People have been using natural therapies for centuries to treat a wide variety of health problems. While the prescription drug industry has developed more effective treatments for many diseases and disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not one of them. Medications approved to treat IBS have fallen out of favor with the medical community because of the serious side effects they can cause. Instead, researchers have found that peppermint oil, a natural substance found in many health and beauty products, can actually alleviate some IBS symptoms.
Several studies conducted on the effects that peppermint oil has on irritable bowel syndrome have shown a positive correlation between this all-natural substance and alleviation of IBS symptoms. A study published in the BMJ in 2008 found that only 26 percent of patients who took peppermint oil twice per day continued to exhibit symptoms versus 65 percent who were only given a placebo. Though it’s apparent that peppermint oil doesn’t work for everyone, the evidence indicates it is certainly worth giving a chance.
Peppermint oil mainly works to reduce or eliminate diarrhea. It inhibits muscle contractions by blocking the flow of calcium into the muscle cells found in the intestines. Many medical experts feel that paired with an increase in soluble fiber intake and an antispasmodic medication, peppermint oil can serve as a first-line treatment for people who suffer from IBS.
Care must be taken, though, when consuming any type of natural remedy or medication. Peppermint oil works best when taken in capsule form. Although it is safe in small doses (about 200 mg per day) and produces little to no side effects, it can cause kidney problems if consumed in large amounts. Antispasmodic drugs like scopolamine can also cause unpleasant side effects to develop, such as drowsiness, dry mouth, restlessness, and dizziness.
There are other natural options available for treating irritable bowel syndrome and we have reviewed some of the best.