Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy Can Help With Pain Relief—Here’s How

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AI-generated image of a man in a gut-directed hypnotherapy session
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Highlights: Gut-directed hypnotherapy can offer a unique path to healing for your well-being. Discover how with the expertise of UK’s #1 hypnotherapist, Paul McKenna.
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Your gut is so much more than “an organ to digest food.” Did you know that it has its own nervous system that can control digestion, communicate directly with your brain, and even influence your emotions and immune system?

It’s no coincidence that the gut is referred to as the second brain. This is why when there’s trouble in your bowel, the impact it has on you is pretty big.

While new therapies, remedies, and medicines are constantly emerging, one therapy in particular is gaining ground day by day: gut-directed hypnotherapy. This practice can not only help reduce any gut symptoms and your medication dependency but also reduce your stress and anxiety.

Everybody has some stress, but hardly anyone has the skills to deal with it. — @ImPaulMcKenna Click To Tweet

So in a world where stress is as common as air, using gut-directed hypnotherapy is a very useful skill to have.

What Is Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy?

This kind of hypnotherapy uses the power of the mind instead of medicine. As the name gives away, it’s designed to help people who have gut-related problems. 

With gut-directed hypnotherapy, the mind calms the bowel and improves its functionality. This becomes possible when you enter a very relaxed state through guidance, a bit like daydreaming, at the point where your mind can connect directly to your intestines.

The reality is, nearly 40% of adults suffer from a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which involves a combination of physical, psychological, and lifestyle factors. And, indeed, it’s very possible that you or one person you know suffers from such a disorder.

There are many different therapies available to help with gut-related disorders. Besides medications, the most common remedies used today are dietary modifications, behavioral therapies, and gut-directed hypnotherapy.

The latter, in particular, is getting more popular—and for a good reason. Not only is it a drug-free option that can be tailored to each condition, but it also has positive clinical outcomes that have contributed to its credibility.

What Is It For?

Gut-directed hypnotherapy addresses symptoms of chronic disorders in the gastrointestinal tract, including:

1. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Gut-directed hypnotherapy for IBS can help reduce the symptoms of the condition, such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

2. Functional dyspepsia: It can help alleviate the pain, bloating, and discomfort associated with this disorder by calming the nerves that control digestion.

3. Non-ulcer dyspepsia: It can play a role in reducing pain and discomfort.

4. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): It can help manage the symptoms of GERD by reducing stress and promoting relaxation, which can in turn minimize the occurrence of acid reflux and heartburn.

5. Stress-related gut issues: Many gut issues are stress-related. Gut-directed hypnotherapy can address stress and anxiety, which in turn can improve overall gut health.

6. Functional abdominal pain syndrome: This practice can help manage pain perception and decrease discomfort.

7. Overactive bowel: Hypnotherapy can help regulate frequent and urgent bowel movements and reduce urgency.

8. Bloating and gas: Such problems can be relieved through the relaxation of the digestive tract muscles with the help of hypnotherapy.

AI-generated image of a man eating a salad

How Does Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy Work?

During a gut-directed hypnotherapy session, a trained therapist helps you use your mind to calm down your gut and improve its functionality. Through positive suggestions from the therapist, the pain is reduced, and the gut relaxes.

This is possible due to the direct connection between the gut and the brain, known as the “gut-brain axis.” It acts as a bridge between the central nervous system (which includes the brain) and the enteric nervous system (which controls the digestive tract).

The two communicate back and forth along a superhighway of nerve fibers called the vagus nerve. The messages are responsible for sensations like feeling queasy when anxious or having “butterflies” in your stomach when you’re excited.

However, in many cases, the wrong messages are being sent, or the right messages are being sent but are being misinterpreted as bad.

This is what gut-directed hypnotherapy is trying to solve—it trains parts of the brain you don’t control consciously. By entering a deeply relaxed state, the brain becomes receptive to suggestions on how to better communicate with the gut, improving those unpleasant symptoms.

Main Benefits

While the outcomes can vary from person to person, the main potential benefits of gut-directed hypnotherapy usually include:

1. Reduced gut symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

2. Stress and anxiety reduction, which are known triggers for many gut-related issues.

3. Reduced medication dependency, which provides a drug-free solution entirely.

4. Enhanced mind-body connection. This increased awareness can help you better manage your symptoms and provide an improved sense of control over your gut health.

5. Empowerment and self-care skills. Through guided imagery and positive suggestions, you learn self-care techniques that can be used outside of therapy sessions.

What Does a Session Look Like?

The average gut-directed therapy session is about 30 to 60 minutes long. Keep in mind that your first-ever session with your therapist will take more than an hour because they’ll need to gather all the necessary information about your medical history, gut-related issues, goals, and any relevant psychological factors.

A typical session happens in stages described as follows:

1. Relaxation induction. The session begins with a relaxation induction, through which you are guided into a state of deep relaxation. This happens through techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization.

2. Guided imagery and visualization. Once you are in a relaxed state, the hypnotherapist uses guided imagery and visualization techniques. You will be asked to imagine your digestive system working smoothly and without its current problems.

3. Positive suggestions. During the relaxed state, the hypnotherapist introduces positive suggestions related to gut health. These suggestions might include statements about feeling calm and comfortable in the digestive system, having regular and pain-free bowel movements, and reducing any discomfort or symptoms.

4. Anchoring techniques. The practitioner will use anchoring techniques to create associations between positive feelings and physical sensations. For example, they might guide the individual to associate a particular touch or gesture with a sense of relaxation and gut comfort. What’s more, this technique can help you access a relaxed state even outside of the therapy session.

5. Reframing negative beliefs. Negative beliefs are very common in all kinds of problems that usually happen involuntarily and only multiply the distress. In this stage, the hypnotherapist will work on reframing these beliefs into more positive and helpful perspectives.

6. Stress reduction. Gut-directed hypnotherapy often includes techniques to reduce stress and anxiety through deep relaxation exercises. You’ll learn self-hypnosis techniques that can help you manage your stress on your own.

7. End of session and suggestions. Towards the end of the session, you will be gently put back into a fully alert state. The hypnotherapist might reinforce the positive suggestions made during the session and offer suggestions for ongoing self-care and techniques to use between sessions.

8. Post-session. Depending on your progress and goals, you’ll be assigned homework or self-care practices. You can picture those practices not as much as gut-directed hypnotherapy at home but rather as a selection of relaxation techniques and mindfulness exercises.

How many sessions would you need to start seeing results?

Needless to say, every case is different, and the number of sessions needed to start seeing results in gut-directed hypnotherapy varies from person to person. Several factors come into play, such as the severity of your symptoms, how receptive you are to hypnotherapy techniques, and your level of commitment to practicing techniques outside of sessions.

That said, here is what usually happens:

  • Initial improvement: You may begin to notice subtle improvements in your symptoms after four to six sessions. These improvements can include reduced discomfort, better digestion, or a decreased frequency of gut-related issues.
  • Noticeable changes: Around eight to 12 sessions, you may experience more noticeable changes in gut symptoms. These can include decreased pain, less bloating, and improved bowel regularity.
  • Long-term progress: Continuing sessions beyond the initial 12 sessions can lead to even more sustained improvements. Keep in mind that hypnotherapy is often most effective when it’s practiced consistently over time.

Who Can Use Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy?

Gut-directed hypnotherapy is typically used by licensed healthcare professionals who are trained and experienced in the techniques. These professions are the five most common that use gut-directed therapy to help their patients:

1. Hypnotherapists

2. Gastroenterologists

3. Clinical psychologists or therapists with expertise in both psychological and gastrointestinal health

4. Dietitians and nutritionists with specialized training in gut health

5. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants, especially with a focus on gastroenterology

Paul McKenna, UK's #1 hypnotherapist and trainer of the Mindvalley Certified Hypnotherapist program

In the words of Paul McKenna, UK’s #1 hypnotherapist and trainer of the Mindvalley Certified Hypnotherapist program, “If you don’t take responsibility for programming yourself, then someone else will.” Thankfully, more and more people have realized this and have taken responsibility for addressing their gut-related problems. 

This is how Paul’s hypnotherapy has helped people:

I’m 2 1/2 weeks into the hypnotic gastric, but I have already lost 9 lbs! My portion sizes have halved, and I feel energized and rested each morning after listening to the hypnosis. I don’t feel the need to snack in the evenings anymore, but on the few occasions I do fancy it, I don’t eat such as I usually do, and I feel satisfied with a smaller portion of it and enjoy my food a lot more.” — Claire Gerdes, key worker within a hospital operating theatre

Diets have done nothing for me at all and that was a source of genuine distress as I have been well aware of the need to look after my health on a conscious level, but I found that I couldn’t engage with the myriad of different weight-loss programs on offer on a subconscious level. …I discovered your havening technique in the past few weeks and have noticed a profound difference, not only in my eating habits but in my thinking patterns thus far.” — Susan Cohen, creative director

[Paul McKenna] is also a celebrity favorite, having helped David Walliams to swim the Channel, Sophie Dahl to lose weight, and Ellen Degeneres to stop smoking. There are many more examples, and they come up often.” — The Independent, United Kingdom

Dive Deeper into Your Gut Instincts

Gut-directed hypnotherapy is one of the most common practices in hypnotherapy and keeps spreading as a practice everywhere. Mastering this skill means opening a door that can transform your life and the lives of others.

The Mindvalley Certified Hypnotherapist FREE webinar is an excellent place to start your journey in hypnotherapy. You can now learn this powerful skill from Paul McKenna himself and become a hypnotherapist, even if you’re starting with zero experience.

Through Paul’s highly optimized training method, you will discover:

  • Why hypnotherapy is now one of the most powerful methods for creating change
  • How to become a skilled hypnotherapist, fast
  • How to design a life of boundless lifestyle and freedom
  • How to integrate hypnotherapy into your existing practice if you are a coach or a teacher

Acquire a life-changing skill and join a community of people who are also looking to step up and shine.

Welcome in. 


Images generated on Midjourney except for the one of the Mindvalley trainer.

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Sofia Evaggelidou

Sofia Evaggelidou

Sofia is a mindfulness advocate and writer at Mindvalley. She is passionate about Japanese culture and an avid gamer.
Written by

Sofia Evaggelidou

Sofia is a mindfulness advocate and writer at Mindvalley. She is passionate about Japanese culture and an avid gamer.
Paul McKenna
Expertise by

Paul McKenna, Ph.D. is the trainer for Mindvalley’s Everyday Bliss Quest and Total Self-Confidence Quest. Having helped millions of people successfully quit smoking, lose weight, overcome insomnia, eliminate stress, and increase self-confidence., Dr. McKenna was named by The London Times as one of the world’s leading and most important modern gurus alongside Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. He has also worked his unique brand of personal transformation with Hollywood movie stars, Olympic gold medalists, rock stars, leading business achievers, and royalty.

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Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

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To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.