Q. Can peppermint oil help my irritable bowel syndrome?


A. Judith C. Thalheimer, RD, LDN, managing editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, answers: While a handful of small studies suggested that peppermint oil capsules may help lessen abdominal pain in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the results of a larger randomized controlled trial do not agree. The study, published in 2019 in the journal Gastroenterology, randomly assigned nearly 200 people to take either 182 milligrams of enteric-coated peppermint oil or a placebo daily. At the end of the eight-week trial, there was no significant change in abdominal pain or overall symptoms in either group.

IBS is a common disorder characterized by bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, and either diarrhea, constipation, or both. IBS is typically diagnosed after a physician has ruled out other, more serious causes of these symptoms. While there is no cure, symptoms can generally be managed through a combination of medications and diet and other lifestyle changes. A low-FODMAP diet is often prescribed for people with IBS. This specialized elimination diet should not be attempted without the help of a Registered Dietitian or other specialist. (See March 2020 issue for more information.)

Individuals who do take peppermint oil should choose enteric-coated capsules to avoid heart burn.


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