Gut-directed hypnotherapy for functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome in children: a systematic review

Here are details of an interesting  study comparing Hypnotherapy with standard medical treatment, conducted in the Netherlands*

Objectives Gut directed hypnotherapy (HT) is shown to be effective in adult functional abdominal pain (FAP) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients. We performed a systematic review to assess efficacy of HT in paediatric FAP/IBS patients.

Methods We searched Medline, Embase, PsychINFO, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature databases and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials for randomised controlled trials (RCT) in children with FAP or IBS, investigating efficacy of HT on the following outcomes: abdominal pain scores, quality of life, costs and school absenteeism.

Results Three RCT comparing HT to a control treatment were included with sample sizes ranging from 22 to 52 children. We refrained from statistical pooling because of low number of studies and many differences in design and outcomes. Two studies examined HT performed by a therapist, one examined HT through self-exercises on audio CD. All trials showed statistically significantly greater improvement in abdominal pain scores among children receiving HT. One trial reported beneficial effects sustained after 1 year of follow-up. One trial reported statistically significant improvement in quality of life in the HT group. Two trials reported significant reductions in school absenteeism after HT.

Conclusions Therapeutic effects of HT seem superior to standard medical care in children with FAP or IBS. It remains difficult to quantify exact benefits. The need for more high quality research is evident.

*Gut-directed hypnotherapy for functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome in children: a systematic review 
  1. Juliette M T M Rutten1,
  2. Johannes B Reitsma2,
  3. Arine M Vlieger3,
  4. Marc A Benninga1


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Hypnotherapy for Alopecia

A study showing clinical evidence for the effetiveness of hypnotherapy for alopecia

Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease leading to loss of scalp hairs. The disease seems triggered by stress. Data on the possibility of using hypnotherapy in the treatment of AA are very limited.

In one study, twenty-eight patients with extensive AA, all refractory to previous conventional treatment, (which means that previous treatments didn’t work), were treated with hypnosis at the Academic Hospital UZ Brussel, Brussels, Belgium. This paper describes in detail the authors’ hypnotherapeutic approach combining symptom-oriented suggestions with suggestions to improve self-esteem. Twelve out of 21 patients, including 4 with total loss of scalp hair, presented a significant hair growth. All patients presented a significant decrease in scores for anxiety and depression. Although the exact mechanism of hypnotic interventions has not been elucidated, the authors’ results demonstrate that hypnotic interventions may ameliorate the clinical outcome of patients with AA and may improve their psychological well-being.

PMID: 18569142
DOI: 10.1080/00207140802041942
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SKYPE HYPNOTHERAPY FOR IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME: Effectiveness and Comparison with Face-to-Face Treatment.

Gut-focused hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome but is not widely available. This STUDY assessed whether providing hypnotherapy by Skype might partially overcome this problem. Using a 50-point or more reduction in the IBS Symptom Severity Score as the primary outcome measure, 65% of subjects responded to Skype hypnotherapy with all other outcomes significantly improving. The primary outcome figure for face-to-face hypnotherapy was 76%. When other outcome scores for Skype and face-to-face treatment were compared, the mean changes were these: symptom severity (-94.1 vs. -129.2), noncolonic score (-52.3 vs. -64.8), quality of life (+56.4 vs. +66.2), anxiety (-3.3 vs. -3.0), depression (-1.7 vs. -2.5), and a 30% or more pain reduction (44% vs. 62%). Skype hypnotherapy is effective but slightly less so than face-to-face treatment. However, many patients would have been unable to access treatment without the Skype option.



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Hypnosis for Surgery

Several Studies in recent years have shown, hypnosis to be a valuable adjunct to surgery and other hospital procedures


In one study, Montgomery and colleagues tested the effectiveness of a 15-minute pre-surgery hypnosis session versus an empathic listening session in a clinical trial with 200 breast cancer patients. In a 2007 article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Vol. 99, No. 17), the team reported that patients who received hypnosis reported less post-surgical pain, nausea, fatigue and discomfort. The study also found that the hospital saved $772 per patient in the hypnosis group, mainly due to reduced surgical time. Patients who were hypnotized required less of the analgesic lidocaine and the sedative propofol during surgery.

In a 2009 article in Health Psychology (Vol. 28, No. 3), Montgomery and colleagues reported on another study, which found that a combination of hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy could reduce fatigue for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy. Pre-treatment hypnotherapy has been shown to be beneficial in association with many medical procedures.

Research has also shown the benefits of hypnosis for burn victims. In a 2007 report in Rehabilitation Psychology (Vol. 52, No. 3), Shelley Wiechman Askay, PhD, David R. Patterson, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Washington Medical School found that hypnosis before wound debridements significantly reduced pain reported by patients on one pain rating questionnaire.

There is steadily increasing evidence that hypnotherapy can be a valuable adjunct to a wide range of medical and surgical procedures.

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Hypnotherapy and the Immune System

“In fact, the brain and the nervous system weave into all the tissues of the body and affect them in very important ways. And because of the two way street that connects the mind and psychology with physiology and biology, the mind itself can affect the body in many powerful ways.”

One neat way to personally experience this amazing mind-body connection is with a method first used in hypnosis called Chevruel’s pendulum. If you’d like to give it a try, tie a small, lightly weighted object (like a metal nut or bolt) to a thread about 12 inches long. Then hold the tip of the thread between your index finger and thumb so the object hangs straight down. Next, place the elbow of your arm holding the thread on a surface like a table top while sitting so the object hangs about ¼ inch above the surface. Sit up straight and let your fingers holding thread hover about 6 inches in front of your nose…”

This is an an excerpt from an excellent article published in Psychology Today by Clifford Lazarus PhD, the Director of the Lazarus Institute, that describes a simple experiment you can do at home to show how the mind directly influences the body.

It goes on to explain how visualisation can boost the immune system 

It’s well worth a read and you can find the entire article here.

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Hypnosis for Pain Management

“The empirical support for hypnosis for chronic pain management has flourished over the past two decades. Clinical trials show that hypnosis is effective for reducing chronic pain, although outcomes vary between individuals. The findings from these clinical trials also show that hypnotic treatments have a number of positive effects beyond pain control. Neurophysiological studies reveal that hypnotic analgesia has clear effects on brain and spinal-cord functioning that differ as a function of the specific hypnotic suggestions made, providing further evidence for the specific effects of hypnosis. The research results have important implications for how clinicians can help their clients experience maximum benefits from hypnosis and treatments that include hypnotic components.”

This is the abstract from an excellent article* describing how hypnosis can be a highly effective adjunct therapy in pain management,

You can read the entire article here

At my practice in Highgate Hill, I  consistently achieve excellent results with helping my clients to effectively and positively overcome chronic pain.

To learn more, you can find my contact details here. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about how hypnotherapy can help you to overcome your chronic pain.

*    Hypnotic Approaches for Chronic Pain Management – Clinical Implications of Recent Research Findings. Mark P. Jensen and David R. Patterson, University of Washington

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Psychodermatology: Hypnosis, Self-Hypnosis, Meditation and Autogenic Training in Dermatology, Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery, and Dermal Health

* Gerrard Sunnan MD has written an extremely comprehensive paper covering various aspects of how the mind relates to skin health and how hypnosis can help with skin disorders. . .


Psyche and skin are connected, and in this relationship, mental stressors can aggravate and even give rise to skin pathologies. On the other hand, mental techniques such as hypnosis, focused meditation and autogenic training can activate the mind’s contribution to the skin’s well-being. This paper introduces some fundamental concepts in psychodermatology.

The fact that the skin and the mind are intimately connected may seem counter-intuitive at first glance. How can the brain, let alone the mind, have serious influence on the largest of the bodily organs, the skin? They seem to be so far apart, conceptually and anatomically. Yet, if we look at core concepts emerging from twentieth century medicine, a central one teaches that all organ systems in the body are interdependent, all working as one multiconnected entity. And, in this equation, the mind, as a locus of life’s power, remains a determining force.

Psychoneuroimmunology and psychodermatology, relatively new appellations, define this concept as it pertains to the skin, and open links between psyche and emotions, skin disease, and skin health. Embryonically, the skin and the nervous system are closely linked, as shown by the fact that certain emotional states can commonly be expressed through skin blanching, flushing or blushing.

Strong emotions can impact on skin’s well-being. Stress, in all its manifestations, is well appreciated to worsen all manner of skin problems. Appeasing the mental stressors that impact on skin harmony therefore can assist the modulation of psychosomatic skin conditions, and stimulating relaxation and wellness can encourage dermatological harmony so that the skin can flaunt its optimal radiance. This makes it an optimal time for laser hair removal and similar procedures without causing stress.

Read More

* Psychodermatology: Hypnosis, self-hypnosis, meditation and autogenic training in dermatology, plastic and cosmetic surgery, and dermal health. © 2014 by Gérard V. Sunnen, M.D
By the way, if you need an excellent and trusted plastic surgeon specializing in facelifts, visit Dr. Frankel at 201 South Lasky Drive, Beverly Hills, California USA.

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Hypnotherapy in Support of Weight Loss in Sleep Apnoea patients

Here is an abstract describing a study published in the International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders showing how effective hypnotherapy is in supporting and maintaining weight loss efforts.

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1998 Mar;22(3):278-81.

Controlled trial of hypnotherapy for weight loss in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea.



To assess if hypnotherapy assists attempts at weight loss.


Randomised, controlled, parallel study of two forms of hypnotherapy (directed at stress reduction or energy intake reduction), vs dietary advice alone in 60 obese patients with obstructive sleep apnoea on nasal continuous positive airway pressure treatment.


National Health Service hospital in the UK.


Weight lost at 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 months after dietary advice and hypnotherapy, as a percentage of original body weight.


All three groups lost 2-3% of their body weight at three months. At 18 months only the hypnotherapy group (with stress reduction) still showed a significant (P < 0.02), but small (3.8 kg), mean weight loss compared to baseline. Analysed over the whole time period the hypnotherapy group with stress reduction achieved significantly more weight loss than the other two treatment arms (P < 0.003), which were not significantly different from each other.

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Hypnosis and Surgery

Following is an abstract of a paper describing research into the effectiveness of Hypnosis in reducing anxiety and discomfort associated with surgery.

Psychological approaches during conscious sedation. Hypnosis versus stress reducing strategies: a prospective randomized study*

Stress reducing strategies are useful in patients undergoing surgery. Hypnosis is also known to alleviate acute and chronic pain. We therefore compared the effectiveness of these two psychological approaches for reducing perioperative discomfort during conscious sedation for plastic surgery. Sixty patients scheduled for elective plastic surgery under local anesthesia and intravenous sedation (midazolam and alfentanil upon request) were included in the study after providing informed consent. They were randomly allocated to either stress reducing strategies (control: CONT) or hypnosis (HYP) during the entire surgical procedure. Both techniques were performed by the same anesthesiologist (MEF). Patient behavior was noted during surgery by a psychologist, the patient noted anxiety, pain, perceived control before, during and after surgery, and postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV). Patient satisfaction and surgical conditions were also recorded. Peri- and postoperative anxiety and pain were significantly lower in the HYP group. This reduction in anxiety and pain were achieved despite a significant reduction in intraoperative requirements for midazolam and alfentanil in the HYP group (alfentanil: 8.7±0.9 μg kg−1/h−1 vs. 19.4±2 μg kg−1/h−1,P<0.001; midazolam: 0.04±0.003 mg kg−1/h−1 vs. 0.09±0.01 mg kg−1/h−1, P<0.001). Patients in the HYP group reported an impression of more intraoperative control than those in the CONT group (P<0.01). PONV were significantly reduced in the HYP group (6.5% vs. 30.8%, P<0.001). Surgical conditions were better in the HYP group. Less signs of patient discomfort and pain were observed by the psychologist in the HYP group (P<0.001). Vital signs were significantly more stable in the HYP group. Patient satisfaction score was significantly higher in the HYP group (P<0.004). This study suggests that hypnosis provides better perioperative pain and anxiety relief, allows for significant reductions in alfentanil and midazolam requirements, and improves patient satisfaction and surgical conditions as compared with conventional stress reducing strategies support in patients receiving conscious sedation for plastic surgery.

* Psychological approaches during conscious sedation. Hypnosis versus stress reducing strategies: a prospective randomized study

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Hypnosis for Morning Sickness

Morning sickness can be both debilitating for the mother to be and potentially harmful to the developing baby.

And as a mother of three grown children, I can vouch for how unpleasant morning sickness can be.

A number of studies have shown a link between chronic morning sickness and reduced foetal activity and lower birth weight.

During the past three decades there have been many studies showing that hypnosis is highly effective in reducing the symptoms of morning sickness and in reducing its effect on the health of mother and child.

In a paper published in Issues in Prenatal Care*, Doctors Simon and Schartz, reported:

Hyperemesis gravidarum (Morning Sickness) in pregnancy is a serious condition that is often resistant to conservative treatments. Medical hypnosis is a well-documented alternative treatment. This article reviews the empirical studies of medical hypnosis for treating hyperemesis gravidarum, explains basic concepts, and details the treatment mechanisms. The importance of a thorough differential diagnosis and appropriate referrals is stressed. The article presents three case studies to illustrate the efficacy of this treatment approach. It is suggested that medical hypnosis should be considered as an adjunctive treatment option for those women with hyperemesis gravidarum. It is also stressed that medical hypnosis can be used to treat common morning sickness that is experienced by up to 80 percent of pregnant women. Its use could allow a more comfortable pregnancy and healthier fetal development, and could prevent cases that might otherwise proceed to full-blown hyperemesis gravidarum.

While a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology** commented:

Hypnosis is used to control physiologic changes that are thought to be involuntary. Hypnotized patients have, however, been able to control sympathetic tone, vasoconstriction, and vasodilation, heart rate, and muscle tone. It has been compared with biofeedback because patients are trained to voluntarily control these mechanisms. Biofeedback uses an external method of feedback whereas hypnosis uses an internal control from the patient.

Hypnosis works through a dissociation of content, when the individual’s attention is focused on a certain task causing the rest of the information surrounding him or her to be temporarily unreachable. An example of this is the unnoticed hum of a computer motor. Hypnosis also acts through dissociation of context, in which this narrowing of attention briefly suspends higher-order processes.

In the case examples of hypnosis treating hyperemesis performed by Simon and Schwartz, the treatment was found to be effective in two ways. The first component is a deep relaxation that acts to decrease sympathetic nervous system arousal. This decreases the sympathetic hyperaroused state. The second component is the response to hypnotic suggestion of symptom removal. This response to suggestion is independent of the sympathetic or parasympathetic systems and is often independent of their conscious awareness or memory of the suggestion. It is, however, necessary to dispel any myths or doubt the patients have about hypnotic treatment. No teratogenic effects were noted. It is also proposed that expanding this treatment to women with morning sickness would prevent the nausea and vomiting from worsening or progressing to hyperemesis gravidarum.

Hypnotherapy from a skilled therapist can dramatically reduce the occurrence of morning sickness.

While addressing the problem itself, I also help the expectant mother to achieve a high state of relaxation, which is good for both mum and baby and also encourage the mother’s body to desire and enjoy healthy food choices.

And best of all, with hypnotherapy, there are no side effects and no possibility of harm to baby.

Volume 26, Issue 4, pages 248–254, December 1999

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