Smartphone app-delivered gut-directed hypnotherapy improves symptoms of self-reported irritable bowel syndrome: A retrospective evaluation

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2023 Apr;35(4):e14533. doi: 10.1111/nmo.14533. Epub 2023 Jan 20.


Simone L Peters 1Peter R Gibson 1Emma P Halmos 1


Author information

1Department of Gastroenterology, Monash University, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Background: Gut-directed hypnotherapy (GDH) has high rates of durable efficacy for treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but its widespread use is limited due to high costs and poor access. A smartphone app delivering GDH was developed to fill gaps in accessibility but has not been assessed in IBS patients. The current retrospective evaluation aims to assess the efficacy of app-delivered GDH in managing IBS symptoms and to investigate associating factors that predict response.

Methods: Irritable bowel syndrome patients who downloaded the app between June 2019 and April 2020 were retrospectively evaluated. The first seven sessions were free. Daily GDH, psycho-education, and breathing exercises were included. Overall and individual gastrointestinal symptoms were assessed at baseline and completion using a 100-mm visual analogue scale. Clinical data were extracted.

Key results: 2843 patients with self-reported IBS commenced the free sessions, 1428 (50%) purchased the app and 253 (9%) completed all 42 sessions. Outcome data were available for 190 users who completed all 42 sessions. 64% of patients who completed the GDH and provided outcome data responded (defined as >30% reduction in abdominal pain). Abdominal pain reduced from 60mm (50-73mm) at baseline to 26mm (13-50mm) on study completion (p<0.001 Wilcoxon). Similar results were seen for overall and individual symptoms. On multivariable analysis, symptom response was positively associated with being ≥ 40 years (estimated OR 0.398, p=0.025) and negatively associated with trying probiotics (0.323, p=0.042).

Conclusions & inferences: Adherence to app-delivered gut-directed hypnotherapy was low but users who completed the program saw notable improvements in their IBS symptoms. Patients ≥40 years, with symptoms for ≥5 years, may respond better. A controlled trial comparing face-to-face to app-delivered GDH is indicated.



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