Got gut troubles? Some are trying hypnosis to treat digestive problems

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) - If you think hypnosis is mainly used to put volunteers in a trance to entertain an audience, think again. More doctors are using hypnotherapy to treat patients with stomach problems.

“Some of the symptoms that I was experiencing were abdominal pain, diarrhea,” said John Martin.

Martin was having stomach issues that wouldn’t go away.

After trying medical treatments and talk therapy, Martin decided to get hypnotherapy as a last resort.

Hypnotherapy is now being used to treat many digestive problems including irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and heartburn.

At least one study involving IBS reported an 80% success rate.

Farmington Hills psychologist Dr. Carolyn Daitch with the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders said it appears to work because many of the processes that happen in your gut go up to the brain and vice versa.

“There really is a nervous system in the gut. So, if we’re anxious, if we’re worried about something, if we’re stressed – and who isn’t – you’re prone to having stomach problems,” said Dr. Daitch.

While some people might be hesitant to be hypnotized because of what they’ve seen in movies or on TV, Martin said he was willing to try.

Granted, he was also hesitant initially.  But he quickly overcame any doubts.

“You are truly just in a state, a completely normal state. But you feel different, and you lose track of time. I did feel very safe,” Martin explained.

Hypnotherapy is still considered alternative medicine, but it’s supported by a number of scientific studies.  And an increasing number of hospitals are using it.

In fact, gastroenterologist Dr. Shoba Krishnamurthy said in some cases it could be considered a first resort.

“We should introduce it in the beginning. Try the usual things, but use it earlier before we start people on medications which have side effects or do treatments,” said Dr. Krishnamurthy.

And while experts admit gastro hypnotherapy does not work for everyone, Martin said he saw improvements in his stomach issues when he coupled the hypnosis with talk therapy.

“I’m feeling a lot better than I felt many months ago,” said Martin.

Patients are often given post-hypnosis tools they can use at home.

In some cases, treatment success can last as long as one year before additional hypnotherapy might be needed.

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