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IBS Treatment: Peppermint Oil Offers Hope

IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that causes discomfort or abdominal pain, and it is common for sufferers to experience chronic bouts of diarrhea or constipation, or both. Up to 20 percent of women suffer from IBS, but now there's hope, according to research from McMaster University in Canada.

In this meta-analysis study, a total of 591 patients in twelve studies were subjected to treatment with fiber, twenty-two studies (1778 patients) compared antispasmodics with placebo, and 392 patients (four trials) had been investigated for the effects of peppermint oil versus placebo.

The results showed that all three agents were more effective than placebo in improving the symptoms in IBS patients, however peppermint oil appeared to be the most effective therapy. This was thought to be thanks to the ability to relax the gut muscles, reducing cramps and muscle spasms.

In terms of actual numbers:

  • 48% of the fiber patients had improved compared to 43% on placebo or low fiber diet,
  • antispasmodic trials showed 61% of patients improved compared to 43% on placebo,
  • 74% treated with peppermint oil no longer had persistent symptoms compared to 35% in the placebo groups.

Peppermint oil is an essential oil and is quite volatile. It can break down quickly in the presence of stomach acids and in some people can induce heartburn. To avoid this, it is recommended that people use enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules and consume them at least 30 minutes before a meal on an empty stomach.

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