Cochrane Summaries

Trusted evidence. Informed decisions. Better health.

Hypnotherapy (treatment by hypnosis) for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome

Webb AN, Kukuruzovic R, Catto-Smith AG, Sawyer SM
Published Online: 
16 July 2008

Studies of hypnotherapy for treatment of IBS.
Only a small number of studies of hypnotherapy have been performed and the way these studies were carried out was not up to a high standard. Hypnotherapy was either compared with standard treatment of IBS, with supportive psychotherapy (discussion of symptoms and possible contributing emotional problems and stressful life events) or with no treatment in patients on a waiting list to be seen by a specialist.

What is IBS and could hypnotherapy work as treatment?
IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterized by chronic abdominal pain and an abnormal pattern of bowel movements (i.e. diarrhea, constipation or mixed diarrhea and constipation). Hypnotherapy could provide benefit for IBS, by affecting parts of the brain that experience abdominal pain or influence the movement of the bowel.

What did the studies show?
The studies provide some evidence that suggests that hypnotherapy might be effective in treating IBS symptoms including abdominal pain. However the results of these studies should be interpreted with caution due to poor study quality and small size.

How safe is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy was well tolerated and no serious side effects were reported in the studies.

What is the bottom line?
Although current data are promising, there is insufficient evidence to allow any conclusion about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for the treatment of IBS. More research with well designed studies is needed.

This record should be cited as: 
Webb AN, Kukuruzovic R, Catto-Smith AG, Sawyer SM. Hypnotherapy for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD005110. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005110.pub2
Assessed as up to date: 
4 July 2007