01/24/2013 05:52 pm ET

Kate Middleton Trying Hypnotherapy For Acute Morning Sickness (REPORT)

Kate Middleton's acute morning sickness was brought to the public eye when she was checked into a hospital in December, and a report has now surfaced that she's turning to hypnotherapy as a way to overcome her negative associations with food, an Australian tabloid is reporting.

An old friend of the Duchess of Cambridge reportedly told New Idea magazine that Kate, who is due in July, is still having a hard time finding food appealing at this point in her pregnancy. The friend went on to tell New Idea that the hypnotherapy aims to remove negative thoughts she has toward food and replace them with "cravings for healthy, nutritious food."

Though morning sickness is common, Duchess Kate's acute morning sickness (also known as hyperemesis gravidarum) is rare and much more severe. It's estimated that 70 to 80 percent of women experience morning sickness, while just one to two percent of women get hyperemesis gravidarum.

Symptoms of acute morning sickness involve more than just an upset stomach and may include an extreme and persistent feeling of nausea, along with vomiting, which can lead to dehydration.

Whether Kate is actually undergoing hypnosis is up for debate, given the source of the report. But the claim raises questions of whether hypnotherapy has been shown to be effective as a treatment for women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum.

Medical studies do not offer conclusive evidence. In 2010, researchers at Queen's University of Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland, completed an examination of six different studies on hypnotherapy and acute morning sickness and found encouraging results for its use as a treatment. However, the researchers concluded that the quality of evidence was not sufficient to establish whether hypnosis is truly effective.

According to Dr. Tony Chon with the Mayo Clinic's Complimentary and Integrative Medicine Program, studies on hypnotherapy's effectiveness have shown mixed results. However, he told The Huffington Post that enough anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that the method can be a help to women, especially when so few treatment options exist for acute morning sickness.

"There's a lot of misconceptions about hypnosis, where everything is in dark room and someone's going to be swinging a clock in your face and youre going to be barking like a dog," Chon said to HuffPost.

Instead, he explained, the practice should relax the mind, making the subject more open and receptive to positive suggestions. Since morning sickness conditions the brain to associate food with nausea, hypnotherapy could possibly recondition that response, according to Chon.

"When someone is going through a trance with hypnosis, then you're kind of trying to change the way someone thinks about food," he said. "Rather than saying you're going to get nauseaus, you're saying the food that you see from this point on is going to be very nutritious, it's going to be good tasting, it's going to lead to a positive pregnancy."

According to the National Institutes of Health, other treatments for acute morning sickness include eating small, frequent meals and eating dry foods, like crackers. Severe cases might call for intravenous (IV) therapy, and medication might be used when the vomiting is enough to present a potential risk to the mother or her unborn baby.