Hypnosis for gut disorders: Addressing the brain-gut connection

Laurie A. Keefer | September 14, 2017

Modern medicine has increasingly recognized the biochemical interaction of the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract, known as the “gut-brain axis.” Until recently, though, many practitioners considered functional gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome to be psychosomatic.

However, brain imaging research by physicians like Emeran Mayer, MD, PhD, established the existence of a bidirectional link between the brain and the gut, including the microbiome. This bidirectional signaling manifests not only as the influence of psychological stressors on the gut microbiota, but also the influence of changes in the gut microbiota on psychological and emotional states.

“Patients with these functional GI disorders feel something that would be considered “normal” by others, such as fullness after eating, as painful.” Laurie A. Keefer, PhD, director of psychobehavioral research within the division of gastroenterology at Mt. Sinai Health System, told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease. “People with brain-gut dysregulation might experience something like a little bit of acid secretion, which is normal and necessary to break down your food, as heartburn. Being able to identify this abnormal process of interpreting symptoms led us to say, ‘maybe this isn’t a psychosomatic disease. Maybe this is a disorder of brain-gut dysregulation.’”