The effects of hypnotherapy on adults with IBS have been studied over a couple of decades by Dr Peter Whorwell and colleagues at the University Hospital of South Manchester in the UK. But thanks to a chance meeting between him and Dutch doctor Marc Benninga, who's a paediatric gastro-enterologist at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, new research is now under way, which explores the efficacy of hypnosis in children suffering from the debilitating chronic pain of IBS.
"We did a pilot study in 10 children," Dr Benninga explains, "we noticed it was successful in the majority of the children so then we needed a larger study".' "Peter Whorwell described in his studies that during or after hypnotherapy the [typical for IBS] hypersensitivity of the gut will disappear. So we looked at hypersensitivity of the gut beforehand and in the week after stopping the intervention and hopefully there will be something showing it disappears. But then again, you can ask me, 'how does it work?' and I don't have an answer to that. It will be a question for further research."
More than 50 children have now been enrolled in the project, and randomly assigned to one of two groups.
Dr Benninga explains: "One group is treated by a gastro-enterologist - that's me. I give them conventional treatment, a high-fibre diet in combination with keeping a pain diary, and I see them six times during three months."
The second group gets the conventional treatment plus 6 sessions of hypnotherapy with Dr Benninga's partner on the project, Carla Menko-Frankenhuis.