I’m standing in an old-fashioned pharmacy, filled with the heady, spicy scent of herbs. Rows of glass bottles gleam on shelves above sunlit mahogany counters — and one bears a label with my name on it. I take a sip and feel the contents of the vial slide into my stomach, covering everything with a soothing and protective layer. “This medicine is doing you so good,” said a calm female voice. The voice tells me how much the contents of the bottle relieve my gastric symptoms, then counts from one to five. I open my eyes. The medicine cabinet disappears, replaced by the familiar view of my living room. The voice, diffused in my headphones, welcomes me. “I hope you feel rested and awake, and that you enjoyed your first hypnotherapy session,” he says.
Welcome to Neva.
What is Nerva?
Nerva is an app, available for iOS and Android, designed to treat and improve uncomfortable bowel symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). My time in an imaginary drugstore was just part of the program, the first of many daily hypnotherapy sessions designed to help you improve your brain-gut connection, because poor brain-gut communication can be an under-trigger. underlying of the SCI. I know it might sound weird, but this stuff can be really effective, and it’s backed by science – a 2016 study found IBS sufferers experienced a 72% improvement in symptoms with hypnotherapy gut-directed (similar to the effects of the low-FODMAP diet, but without the dietary restrictions), and a 2003 study showed that the beneficial effects of hypnotherapy on IBS can last for up to five years. According to the app, 89% of Nerva users (over 50,000 of them) saw significant improvements in their health, which isn’t too bad! The best part is that it takes little effort and doesn’t involve saying goodbye to the foods you love to eat; each daily Nerva session lasts about 20 minutes and involves hypnotherapy, reading, and sometimes breathing exercises – but never diet or medication.
How does Nerva work?
Before your Nerva journey begins, you are asked to complete an online assessment questionnaire which allows you to provide information about your symptoms, the treatments you have tried and your personal treatment goals. The quiz also breaks down some of Nerva’s underlying concepts, like the gut-brain connection, and explains how gut-led hypnotherapy works. At the end of your assessment, you can find out if your answers indicate that you are a good candidate for the program. At this point, you can also download the app to get started for real.
Nerva starts with a basic six-week program that involves daily use of the app. Each day the app offers a hypnotherapy session and a short educational read about IBS and IBS treatments, and sometimes breathing exercises, all of which last about 20 minutes in total. You can set the app to send phone alerts at a specific time each day so you don’t forget to do your Nerva session (the program works best when you’re reasonably consistent). Nerva costs $2.87 per week ($149 per year if you choose not to cancel), but if you sign up through Bustle you can get your first week free and 30% off your membership. This brings your weekly cost down to $2 and your yearly cost down to just over $109. After six weeks, the program is over and you move on to Nerva’s maintenance plan, which is a little more flexible than the basic program, but still involves further hypnotherapy sessions and support to help you feel better.
According to Mindset Health, the company behind Nerva, most users will notice improvement in symptoms within the first four weeks of the program, although experiences vary. The app even mentions that the results of gut-directed hypnotherapy can last a long time, potentially up to five years.
What does using Nerva look like?
I only signed up for Nerva a week ago, and I’ll say it all: I’ve never been diagnosed with IBS. However, my sister has IBS and is in her sixth week of the program. When I call her to ask about her experience, she has a lot to say. “I love this app,” she enthuses. She tells me that the hypnotherapy portion of Nerva (which we both agree is more like guided meditation than anything else) is structured in a way that she finds calming. She explains that the app repeats the relaxation and hypnotherapy sequences a lot, which she really likes. “Hypnosis is always familiar, so it’s very calming. There are no surprises. She says she even thinks it helps her sleep.
My sister also tells me that she found the educational readings really cool and helpful. For example, she says, “The most powerful thing for me was learning to calm down if you had a flare-up. For example, if your stomach hurts and you start worrying about developing additional symptoms that will ruin your day, you recognize that your fears are thoughts, not the reality of what’s going to happen.
This all sounds positive, but I really want to know if Nerva helped with her IBS symptoms because it sounds almost too good to be true. “For what it’s worth,” she said, “I don’t know why, but my stomach feels better this month than it has in years.”