Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also known as spastic colon, nervous stomach/indigestion, mucous colitis, and intestinal neurosis, is the most common gastrointestinal (GI) complaint reported to physicians. IBS accounts for as many as 50 percent of all referrals to gastroenterologists (physicians who specialize in problems of the GI tract). If you happen to be part of the estimated 15 percent of the population who could use some help for IBS, you undoubtedly know how debilitating this condition can be.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a complex problem with numerous causative factors and a wide variety of changing symptoms. Some of the more common unpleasant bowel changes are: both constipation and diarrhea; pain and distention of the abdomen; frequent bowel movements associated with pain; colicky pain often relieved by a bowel movement; indigestion; nausea; intestinal bloating and gas; and bowel incontinence.
Fortunately, there are some easy, inexpensive ways to help resolve the discomforts of irritable bowel syndrome.
One of these is peppermint oil. Peppermint is an underutilized herbal remedy that can treat and heal a variety of gastrointestinal disorders. To reduce the contractions associated with IBS, help comes from enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules. European studies show that they're quite effective.
For general digestive discomfort, you can simply make peppermint tea. Peppermint tea bags are readily available in both supermarkets and health food stores. The tea can also be made from fresh leaves. Simply add 1 or 2 teaspoons to a cup of hot, not boiling, water and let it stand covered for 10 to 15 minutes. I would recommend keeping a supply of peppermint tea around the house; however, it shouldn’t be used on a casual, regular basis. Use it only during periods of stomach, liver, gallbladder or pancreatic upset. Regular habitual use will lessen its effect.
Most physicians and herbalists don’t realize that the active menthol ingredients in peppermint are rapidly absorbed in the stomach and upper GI tract. Taking peppermint in the form of tea, oil, or tinctures will have little, if any, effect on bowel problems further down the line. To provide proper IBS support, enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules must be used to deliver the active ingredients to the colon. European studies have found that these enteric-coated capsules are very effective in treating the disease. Doctors in this country who scoff at the use of peppermint as help for IBS are undoubtedly unfamiliar with the European use of enteric-coated products.
The dosage generally recommended for IBS support has been 2 to 3 capsules a day taken between meals. The only side effect noted has been a temporary burning sensation in the rectal area after a bowel movement. This comes from excess, unabsorbed menthol. It poses no danger and can be alleviated by simply reducing the dosage.