Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the large intestine that’s characterized by abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, flatulence, nausea and varying degrees of anxiety or depression. IBS has been referred to in the past as nervous indigestion, spastic colitis, mucous colitis and intestinal neurosis.
How Common is IBS?
Approximately 15 percent of the population has complaints of IBS, with women predominating two to one. (It’s likely that an equal number of males have IBS but that they do not report symptoms as often). IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder, representing 30 to 50 percent of all referrals to gastroenterologists.
What Should I Do If I Have IBS?
There appears to be four major treatments from a natural perspective: increasing dietary fibre, eliminating allergic/intolerant foods, controlling psychological components and using a special preparation of peppermint, caraway and oregano oil.
How Does Dietary Fibre Help?
Increasing dietary fibre has a long, though “irregular” history. Patients with constipation are much more likely to respond to dietary fibre than those with diarrhea. Increasing dietary fibre from fruit and vegetable sources rather than whole grains offers the most benefit.
What Role Does Food Allergy Play?
The importance of food allergies as a cause of IBS has been recognized since the early 1900s. More recent studies further document the association between food allergy and IBS. According to a double-blind challenge, the majority of patients (about two-thirds) have at least one food allergy. The most common allergens are dairy products like pasteurized milk, processed cheese and high-gluten grains. I recommend eliminating these foods for at least 10 days. If improved, try adding these foods back into you diet and see if symptoms return. If so, allergy to milk or grains is likely.
How Do Psychological Factors Affect Ibs?
Increased abdominal pain and irregular bowel functions during periods of emotional stress have been shown to occur in those suffering IBS, and some researchers believe IBS sufferers have difficulty adapting to stressful events. Relaxation therapy, biofeedback, hypnosis, counselling and other stress management techniques have been shown to reduce symptom frequency and severity, and enhance the results of medical treatment. The use of tranquilizers, antispasmodics or antidepressants have not yielded effective results.
How Does Peppermint Oil Work?
One of the central findings in IBS is a hypercontractility (excessive contraction) of intestinal smooth muscle. Peppermint oil, especially when combined with caraway oil, inhibits the excessive contraction of the intestinal smooth muscle, and is useful in cases of IBS as well as esophageal spasm and intestinal colic.
In the latest trial, 42 children aged eight to 10 who had IBS were given enteric-coated peppermint oil or placebo for two weeks. Dosage was one capsule three times daily for children 30 to 45 kilograms and two capsules three times daily for children over 45 kg. After two weeks, 76 per cent of the peppermint oil group reported significant improvements compared to only 19 per cent in the placebo group.
What About Caraway Seed And Oregano Oils?
Several clinical studies have examined the combination of peppermint oil and caraway oil. The results indicate that this combination produces better results than peppermint oil alone.
Since an overgrowth of the common yeast Candida albicans is often an underlying factor in IBS, oregano oil is an important addition. One study compared the anti-candida effect of oregano oil to caprylic acid and found that the anti-candida activity of oregano oil is greater than 100 times more potent than caprylic acid—a common supplement for chronic candidiasis.
Are There Any Side-Effects With Peppermint Oil?
At recommended dosages, enteric-coated peppermint oil is not associated with any significant adverse reactions. The major side-effect noted at higher dosages is a temporary burning sensation upon defecation. If this symptom develops, simply reduce the dosage.