Peppermint Oil for IBS
Peppermint oil is one of the most useful essential oils available and is used in a wide variety of products including ice creams, lip balms, lotions and toothpastes. It’s also commonly used therapeutically as a natural remedy for colds, headaches, itching, and aches and pains.
Recent research suggests we can add yet another use to this extensive list: managing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Multitudes of studies reveal that peppermint oil can help relieve IBS symptoms such as constipation, gas, bloating and pain. Further, some studies show that peppermint oil can be more powerful and reliable than fiber, and as effective as antispasmodic medicines, in the management of IBS symptoms.
So what do you need to know about peppermint oil for IBS?
How Can Peppermint Oil Help IBS?
Peppermint oil has been shown to reduce symptoms of IBS, including:
- Abdominal distention
The exact way in which peppermint oil helps relieve IBS symptoms remains unknown. However, researchers believe menthol, which is one of the ingredients in peppermint, is responsible for the effects, due to its cooling properties.
If you suffer from IBS, the nerves in your colon become extremely sensitive, resulting in gut pain. As a result, the muscles of the colon overreact, leading to additional symptoms. Menthol appears to dull these pain receptors, allowing the muscles in your colon to relax, thereby reducing IBS symptoms.
How to Use Peppermint Oil for IBS
Peppermint oil is found in the flowers, leaves and stems of the peppermint plant. While you can consume peppermint by drinking tea, peppermint oil supplements, in the form of capsules, are recommended for IBS treatment.
When looking for a peppermint oil supplement, be sure to purchase enteric-coated capsules, as these help protect your digestive system and are less likely to cause heartburn. It’s recommended to take the capsule at least half an hour before each meal, and to decrease your dose if you experience any side effects.
There is no approved dose of peppermint oil. However, common recommendations are:
- Adults: between 0.2 milliliters and 0.4 milliliters, three times per day
- Kids (8 years and older): between 0.1 milliliters and 0.2 milliliters, three times per day.
You may assume that if a small amount peppermint oil produces good results, then a lot would lead to impressive results. However, this is incorrect — too much peppermint oil can affect how your body breaks down vitamins, medicines and minerals. Extremely high doses can be poisonous and even result in kidney failure.
How Long Should You Take Peppermint Oil for IBS?
Due to the limited research that exists, it's uncertain how safe it is to take peppermint oil for a long duration. Therefore, it’s generally advisable to take this herbal medication only when necessary. You should begin taking it when you have an exacerbation of your symptoms and continue taking it until you start feeling better.
Various studies have demonstrated that you may keep experiencing positive effects four weeks after you take a break from supplementing with peppermint oil, which is likely due to the alteration of bacterial composition in the gastrointestinal tract.
Side Effects of Peppermint Oil
When used in the treatment of IBS, peppermint oil may cause burning sensations in the rectum and heartburn. It may also activate minor gastrointestinal adverse effects like nausea and vomiting, and may trigger dermatitis if applied to the skin. This herb may cause allergic reactions like headache, flushing and mouth sores in some individuals.
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If you experience these adverse effects, it is wise to stop taking peppermint oil. Experts advise against the use of more than one type of peppermint at the same time, like oil and tea, as it could result in adverse side effects.
Peppermint oil may worsen some conditions. Avoid using peppermint oil if you have:
- Persistent heartburn (severe gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Gallbladder inflammation
- Bile ducts obstruction
- Serious liver damage
- Hiatal hernia
The effect of peppermint on a fetus or a nursing baby is not currently known, so pregnant and breastfeeding women are often advised not to use peppermint oil. If you’re pregnant or nursing, it’s recommended that you speak to your doctor before using peppermint oil to control your IBS symptoms.
What Are the Risks of Peppermint Oil Use?
Peppermint oil can interrupt the ability of the body to break down immunosuppressant drugs like cyclosporine. Taking this herbal medication along with cyclosporine can elevate the levels of this immunosuppressant drug.
Peppermint oil also affects medications that are digested by the liver because it may slow down how the liver digests them. Medications that lower stomach acid shouldn’t be taken together with peppermint, as they speed up dissolving of peppermint oil capsules. This can result in nausea or heartburn.
It’s advisable to talk to your physician if you are taking any of these medicines as they can help determine a suitable peppermint oil dosage for your condition.
Peppermint oil is a safe and reliable therapy for the management of the main symptoms of IBS. But individuals who have serious digestive complications or those who are taking other medications should use this herbal medication with utmost care. Just like any other supplement, you should talk to a qualified and experienced medical practitioner before adding it into your treatment plan.