FYIHypnotherapy Soothes Recurrent IndigestionFri Dec 6, 1:32 PM ET By Alison McCook NEW YORK Ruters Health - Hypnosis appears to help calm a stomach plagued by a common digestive disorder better than either an equal amount of supportive therapy or drug treatment, new study findings show. Dr. Peter James Whorwell of Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, UK, and his colleagues tested the effectiveness of 16 weeks of hypnotherapy in patients with functional dyspepsia FD, a form of chronic indigestion that affects up to one quarter of the population. Patients' symptoms include bloating, nausea, vomiting and feelings of fullness. Compared to patients given a stomach acid-suppressor or an inactive drug plus supportive therapy--during which patients spoke to and were counseled by a clinician--those who received hypnotherapy saw a greater improvement in their symptoms and quality of life more than a year later. Hypnotherapy patients also, on average, scheduled fewer doctors' visits during the 40 weeks after treatment ended than did those given the other treatments. Furthermore, Whorwell and his team report that none of the patients given hypnotherapy needed to take medications during the follow-up period after treatment. In contrast, the vast majority of those who received supportive therapy or medication during the study took a variety of drugs, including antacids and antidepressants. These findings suggest that hypnotherapy can be an effective and economical way to soothe indigestion in people with FD, the authors note. "Hypnotherapy is highly effective in the long-term management of FD," Whorwell and his team write. "Furthermore, the dramatic reduction in medication use and consultation rate provide major economic advantages." This is not the first study to demonstrate the benefits of hypnotherapy for a variety of conditions, including those that involve digestion. For instance, the current group of authors recently showed that hypnotherapy can ease symptoms of a common intestinal disorder known as irritable bowel syndrome, while other researchers reported that the technique can benefit people with asthma and mothers in labor. During the current study, reported in the December issue of Gastroenterology, Whorwell and his team asked a group of 126 patients with FD to undergo hypnotherapy, supportive therapy or drug treatment for 16 weeks, then followed them for an additional 40 weeks and recorded their progress. Patients who received hypnotherapy and supportive therapy spent the same amount of time with health professionals--twelve 30-minute visits--while those given the acid-suppressor ranitidine zantac attended only four visits. Whorwell and colleagues found that, while receiving the various treatments, hypnotherapy patients reported more improvements in symptoms than did those given drugs or supportive therapy. In the long term, 73% of hypnotherapy patients said their symptoms had improved, relative to only 34% of those given supportive therapy and 43% of those given drugs. Nine out of 10 patients given medication needed to take other drugs during the follow-up, as did 82% of those who received supportive therapy. No patient given hypnotherapy required additional medication during the 40 weeks after treatment ended. Dr. William E. Whitehead of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, who wrote an accompanying editorial, said he believed the current findings are "fairly dramatic," and suggest that "it would benefit physicians to incorporate hypnosis much more frequently than it is now." However, he noted that significant obstacles must be overcome before FD patients and others have easy access to hypnotherapy. Only few patients are currently offered hypnosis for their pain, Whitehead said, and many get no reimbursement for the service from their insurers. Furthermore, relatively few health professionals are trained to administer hypnotherapy, he and his colleague, Dr. Olafur S. Palsson write. But Whitehead noted that he believed patients with other types of gastrointestinal problems might benefit from hypnotherapy, as well--such as people suffering from rectal pain, milder forms of indigestion, and nausea or vomiting. "We think it can help people with milder forms of functional dyspepsia, yes," he said. SOURCE: Gastroenterology 2002;123:1778-1785, 2132-2147.