Original Contribution | Published:

Functional GI Disorders

Effects of Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy on IBS in Different Clinical Settings—Results From Two Randomized, Controlled Trials

The American Journal of Gastroenterology volume 107, pages 276285 (2012) | Download Citation




Gut-directed hypnotherapy has been found to be effective in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, randomized, controlled studies are rare and few have been performed outside highly specialized research centers. The objective of this study was to study the effect of gut-directed hypnotherapy in IBS in different clinical settings outside the traditional research units.


The study population included IBS patients refractory to standard management. In study 1, patients were randomized to receive gut-directed hypnotherapy (12 sessions, 1 h/week) in psychology private practices or supportive therapy, whereas patients were randomized to receive gut-directed hypnotherapy in a small county hospital or to serve as waiting list controls in study 2. Gastrointestinal symptom severity and quality of life were evaluated at baseline, at 3 months follow-up and after 1 year.


We randomized 138 IBS patients refractory to standard management, 90 in study 1 and 48 in study 2. In both the studies, IBS-related symptoms were improved at 3 months in the gut-directed hypnotherapy groups (P<0.05), but not in the control groups (ns). In study 1, a significantly greater improvement of IBS-related symptom severity could be detected in the gut-directed hypnotherapy group than in the control group (P<0.05), and a trend in the same direction was seen in study 2 (P=0.17). The results seen at 3 months were sustained up to 1 year.


Gut-directed hypnotherapy is an effective treatment alternative for patients with refractory IBS, but the effectiveness is lower when the therapy is given outside the highly specialized research centers.

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We express our gratitude to the three private practice psychologists, who gave the hypnotherapy in study 1—Susanna Carolusson, Berndt Westman, and Anne Holmgren, and to Martha Sjöberg, psychologist at Ersta Hospital who trained P.A. in gut-directed hypnotherapy.

Author information


  1. Department of Internal Medicine, Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

    • Perjohan Lindfors
    • , Einar Björnsson
    • , Hasse Abrahamsson
    •  & Magnus Simrén
  2. Department of Internal Medicine, Gävle County Hospital, Gävle, Sweden

    • Perjohan Lindfors
    •  & Patrik Arvidsson
  3. Department of Gastroenterology, Sabbatsbergs Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden

    • Perjohan Lindfors
  4. Örebro University Hospital, Örebro, Sweden

    • Peter Unge
  5. Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, Switzerland

    • Peter Unge
  6. Department of Gastroenterology, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden

    • Henry Nyhlin


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Competing interests

Guarantor of the article: Magnus Simrén, MD, PhD.

Specific author contributions: Paper writing, study design, PI study 2, and data analysis: Perjohan Lindfors; study design study 2 and paper review: Peter Unge and Henry Nyhlin; hypnotherapist study 2, study design study 2, and paper review: Patrik Arvidsson; study design and performance of study 1 and paper review: Einar Björnsson and Hasse Abrahamsson; PI study 1, study design, data analysis, and paper writing: Magnus Simrén.

Financial support: This study was supported by Västra Götaland Region (Dagmar funds); the Swedish Research Council (Grant 13409), the Faculty of Medicine, University of Gothenburg; and the Centre for Clinical Research, Gävleborg.

Potential competing interests: None.

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Correspondence to Magnus Simrén.

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