Hypnotherapy for inflammatory bowel disease

By Julie James | March 09, 2016

Some people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) use alternative therapies to help them manage some of their Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis symptoms. In this article hypnotherapist Julie James explains some of the ways she believes hypnosis may help people with IBD.

Please note no studies have been carried out which specifically support the use of hypnotherapy in helping people with IBD. There are some studies which show that hypnotherapy may be effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome symptoms (IBS), including abdominal pain1.

What is Hypnosis?

To understand hypnosis, it's useful to understand your subconscious mind. This is the part of your mind that is the most powerful, containing infinite wisdom and a very deep level of intelligence. It is your untapped resource for creativity and imagination.

Your subconscious mind is the seat of all your emotions and therefore directs nearly all of your behaviour. Most importantly, your subconscious is also responsible for maintaining your body in good health and for all autonomic processes (e.g. breathing, blood circulation, tissue regeneration, repair etc.)

Hypnosis is a safe way of accessing this natural intelligence and issuing new instructions to create seemingly miraculous changes in you, your behaviour and your body.


How can hypnotherapy help IBD?

Stress and anxiety

The body’s response to stress is to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. When this happens all the blood drains from your digestive system and goes to your major muscles, thus preparing you to ‘fight or flight’. Your awareness also changes and we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival.

When this happens we lose the ability to think rationally and logically. Our immune system can become compromised. People can suffer with digestive problems and restful sleep can also become difficult.

The fight or flight response is very primitive and hard-wired into our brains. It represents a genetic wisdom designed to protect us from bodily harm. To primitive man stress was running away from a sabre toothed tiger or a woolly mammoth and was an appropriate response.

Today stress is dealing with ill health, work colleagues, technology, deadlines and family. The fight or flight responses is not helpful in modern stress situations. Short bursts of adrenalin are ok if you are about to be hit by the number 5 bus, however constant high levels of adrenalin caused by modern life can be very detrimental.

So how do you change the stress response? Clearly a bit of stress at appropriate times is a good thing to keep us out of harm’s way and to change that would be difficult and possibly foolhardy.

What we can do is change our perception of stress especially when the situation is not life threatening. The decision to mount the stress response comes from your subconscious mind and the most effective way of communicating with that part of your mind is through hypnosis.


Everybody is born confident. As you go through life some experiences add to your confidence and some take it away. If something has “taken away” your confidence it can be difficult to get it back, as you can then become more vulnerable to other things knocking your confidence.

Poor health caused by IBD can affect your confidence as you may be reluctant it put yourself in unfamiliar situations or be constantly doubting yourself.

It may be that you have never had any encouragement or confirmation that you were doing the right thing. Starting a new job and worrying about failure can affect your confidence, as can pressure from bosses or parents.

Whatever your issues are for lacking confidence, be they caused by IBD or other factors, hypnotherapy can help you gain confidence. This in turn can have a wonderful beneficial effect on your life and health. Results are quick, effective and lasting.

Toilet anxiety

With diarrhoea being a major symptom those with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis can find themselves obsessing as to where the nearest toilet is. This in itself can create anxiety - especially if there is no toilet available.

As discussed above anxiety can have an adverse effect on the digestive system, thus heightening the need to use the toilet. For some people just being away from the apparent safety of home can be enough to cause anxiety and thus diarrhoea.

Also a person’s expectation of what will happen based on past events can be extremely powerful - so if you had diarrhoea in a certain situation in the past, you then expect it to happen again in the future. Unfortunately this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Hypnosis can not only calm down the whole stress response it can also change your expectation of how your body will respond in certain situations.

How is hypnotherapy done?

Hypnosis is usually done on a one-to-one basis, in a quiet comfortable environment. All your questions will be answered prior to taking you into hypnosis and the process of taking you into hypnosis is usually done by talking you through a relaxation.

You hear what is being said to you, you will remember what is being said to you and you are in control at all times. It is a very similar experience to meditation.

Have you tried hypnosis for your IBD? How did you find it? Leave your comments below.


  1. Webb AN, Kukuruzovic R, Catto-Smith AG, Sawyer SM. Cochrane 2007. http://www.cochrane.org/CD005110/IBD_hypnotherapy-treatment-by-hypnosis-for-the-treatment-of-irritable-bowel-syndrome

Julie James

C.Hyp D.Hyp C.M.H.

I have studied hypnosis, hypnotherapy and psychotherapy at the world renowned Merjon School of Hypnosis in London. I have also added to my skills by studying Advanced Hypnotherapy, NLP, Life Coaching and E.F.T. (Emotional Freedom Technique) and I now run my own practice in Brighton & Hove.

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