Medics at The University of Manchester have discovered a way to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) using hypnotherapy.
Up to eight million people in Britain suffer from IBS, with symptomsincluding diarrhoea, pain and bloating. The condition can seriouslyaffect sufferers' quality of life and finding treatment can bedifficult, leading many doctors to feel they can do little to help.
Research by Peter Whorwell, Professor of Medicine andGastroenterology in the University's Medical School and Director of theSouth Manchester Functional Bowel Service, has been researching the useof gut-directed hypnosis for over 20 years. Most recently, two hundredand fifty patients who have suffered from IBS for over two years weregiven twelve one-hour sessions, during which they were given anexplanation of how the gut works and what causes their symptoms.
"IBS is ideal for treatment with hypnosis, as there is no structuraldamage to the body," explained Professor Whorwell. "During thehypnotherapy, sufferers learn how to influence and gain control oftheir gut function, and then seem to be able to change the way thebrain modulates their gut activity."
With a success-rate of about 70% Professor Whorwell believesthat, although labour-intensive, hypnotherapy could be an extremelyeffective treatment for the condition; and a less expensive alternativeto new, costly drugs coming onto the market.
"We've found it to help all the symptoms, whereas some of the drugsavailable reduce only a few," he said. "As IBS can be a life-longcondition it could clearly be a very valuable option for patients;however it is not suitable for everyone and women tend to respondbetter than men."
Professor Whorwell has founded a dedicated unit at WythenshaweHospital which treats patients from all over the UK, as the treatmentcan only be carried out by a practitioner trained in gut-directedhypnotherapy and is not yet widely available on the NHS.
Former patient Sonia Pinnock said, "I suffered from IBS and wason medication for nearly 20 years, but could get little relief from mysymptoms. Since visiting the clinic for 12 hypnotherapy sessions lastyear however they've disappeared completely ... the difference it'smade to my quality of life is indescribable."
Another happy patient Christine Walsh continued, "After myhysterectomy I suffered from IBS for about five years, and it totallyruined my quality of life. I couldn't plan holidays or leisureactivities and at work I was often doubled-up in pain. But since havingweekly hypnotherapy sessions for three months I've now been free fromIBS for five and a half years - the treatment has totally changed mylife."
Professor Whorwell concludes, "The term hypnosis was coined bya Manchester surgeon, James Braid, early in the nineteenth century, andit's been in and out of fashion ever since. I'd like to think that ourUnit has brought hypnotherapy back to Manchester, and helped improveits legitimacy."
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