Learn all about gut-directed hypnotherapy in today’s post and how calming the gut-brain connection can help ease digestive discomfort and symptoms of IBS.
This post is sponsored by Nerva.
The many years I suffered from severe IBS symptoms is definitely not something I look back on fondly. Constant discomfort, food triggers, food fears, and a whole lot of stress. There’s no doubt that food can play a role in how our digestion feels, but something I wish I understood more back then was the gut-brain connection. It’s easy to overlook how our mental & emotional health can affect our digestion.
As some of you probably know, our gut and brains are intricately connected through what’s known as the gut-brain axis. Ever had butterflies in your stomach because you’re nervous? Or started salivating at the thought of a delicious meal? That’s a classic example of this connection.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The connection between the gut and brain is well established in research. The gut-brain axis (GBA) involves two-way communication linking emotional and cognitive centres in the brain with intestinal functions in our gut. Some ways the brain and gut influence each other include:
• through the millions of neurons in the gut
• gut microbiota that interact with intestinal cells, nerves, hormones, and the immune system, influencing pain response (e.g. abdominal cramping), appetite, and mood
• motility and intestinal movements influenced by the vagus nerve, which is connected from our brain stem down to our colon
• stress, anxiety, and depression can worsen gastrointestinal symptoms
Those who have enhanced communication between their brain and gut may have symptoms that are triggered by stress and anxiety. Stress triggers the release of hormones that can lead to reduced blood flow in gut, reduced movement of food through the digestive tract (and in some cases, more movement in the large intestine which triggers diarrhea), heightened gastrointestinal sensitivity, and increased inflammation.
When it comes to digestive troubles we often turn to food as a way to manage symptoms. And in many cases, adjusting our diet is absolutely helpful (even necessary in some cases, such as with intolerances or allergies). But understanding and calming this gut-brain connection is also important when it comes to managing issues like IBS, and gut-directed hypnotherapy is an effective and non-invasive way to approach this.
What is Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy?
When you think about the term hypnotherapy, you might think about hypnosis and someone swinging a pendant over your head while counting down from 10 until you’re unconscious (and primed to do as you’re told!). But I promise you, it’s not quite that dramatic!
Gut-directed hypnotherapy is an evidence-based form of guided relaxation and visualization exercises that help you relax and address the miscommunication between the gut and brain. A calmer gut and mind can help reduce digestive symptoms, especially if they’re stress or anxiety related.
How Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy Works
One of my favourite tools for incorporating gut-directed hypnotherapy easily into daily life is the app Nerva, designed by Psychophysiologist & Gut-Directed Hypnotherapist, Dr. Simone Peters. This app helps you self-manage IBS symptoms by guiding you through daily evidence-based gut-directed hypnotherapy sessions, educational readings about the gut-brain connection, and breathing exercises over a span of 6 weeks. Each hypnotherapy session brings you into a state of relaxation where you’re guided to relax both the mind and gut through visualization. It’s like a form of meditation, but for your gut!
How Nerva Works
Inside the Nerva app you’re shown what to do for the day, ticking tasks off as you complete them and recording your progress along the way. There’s also a maintenance plan that allows you to practice your skills and manage symptoms in a more flexible format after the 6 weeks.
The best part about gut-directed hypnotherapy is that it’s non-invasive. While approaches like elimination diets absolutely are useful for some people under the right guidance, not everyone responds well to restrictive diets, especially those who have a history of disordered eating. As someone who has personally experienced challenges with my relationship with food due to IBS and food fears, I’m thrilled to see solutions available that don’t involve focusing heavily on cutting foods out of the diet.
If you want to give Nerva a try (you can do it all from home with personalized support 24/7), click here to start your 7 day free trial + save 30% on your subscription.
Disclaimer: Nerva is a self-management tool intended to help users live well with IBS. It should not replace any medical or professional care, diagnosis, or treatment. Nerva is not intended as a treatment for IBS and does not replace care by your provider and IBS treatments you may be using. Nerva is not a substitute for any medications. You should continue to take your medications as directed by your healthcare provider. This blog post is sponsored by Nerva, although all opinions expressed are those of Meghan Livingstone.