IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition that affects one in five adults in the United States alone. Characterized by moderate to severe abdominal complaints such as cramping, bloating, abnormal bowel function, diarrhea, constipation and gas; IBS can be extremely uncomfortable to live with and difficult to diagnosis. Commonly considered an auto-immune system issue, there are no structural abnormalities to show up on any tests. IBS is generally diagnosed through a process of elimination of other diseases with common symptoms. IBS is also aggravated by stress and the severity varies based on lifestyle, diet and activity levels.
The treatments available for IBS vary almost as much as the symptoms. Lifestyle of course has a large effect and certain types of foods should be avoided. Most commercial medicines treat only one or two of the symptoms such as Imodium for diarrhea. Doctors will often prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to help correct the chemical imbalance believed to cause most auto-immune system conditions.
To avoid a lot of cost and a laundry list of side effects, there are some natural remedies to help relieve the symptoms of IBS. Peppermint oil, for instance, has been shown to aid in the treatment of this condition.
Peppermint, a hybrid of spearmint and watermint is both cultivated and known to grow wild throughout most regions of the world. Praised for its cool, soothing properties; it has been used in many teas and aromatherapy products to promote relaxation, reduce insomnia and enhance memory. For almost ten thousand years, evidence has been found showing the use of peppermint in medicinal applications.
Several studies have shown peppermint oil to be more effective than a placebo on treating IBS symptoms. Although the exact reasons are unknown, it is believed that peppermint has the ability to reduce pain sensing fibers as well as block calcium from traveling into the intestinal muscle cells. This decreases contractions and easing cramping. As it is also a carminative herb, peppermint helps to eliminate gas buildup in the intestines.
However effective it may be on IBS symptoms, peppermint oil can be a severe irritant to the stomach. It is recommended that peppermint be consumed by using the whole leaf as in tea, or wrapped for release over time as in a capsule. Like most things, peppermint should be used in moderation as excessive doses can be harmful if not fatal. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take peppermint internally. Consult your physician prior to adding peppermint to your IBS remedy arsenal.