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A mindful approach to IBS

You’ve heard the phrase “listen to your gut”. And maybe, you’ve felt butterflies in your belly when nervous or stressed. It’s no coincidence. There’s something known as the brain-gut axis. This axis is a two-way communication system that connects the central and intestinal nervous systems. The relationship plays a crucial role in regulating our digestion, immune responses, and our mental health. You may not realise it, but when treating IBS, we can not only look at diet or medication but alternatively, take a mindful approach to managing change.

In recent years, both hypnotherapy and the FODMAP diet have gained attention as potential treatments for managing gut-related disorders. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of the brain-gut axis, delve into how hypnotherapy and the FODMAP diet can impact it, and compare their effectiveness in alleviating gut-related issues.

The Brain-Gut Axis Explained

The brain-gut axis refers to the bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut. The two are connected through a network of nerves, neurotransmitters, and hormones. This connection allows for constant communication between the two systems, influencing various aspects of our well-being. The gut contains its own “brain,” known as the enteric nervous system, which can operate independently of the central nervous system.

Hypnotherapy and the Brain-Gut Axis

Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic technique that utilises hypnosis to induce a state of deep relaxation and heightened suggestibility. It has been found to have positive effects on various gut-related conditions such as IBS. Dr Simone Peters of Mind + Gut looked at hypnosis as an alternate approach to FODMAPS for treating IBS, and found hypnotherapy can modulate the brain-gut axis by reducing stress and improving gut motility.

Another study published in The Lancet found that hypnotherapy provided long-term relief from IBS symptoms in 40% of patients compared to just 12% in the control group. Hypnotherapy sessions aim to reframe negative thoughts, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation, all of which can positively influence the brain-gut axis.

The FODMAP Diet and the Brain-Gut Axis

The FODMAP diet is an eating plan that restricts fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) to alleviate symptoms of gut disorders such as IBS. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that can be poorly absorbed, leading to symptoms like bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. By reducing FODMAP intake, the diet aims to reduce gut inflammation and improve overall gut health.

While the FODMAP diet does not directly target the brain-gut axis as hypnotherapy does, it can indirectly impact it by reducing gut symptoms and associated stress. Studies have shown that following a low-FODMAP diet can significantly reduce IBS symptoms in around 50-70% of patients.

On the flip side, however,

it can lead to food anxiety that can exacerbate the problem – and clash with a mindful approach. So although the success rate is high, it’s important to find an approach that works best for you.

Comparing Hypnotherapy and the FODMAP Diet

Both hypnotherapy and the FODMAP diet have shown promising results in managing gut-related issues, but they differ in their approaches and mechanisms of action.


Hypnotherapy has been shown to provide long-term relief in a significant percentage of IBS patients. Its ability to modulate the brain-gut axis by reducing stress and improving pain perception makes it an effective treatment option. On the other hand, the FODMAP diet has a high success rate in reducing IBS symptoms, but its long-term effects are still being studied.

Mechanism of Action:

Hypnotherapy directly targets the brain-gut axis by promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and reframing negative thoughts. By doing so, it helps regulate gut motility, sensitivity, and inflammation. The FODMAP diet primarily focuses on reducing fermentable carbohydrates to alleviate symptoms. While it may indirectly impact the brain-gut axis by reducing stress associated with gut symptoms, its effects on other aspects of the axis are not as well-understood.

Individual Suitability:

Hypnotherapy may be suitable for individuals who prefer a non-invasive treatment option that addresses both physical and psychological aspects of gut disorders. It can be particularly helpful for those whose symptoms are triggered or worsened by stress. The FODMAP diet requires strict dietary modifications and may not be suitable for everyone. It may be more suitable for individuals who have identified specific food triggers through testing or self-observation.

How we use hypnosis to treat IBS

Like any type of anxiety, it’s important to take an approach that’s not overwhelming. After all, you’ve been doing anxiety and IBS for so long, it’s second nature, so we look at breaking it down into steps – and take one step at a time.

We focus on:

  • Learning what you can control, and being ok with what you can’t. In learning this important skill, you’ll find you can manage your anxiety

  • Lack of process. You may not know how you’re doing anxiety – or IBS – so being able to understand the process, and take steps to intervene with steps that work for you, you’ll be able to manage the problem space.

  • Finding a way to not focus on your internal view of the world, but instead, look outside yourself. At the moment, you're likely focusing on your thoughts, but not checking them against what's happening outside you.

  • Building skills that help you park your thoughts

  • Learning how to slow your mind and not over-analyse the situation

  • Being ok with not knowing what the future holds

To find out more, or book a FREE consulting session, hit the button below.


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