Hypnosis may calm kids’ irritable bowels
Gut-directed hypnotherapy is “highly effective” for children with long-standing abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome (known as IBS), researchers have found.
“We advocate that hypnotherapy become the treatment of choice in children with persisting complaints of either functional abdominal pain or IBS in whom first-line therapies such as education and dietary advice have failed,” Dr. Arine M. Vlieger of St. Antonius Hospital, Nieuwegein, and colleagues conclude in a report in the journal Gastroenterology.
People with IBS suffer chronic discomfort with cramping, diarrhea or constipation. The causes of IBS are unclear and there has been debate whether it is mostly due to psychological factors or biological triggers, or perhaps a combination.
Given that gut-directed hypnotherapy is effective for adults with IBS, Vlieger and colleagues tested its value in children. They randomly assigned 53 children, aged 8 to 18 years, with persistent abdominal pain or IBS to hypnotherapy, 6 sessions over 3 months, or standard medical care plus 6 sessions of supportive therapy (the control group).
In hypnotherapy sessions, children were taught about the mind-body connection and the mind’s ability to regulate bodily functions. They learned general relaxation techniques, how to visualize a normal functioning gut and were also given “ego-strengthening” suggestions to increase self-confidence and well being. Every child also received a CD with a standardized hypnosis session and was encouraged to listen to it every day and practice self-hypnosis.
Children in the control group received standard education, dietary advice, and pain medication and discussed possible triggers to stomach pain with a support person.
The researchers found that hypnotherapy was “highly superior” to standard care, yielding a significantly greater reduction in pain scores recorded in weekly stomach pain diaries. At the 1 year follow up point, pain intensity scores had deceased from 13.5 to 1.3 in the hypnotherapy group and from 14.1 to 8.0 in the control group.
Moreover, 85 percent of children in the hypnotherapy group were considered successfully treated versus only 25 percent of children in the control group.
The team suggests further studies be conducted to see whether hypnotherapy might also be a treatment option for children with other gastrointestinal disorders.
SOURCE: Gastroenterology November 2007.
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