The Peppermint Effect

Before using medications, some of which have serious side effects, consider trying peppermint. Several studies have shown that it can reduce IBS symptoms, particularly when cramping and diarrhea are major problems. These studies have primarily involved capsules of peppermint essential oil (0.2 mL menthol) and have found that 1 capsule taken with each meal offers the best results.

However, drinking 2 cups of strong peppermint tea (steep 2 tea bags in a covered cup of hot water for 20 minutes) with each meal is equally effective.

Peppermint can exacerbate heartburn, but there are no other side effects.

Bloating, distention, diarrhea alternating with constipation, and episodes of gut-wrenching pain are the hallmarks of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.

IBS is also known as spastic colon, irritable colon, and spastic colitis. Don't confuse it with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which are serious conditions that sometimes require partial removal of the intestines.

In this article, we will talk about irritable bowel syndrome and the ways to control it through diet as part of an alternative treatment.

A Distressing Disorder

IBS is not really a disease, and no one knows what causes it. It's called a "syndrome" because it is a collection of symptoms. It is diagnosed mainly by eliminating other, more serious conditions. And there is no cure.

One in five Americans has irritable bowel syndrome, making it one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders. It occurs more often in women than in men, and it usually begins around age 20. You may actually suffer mild IBS symptoms for years before an acute attack sends you to the doctor for relief. The symptoms mimic those of more serious gastrointestinal, hormonal, and reproductive diseases and vary not only from person to person but in the same person from week to week. That makes diagnosis difficult and an effective treatment elusive.

Although irritable bowel syndrome causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, it does not permanently harm the intestines and does not lead to intestinal bleeding or any serious disease, such as cancer. Most people can control their symptoms with dietary adjustment, stress management, and medications prescribed by their physician. Unfortunately, for some people, irritable bowel syndrome can be disabling. They may be unable to work, go to social events, or travel even short distances.

Triggers

Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms are believed to be set off when something disrupts the normal functioning of the lower intestines. We don't know what triggers the malfunction, but it may be a combination of factors, including stress, hormonal fluctuations, biochemical disturbances, and possibly food sensitivities.

The following have been associated with a worsening of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms:

  • large meals
  • bloating from gas in the colon
  • medicines
  • wheat, rye, barley, chocolate, milk products, and alcohol
  • drinks with caffeine
  • stress, conflict, and emotional upsets

If Diet Doesn't Do ItIn addition to watching what you eat and minimizing stress, you may be able to control your symptoms by taking medication (laxatives, antidiarrheals, tranquilizers, or antidepressants), but you should discuss any drug treatment with your doctor first. Doctors generally hesitate to prescribe strong and sometimes addictive drugs (which may cause other digestive side effects) to treat IBS, because the root cause of the condition isn't understood, and it seldom leads to serious complications.

Irritable bowel syndrome is an uncomfortable condition, but with the right treatment and dietary consideration, it can be controlled.

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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.