemble stage hypnosis although patients still wonder whether they will be made to behave in a silly way or will be completely unaware of what is going on. Nothing like that happens when hypnosis is delivered by legitimate practitioners and in fact patients are often surprised at how unspectacular the experience turns out to be.

We have adopted the standard hypnosis that is usually given by most therapists to what we call "gut focused hypnosis". This involves concentrating the hypnosis on the tummy and the gut rather than the head. We are not really interested in any past issues or hidden problems and just concentrate on looking forward and getting the IBS under better control. We usually talk about control rather than cure but this still results in a substantial reduction in symptoms with the problem becoming a "bit of a nuisance" rather than anything more intrusive.

Unfortunately, hypnosis is time consuming and it usually takes quite a lot of sessions to get people better. At each visit the patient sits quietly with the therapist and is taught how to relax and gain control over the tummy. During the hypnosis the patient is not asked to speak but can hear everything going on around them and is not "unconscious" in any way. At the end of a session they usually feel nice and relaxed, positive about the future and remember everything that has happened to them during the treatment. Hypnosis has no side effects, is safe and is just a very positive experience.

Hypnotherapy is successful in approximately 70% of patients which is a lot better than most treatments for IBS. We have been unable to predict those who will and those who won't respond so we say to people they should just try it and see, especially as there are no side effects. If a patient does not respond we continue to look after them and try further treatment options.

We have recently shown that in addition to helping IBS hypnotherapy is useful in functional dyspepsia (103), non cardiac chest pain (152) and may also help patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease (166) . If you are interested in reading some of our papers on hypnotherapy they can be found under the following numbers (2, 5, 15, 25, 30, 42, 43, 53, 55, 74, 81, 99, 102, 103, 104, 111, 114, 122, 133, 139, 141, 143, 152, 159, 164, 166).