Hypnotherapy may be the key to relief for the millions of people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in the UK, according to Professor Peter Whorwell.
Professor Whorwell, from the University of Manchester's Medical School, said IBS is ideal for treatment with hypnosis as there is no structural damage to the body.
He said during hypnotherapy sufferers learn how to influence and gain control of their gut function, and then seem to be able to change the way the brain modulates their gut activity.
IBS, which is accompanied by symptoms such as diarrhoea, pain and bloating, affects around eight million people in Britain and can seriously affect a sufferer's general quality of life.
Recently, the university team examined the outcome of hypnotherapy on 250 patients who had suffered from IBS for over two years.
The patients were given 12 one-hour sessions during which they were given information about how the gut works and what causes their symptoms.
The study showed a success-rate of about 70 per cent and Professor Whorwell said that, although labour-intensive, hypnotherapy could be an extremely effective treatment for the condition and a less expensive alternative to new, costly drugs coming onto the market.
"We've found it to help all the symptoms, whereas some of the drugs available reduce only a few," he said.
"As IBS can be a life-long condition it could clearly be a very valuable option for patients; however it is not suitable for everyone and women tend to respond better than men."