Prof Whorwell and the Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction

Hello all,

It is the beginning of October, and I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a walk in the countryside today, with no rain today, and able to enjoy the glorious autumn colours.

As promised, here are my thoughts on the amazing presentation by Professor Peter Whorwell at the NCH 2021 convention ( about Hypnotherapy for IBS. As anyone who knows me will tell you, are am really into the neuroscience and evidence, so I always look forwards to presentations by Doctors and academics, with verifiable evidence from a large sample. Suffice to say, Prof Whorwell did not disappoint.

Professor Whorwell started with an explanation of IBS, and how it is merely the most well known of the “disorders of gut-brain interaction”, along with several other conditions which occur higher or lower in the gut. He also made the excellent point about how its severity is greatly underestimated, not taken seriously, and indeed often misdiagnosed.

There was also some advice by him for fellow doctors, which I won’t repeat since I’m not a doctor – it might be out of date whenever you read this. Since the symptoms might be something else, the client should also be talking to their doctor about this.

In terms of Hypnotherapy, he currently has a 12-week program, although his team have been finding that 6-weeks works just as well. He also offers “top up sessions” e.g. for any setbacks which might happen. One interesting thing is the metaphors he uses, emphasising the person having control over their gut, and it behaving properly, and also the tactile sensations which a given client associates with their gut behaving properly.

The thing that really impressed me was the assessment of the clients after this treatment, not just how they felt about their IBS, but measurable physiological changes to their gut. This included the actual movement rate in their gut (motility), sensitivity to pressure, scans of the part of their brain involved, and dietary sensitivity. These were still improved when looking at his patients 2-7 years later.

His presentation had a lot of charts showing these results in more detail, too many for a blog post, but if you are interested then he has a book entitled “Take control of your IBS”.

All in all, a very worth while presentation, and it will really help me help clients with any of these gut-brain disorders.

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