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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peppermint Could Ease Abdominal Pain

Don’t throw those peppermint candy canes away just yet! According to recent research, peppermint really could help ease the abdominal pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.

According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, IBS affects at least 1 in 10 people. Although they vary widely, symptoms commonly include abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation or, surprisingly, both. It's not a disease, but a "functional disorder," meaning the bowel simply doesn't function like it should.

IBS is a chronic condition. Some people have mild symptoms and never see a doctor about them; others experience a great deal of discomfort. Fortunately, IBS doesn't appear to damage the intestines or increase the risk of cancer or other disease.

Peppermint oil has been available in capsule and liquid form for years, and advocates of alternative medicine have sworn by its ability to relieve indigestion. Now, scientists believe they have uncovered how it works.

The recent study, released online in April before being published in the international journal Pain, was conducted by researchers in Australia's University of Adelaide Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory. They found that a compound in peppermint activates an "anti-pain" channel in the colon, soothing pain caused by inflammation that can be triggered by some foods, such as mustard or chili.

For most adults, peppermint oil appears to be safe in small doses. Heartburn has been identified as a potential side effect.

Whether or not you want to try peppermint, you should know there are other steps you can take for relief. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse recommends avoiding foods that may trigger symptoms, which often include:

·     Fatty foods, such as french fries.
·     Milk products, such as cheese or ice cream.
·     Chocolate.
·     Alcohol.
·     Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and some sodas.
·     Carbonated drinks, such as soda.

Eating smaller meals also may help. A candy cane would be a pretty low calorie dessert to complete a smaller meal.

Source: Ohio State University Extension