Welcome to part 2 of our IBS Myth Busting series! Last week we discussed a few common remedies out there that are promoted as solutions to your IBS and digestive distress. Today there is so much FREE information available out there from health practitioners, friends, family, colleagues and on the web. We really want you to be concerned when receiving this free information and do your homework before trying things or spending your money.
To help you out, the team and I set out to separate fact from fiction and find out which products can actually work for you. This week, we’re going to share some solutions that have supported evidence behind them.
Mint is one of the oldest herbs and has been used for its pain-killing effects for centuries. Nowadays, peppermint has been found to be beneficial for a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Peppermint is known to be anti-spasmodic, which means that it helps to soothe your intestinal tract and calm muscle contractions by blocking calcium channels in your digestive tract. Food moves through your system form stomach to small intestine to large intestine and out because your muscles contract and relax. However, for those of us with IBS, muscle contractions can occur too frequently and can be quite painful, leading to symptoms like pain and bloating.
Just like the ancient Greeks and Romans, we also use peppermint for it’s pain-killing properties. Active ingredients in peppermint, such as menthol and methyl salicylate help activate receptors in the brain that block the transmission of pain signals to the rest of the body. Peppermint’s calcium channel blocking action also reduces pain caused by IBS.
Lastly, peppermint helps to stimulate the gallbladder to secrete bile, which is used to digest fats. Our body digests carbohydrates first, protein second, and then finally fat. Since it takes our digestive system the longest to break down fat, peppermint can be a very useful digestive aid, especially if you have trouble digesting fat.
The most common ways to include peppermint oil into your diet is by brewing it into a tea, or by taking it as a capsule. Enteric-coated capsules ensure that the oil is released in the intestinal tract and not the stomach, where it can cause heartburn and indigestion. Several studies have shown that these capsules can treat common IBS symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and pain.
Wondering what else affects symptoms of IBS like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation? You’ve got to understand more about the FODMAPs, poorly digested sugars that are the most common triggers in digestive issues. Download my free eBook – Click here to get a copy emailed to you right away.
Ginger root has been used for its medicinal properties for over 2,000 years in Chinese, Indian, and Arabic cultures. You may have likely heard of ginger’s positive effect on nausea. A common anti-nausea medication, Gravol, contains ginger as one of its main ingredients, and drinking ginger ale is a frequent remedy for the stomach flu. Although ginger is great for treating nausea, it can also be used for a wide variety of digestive issues like indigestion and cramps.
Similar to peppermint oil, ginger has been found to have anti-spasmodic properties, meaning it will help to relax your digestive system and calm unnecessary muscle contractions. This anti-spasmodic property is also mediated through calcium channel blockers, which stops the contractions from occurring, leading to pain and cramping relief.
Ginger, like peppermint oil, also aids in digestion by stimulating the release of bile, gastric juice, and saliva, all of which help to break down food. Saliva begins the process of digestion as soon as we put food in our mouth by breaking down carbohydrates. Gastric juice on the other hand, is found in the stomach, and is full of digestive enzymes like pepsin and rennin. These digestive enzymes help to break down protein.
Ginger is available in various forms, such as fresh and dried ginger root, ginger extract, and crystallized ginger candies. The most common form is ginger tea, made with fresh ginger root, although there is no added health benefit to consuming ginger in this way. The general rule of thumb is no more than 4g of ginger per day, and a maximum of 1g a day for pregnant women. Try adding some sliced ginger root with a lemon slice and drizzle of maple syrup to hot, boiling water as a home-brewed tea. Extra good news… ginger is low FODMAP!
Exercise is extremely important for both our mind and body. One form of exercise that is popular among all ages is yoga. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” which means to bring together the physical and spiritual body. One of the many great things about yoga is its ability to be modified to suit all needs and levels of fitness. We’re always told how exercise helps to lower blood pressure, decrease our risk of chronic disease, reduce stress, and much more. However, exercises such as yoga can also help improve your IBS symptoms.
Although the exact cause of IBS is still unknown, research does show that stress and anxiety can worsen IBS symptoms. Mind-body exercises, such as yoga, teach you how to reduce tension and become more aware of the mind-body connection. For those of you with IBS, you can probably tell the first signs of an episode. Feeling anxious about having symptoms, or how bad your symptoms are going to end up, can actually exacerbate the symptoms. Yoga can help you deal with this stress through exercises such as controlled breathing, causing your body to relax and not worsen the sensations.
Certain yoga poses can also be beneficial to relieving your IBS symptoms. Some poses can put gentle pressure on your abdomen, while others can release that pressure, depending on the symptoms you are experiencing. Overall, the combination of adding and releasing pressure helps to balance out your gut and ease discomfort. To learn more about the best yoga poses for your gut, check out my blog post Stretch and Digest: Yoga for IBS.
Wishing you good gut health & wellness,
Stephanie and the Team