Peppermint Oil and Fiber Can Help Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome

pepper-mint-oil-ibsThe results of recent research into the effects of various medications on Irritable Bowel Syndrome in patients has just been published in the Nov. 14 online edition of the BMJ.

It was a meta-analysis and review of all randomized controlled studies comparing antispasmodics, fiber, and peppermint oil with placebo, or no treatment, in persons with IBS.

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. The exact root of the problem is not known, but messed up interactions between brain and nervous systems with the gut are involved, producing spasms in the colon.

In recent years, new drugs have been developed for the condition, but these are expensive and in some cases, a couple of drugs have been removed from the market and some have been found ineffective. Because of this, investigating simpler, less-expensive treatments may prove to be valuable. In this study, a total of 591 patients in 12 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. In terms of actual numbers, the fiber patients had 48% improved compared to 43% on placebo or low fiber diet; antispasmodic trials showed 61% of patients improved compared to 43% on placebo; while 74% treated with peppermint oil no longer had persistent symptoms compared to 35% in the placebo groups.

From this research, it is clear that peppermint oil is the most effective treatment studied. Dr. Alex Ford, the lead researcher from McMaster University, Health Sciences Centre in Ontario, Canada, advised: “Physicians, particularly those in primary care, who are being asked to take increasing responsibility for the management of IBS, should consider the use of these agents as first-line therapies for IBS.”
For those dealing with IBS, it is important to note that the researchers found that insoluble fiber such as wheat bran did not improve the symptoms of IBS sufferers. Only soluble fiber was found to be somewhat effective.

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 (empty stomach). This will ensure delivery to the intestines to maximize effectiveness while dramatically reducing the possibility of any stomach upset.

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  1. Peppermint oil helps me quite a bit. Of course, we are all different but I’d recommend trying it, it is cheap enough. Teas can be good, there is an Eaters Digest one I like. The product that I have found most helpful is called IBSuppress. It has ginger and fennel in it as well and it is easy to carry with me when we go to dinner or the mall. I have tried capsules (Pepo something) and didn’t find that it helped as much. Good luck and a happy attack-free holiday wish to all!

  2. Is it possible that peppermint oil might be constipating?

  3. Peppermint oil is used for all the main symptoms of IBS, but it may be particularly effective at relieving cramps, spasms and pain. There have been several published scientific studies showing that peppermint oil is useful in treating IBS symptoms.

  4. i read that mineral oil can be beneficial for ibs. do you think they are acting similarly in the gut? both are oils.

  5. Hey there Ken, An excellent write up on peppermint and IBS. Especially the enteric coating and stomach upset. Some people miss that. I have GERD aka reflux though, and I can’t tolerate peppermint even with the enteric coating (though it did help my IBS). Since a lot of people with IBS also have GERD I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents. Thanks for the info! Shawn

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    An excellent write up on peppermint and IBS. Especially the enteric coating and stomach upset. Some people miss that.

  7. I am a huge fan of fiber. As an IBS sufferer and a health conscious person, I know fiber does all kinds of good things for me, including keeping me regular which sounds silly but isn’t so funny when a week passes and you feel like you’re about to explode. I was recommend the Lady Soma Fiber Cleanse by my doctor – and this is a fiber like no other. It is amazing. Each dose contains natural, soluble dietary fiber extracted from the seeds of the cluster bean. It is 100% natural fiber.I had never heard of Lady Soma products, but i am so glad they were recommended. So I am recommending them to you. . .its an excellent choice for maintaining regularity and supplementing you

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