Could This Oil be a Natural Treatment for IBS?

Could This Oil be a Natural Treatment for IBS?
Home Remedies

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a painful and sometimes debilitating condition involving attacks of abdominal cramping along with constipation, diarrhea, or both alternating with each other. While pharmaceutical drugs often result in troublesome side effects, research shows that peppermint oil, in enteric coating to prevent heartburn, may be an effective alternative treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.

In a literature review of 16 studies, the effects of taking 180- 200 milligrams of enteric-coated peppermint oil for IBS were analysed. The success rates for peppermint oil were an average of 58%, while that for the placebo, used in 12 of the studies, was 29%.

Rates of effectiveness for peppermint oil reached 93% in one of the studies, but its quality was less assured as it was an open-label trial. There was no difference in the effects of peppermint oil compared to smooth muscle relaxants, but its effects were inferior to “stress management” in one study.

Compliance was also measured in four of the studies, which was only 60-75%. However, side effects were rare and not serious, as opposed to the common muscle relaxant effects of blurred vision, which can be dangerous. Therefore, peppermint oil may be more effective when taken according to instructions.

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In one of the trials discussed, 79% of the 52 patients experienced an alleviation of abdominal pain, with three quarters of those being pain-free. Additionally, 43 had less bloating, 43 had reduced stool frequency, and 41% had reduced flatulence.

Only one patient experienced heartburn, because they had the unadvisable idea of chewing the capsule to release the peppermint oil earlier. Efficacy rates for the placebo group, however, were much lower.

Another of the studies involved only 18 patients, asked to rate both their severity of their symptoms and changes in this symptom severity. Sixteen completed the study, with 13 stating they felt “better” or “much better” on peppermint oil, two noting no change, and one saying they got worse.

As for the placebo period of the trial, only 5 noted an improvement, 7 noticed no changes, and 4 stated their symptoms got worse, with 3 giving a “much worse” score. It was also written by the author that peppermint oil has been found to relax gastrointestinal smooth muscle cells in vitro (test tube or dish) and in vivo (research on animals).

The authors of this review had also written a paper on the pharmacology of peppermint oil, reviewing various studies performed in vitro. In one of them, peppermint oil was found to reduce contraction responses to various excitatory chemicals as well as substance P, which affects pain signalling.

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Peppermint both reduced the amplitude of nerve currents and sped up the “decay” of these currents. Multiple studies discussed described an effect against the calcium channels of nerve cells that are often necessary for conduction of nerve signals. Peppermint may also inhibit the ability of intestinal cells to absorb sugar, and reduce intestinal secretions. Menthol was repeatedly shown to be the most powerful constituent of peppermint.

Overall, the use of peppermint oil to treat IBS is a promising alternative to the often ineffective pharmaceutical drugs, but as each individual is different, it is best to consult a qualified natural health practitioner.