Hypnotherapy for Esophageal Disorders

Megan E. Riehl, Laurie Keefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Hypnotherapy is an evidence based intervention for the treatment of functional bowel disorders, particularly irritable bowel syndrome. While similar in pathophysiology, less is known about the utility of hypnotherapy in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Esophageal disorders, most of which are functional in nature, cause painful and uncomfortable symptoms that impact patient quality of life and are difficult to treat from a medical perspective. After a thorough medical workup and a failed trial of proton pump inhibitor therapy, options for treatment are significantly limited. While the pathophysiology is likely multifactorial, two critical factors are believed to drive esophageal symptoms—visceral hypersensitivity and symptom hypervigilance. The goal of esophageal directed hypnotherapy is to promote a deep state of relaxation with focused attention allowing the patient to learn to modulate physiological sensations and symptoms that are not easily addressed with conventional medical intervention. Currently, the use of hypnosis is suitable for dysphagia, globus, functional chest pain/non-cardiac chest pain, dyspepsia, and functional heartburn. In this article the authors will provide a rationale for the use of hypnosis in these disorders, presenting the science whenever available, describing their approach with these patients, and sharing a case study representing a successful outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-33
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Hypnosis
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • behavioral medicine
  • esophageal disorders
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • heartburn
  • hypnosis


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