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Peppermint may soothe IBS

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by Aimee Keenan-Greene

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder of the large intestine that causes abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.

Now new research published this week in the international journal Pain says peppermint activates an 'anti-pain' channel in the colon, soothing inflammatory pain in the gastrointestinal tract.

"Our research shows that peppermint acts through a specific anti-pain channel called TRPM8 to reduce pain sensing fibres, particularly those activated by mustard and chilli. This is potentially the first step in determining a new type of mainstream clinical treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)," says Dr Stuart Brierley.

Scientists in Australia at the University of Adelaide's Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory  say peppermint has been commonly prescribed by naturopaths for many years, there has been no clinical evidence until now to demonstrate why it is so effective in relieving pain.

peppermint_wiki_775456774.jpgAs much as 20 percent of the adult population - that's one in five Americans - have symptoms of IBS .  It is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders. It begins before the age of 35 in about half of all sufferers.

"This is a debilitating condition and affects many people on a daily basis, particularly women who are twice as likely to experience Irritable Bowel Syndrome," Brierley adds.

There is no cure for IBS and it often comes and goes over a person's lifetime.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases here in the US says there is no specific test for IBS, however many doctors may run tests to be sure you don't have other diseases. These tests include stool sampling, blood tests, x-rays and a colonoscopy. Most people diagnosed with IBS control their symptoms with diet, stress management and medicine.

high-fiber diet was once thought to be best for almost everyone with IBS, but recent studies show that isn’t true. Foods such as beans, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peas, onions, and bagels, that can cause minor discomfort in a normal GI tract can cause significant bloating, gas, and abdominal pain in IBS sufferers. For people with constipation, a high-fiber diet of 25 grams daily for women and 38 grams for men is generally recommended.

Other than gastroenteritis and food intolerance, IBS can be brought on by food poisoning, stress, a reaction to antibiotics, and in some cases is genetic.

Brierley says "Some people find their symptoms appear after consuming fatty and spicy foods, coffee and alcohol, but it is more complex than that. There appears to be a definite link between IBS and a former bout of gastroenteritis, which leaves nerve pain fibres in a heightened state, altering mechanisms in the gut wall and resulting in ongoing pain."

Unlike other intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, IBS doesn't cause inflammation or changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
In Europe and Canada studies show many people who contracted gastroenteritis from contaminated water supplies went on to experience IBS symptoms that persisted for at least eight years.

Earlier this year, Mark Pimentel, MD, director of the GI Motility Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, announced his clinical trial showed a  two-week course of the antibiotic rifaximin (Xifaxan) helped relieve the symptoms of IBS up to 10 weeks after stopping the medication.

For help finding a gastroenterologist, click here.

Photo credit: wikipedia

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