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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Mar 1;17(5):635-42.

Gut-focused hypnotherapy normalizes disordered rectal sensitivity in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

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Academic Department of Medicine, University Hospital of South Manchester, UK.



We have previously shown that hypnotherapy alters rectal sensitivity in some patients with irritable bowel syndrome. However, this previous study used incremental volume distension of a latex balloon, which might be susceptible to subject response bias and might compromise the assessment of compliance. In addition, the study group was symptomatically rather than physiologically defined.


To assess the effect of hypnotherapy on rectal sensitivity in hypersensitive, hyposensitive and normally sensitive irritable bowel syndrome patients using a distension technique (barostat) that addresses these technical issues.


Twenty-three irritable bowel syndrome (Rome I) patients (aged 24-72 years) were assessed before and after 12 weeks of hypnotherapy in terms of rectal sensitivity, symptomatology, anxiety and depression. Normal values for sensitivity were established in 17 healthy volunteers (aged 20-55 years).


Compared with controls, 10 patients were hypersensitive, seven hyposensitive and six normally sensitive before treatment. Following hypnotherapy, the mean pain sensory threshold increased in the hypersensitive group (P = 0.04) and decreased in the hyposensitive group, although the latter failed to reach statistical significance (P = 0.19). Normal sensory perception was unchanged. Sensory improvement in the hypersensitive patients tended to correlate with a reduction in abdominal pain (r = 0.714, P = 0.07).


Hypnotherapy improves abnormal sensory perception in irritable bowel syndrome, leaving normal sensation unchanged.

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