Peppermint oil has been gaining in popularity recently with people with IBS. But is it really an effective and safe solution? Let’s dig into that question!
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common gastrointestinal disease in the world, affecting approximately one in seven people, and is mostly predominant among women. The causes of IBS are still unknown. It is a multifactorial disorder involving an interaction between the digestive system, intestinal bacteria, the nervous system, and external factors such as stress. IBS can begin during childhood, adolescence or adulthood and may unexpectedly disappear for certain periods of a person’s life and reappear at any age.
Several methods have been shown to be effective in reducing IBS symptoms, including relaxation activities such as yoga and meditation, as well as a low FODMAP* diet.
Peppermint is a plant that grows in Europe and North America. The main active ingredient in peppermint oil is l-menthol. It can exert antispasmodic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
A recent meta-analysis of 12 clinical studies has shown that peppermint oil is an effective and safe treatment for improving abdominal pain and symptoms in adults with IBS. It can work by relaxing the muscles of the digestive system and modulating visceral sensitivity, by decreasing inflammation and slowing the growth of gut bacteria.
IBGard is an over-the-counter peppermint oil supplement in Canada and the United States. In general, consumption of mint can cause reflux. To avoid this effect, in the IBGard supplement, l-menthol is encapsulated to target its release lower in the digestive tract, more specifically in the small intestine, and thus prevent heartburn and reflux. Clinical studies have shown that this supplement can help relieve symptoms of IBS such as constipation, diarrhea, stomach ache, gas, bloating, the urgent need for a bowel movement, and the feeling of an incomplete evacuation.
*FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that are partly responsible for causing symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For more info, read this article.