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Peppermint Oil, a Safe Alternative for Irritable Bowel Syndrome that Actually Works?

By Michael Greger M.D. ecomii.com
August 19, 2017
File under: Alternative Therapies, Essential Oils, Natural Alternatives, Natural Remedies

 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic, episodic intestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits that affects one in seven Americans.

IBS can have a substantial impact on health and well-being. The health-related quality of life of irritable bowel sufferers can often rival that of much more serious disorders.

The first step toward successful treatment is for physicians to acknowledge the condition and not dismiss the patient as hysterical.

There is a huge unmet therapeutic need and the lack of effectiveness of available treatments often discourages sufferers from seeking medical care. 

IBS has no cure and treatment is targeted to alleviate symptoms. Typical antispasmodic drugs have side effects, including dry mouth, dizziness, blurred vision, confusion and the risk of falling. New drugs, like Lubiprostone and Linaclotide, can cost up to $3,000 a year and can cause as many side effects as the symptoms of IBS.

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed, but may take weeks or even months, and have their own array of side effects, including sexual dysfunction in over 70% of the people who take them.

There has to be a better way.

Acupuncture works, but not better than placebo. The placebo effect can actually be powerful for irritable bowel and won’t cost $3,000 a year, but, is there a safe alternative that actually works?

In my video, Peppermint Oil for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, nine randomized placebo-controlled studies have indeed found peppermint oil to be a safe and effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. A few adverse events were reported, but were mild and transient in nature, such as a peppermint taste, peppermint smell, and a cooling sensation around one’s bottom on the way out. In contrast, in some of the head-to-head peppermint versus drug studies, some of the drug side effects were so unbearable that patients had to drop out of the study.

The longest trial only lasted 12 weeks, so we don’t yet know about long-term efficacy. The benefits may last at least a month after stopping, though, perhaps due to lasting changes in our gut flora.

The studies used peppermint oil capsules so researchers could match them with placebo pills. What about peppermint tea? It’s never been tested, but one might assume it wouldn’t be concentrated enough.

However, a quarter cup of fresh peppermint leaves has as much peppermint oil as some of the capsule doses used in the studies. One could easily blend it into a smoothie or with frozen berries to make something like my pink juice recipe.

We doctors need effective treatments that “are cheap, safe, and readily available. This is particularly relevant at the present time as newer and more expensive drugs have either failed to show efficacy or been withdrawn from the market owing to concerns about serious adverse events.”

Just like it may be a good idea to only eat foods with ingredients you can pronounce, it may be better to try some mint before novel pharmacological approaches, such the new dual mu-opioid agonist delta-antagonist drug with a name like JNJ-27018966.

Other mint videos: Enhancing Athletic Performance With Peppermint and Peppermint Aromatherapy for Nausea. Lemon balm is also in the mint family; so, check out Reducing Radiation Damage With Ginger & Lemon Balm and Best Aromatherapy Herb for Alzheimer’s.

You can also sprinkle dried mint on various dishes. See Antioxidants in a Pinch.

What else might work for IBS? See Kiwifruit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Cayenne Pepper for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Indigestion.

Irritable bowel symptoms can overlap with problems with gluten; so, make sure your physician rules out celiac disease. These may be helpful:

•  Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?
•  Gluten-Free Diets: Separating the Wheat from the Chat
•  How to Diagnose Gluten Intolerance

Michael Greger, M.D., an author and internationally recognized speaker on healthy eating, has produced hundreds of nutrition videos available at NutritionFacts.org. Follow Dr. Greger on Twitter

 

 
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