Hypnosis helps patients with inflammatory bowel disease

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can create havoc on a person’s insides. These immune diseases cause the intestines to become inflamed and can cause a lot of pain.

In addition to traditional medicine and surgery, inflammatory bowel disease specialists are exploring the connection between mind and gut and using alternative therapies to bring relief.

Marylou Wellbrock-Reeves has seen many doctors and specialists throughout her lifelong struggle with Crohn’s disease.

“Some of my days are racked with such pain, it’s analogous to labor pain,” she said.

Her family is what keeps her going as she searches for the best way to live with a condition that has no cure.

For Marylou, that includes what’s called gastric-directed hypnotherapy.

“The brain and the gut are connected through the vagus nerve, which is responsible for communicating a whole bunch of functions," said Dr. Laurie Keefer, a Mt. Sinai Hospital GI health psychologist and associate professor. "How fast things move through the body. How you process waste. How much inflammation.”

Crohn’s disease isn’t caused by stress, but stress can amplify the symptoms.

For Marylou, hypnosis is one part of a whole-body approach to managing her disease.

“I think people still think it’s a magic act," Maylou said. "It’s not a magic act. It’s really a heavy emphasis on focus and self-focus.”

“When a patient is in a focused state of attention, their brain is much more open to suggestion than it would be in a normal setting,” Keefer said.

Hypnosis helps Marylou with things like behavioral and dietary changes, along with traditional treatment to help keep her Crohn’s under control.

In addition to Mt. Sinai, hypnosis for patients with digestive issues is offered at several other major hospital systems, including Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and the University of Michigan. It is often covered by insurance.

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
RESEARCH SUMMARY
TOPIC: HYPNOSIS HELPS IBD PATIENTS
REPORT: MB #4542

BACKGROUND: Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is the chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. There are 1.6 million Americans living with the disease. Some of the symptoms for IBD include diarrhea, fever and fatigue, reduced appetite and abdominal pain and cramping. The cause of IBD is unknown, but diet and stress may aggravate the body. Risk factors for the disease include age, race, cigarette smoking and where you live. The disease is most common in those who live in the Midwest and Northeast.
(Source: https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Lumbar-Spinal-Stenosis https://inflammatoryboweldisease.net/what-is-crohns-disease/statistics/ )

DIAGNOSIS: After taking down your family health history, physicians give a physical exam looking at GI tract. They can also ask for a blood or stool test. These tests might not show that you have IBD, but it can show the inflammation. Patients may also receive a colonoscopy to not only diagnose the IBD but also to monitor it. In order to get a better look at small and large intestines, doctors may ask for an X-ray or CT scan to check for blockages, intra-abdominal abscesses, fistulas and bowel perforation. From that data, patients are diagnosed with one of two types of IBD: ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis causes long- lasting inflammation and sores, or ulcers, in the colon and rectum. Crohn’s disease causes inflammation to your digestive tract which can spread into other tissues. With both, they can cause complications in colon cancer, skin, eye and joint inflammation, blood clots and primary sclerosing cholangitis.
(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353315 http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/assets/pdfs/diagnosing-and-managing-ibd.pdf)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: There is not a medical cure for IBD but there are ways to ease the pain. Treatments for IBD include immunomodulators, which decreases the inflammatory response by weakening the activity of the immune system or taking different antibiotics, but there is a new way to deal with the pain through hypnosis. The gut and the brain are connected through the vagus nerve, which communicates a lot of bodily functions. Laurie Keefer, PhD, says the procedure tries to optimize the connection between the gut and the brain and can ease the pain.
(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353315)