Scientists discover how peppermint soothes IBS and gastric pain

New research is offering insight into how an unexpected natural medication, peppermint, is helping patients relieve their symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia report that peppermint activates an “anti-pain” channel in the colon. This contributes to relief of pain from inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Here are the details from HealthDay News:

“Our research shows that peppermint acts through a specific anti-pain channel called TRPM8 to reduce pain-sensing fibers, particularly those activated by mustard and chili,” Dr. Stuart Brierley said in a university news release.

“This is potentially the first step in determining a new type of mainstream clinical treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. This is a debilitating condition and affects many people on a daily basis, particularly women who are twice as likely to experience irritable bowel syndrome,” Brierley added.

Peppermint is often recommended by alternative medicine practitioners as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.

“Some people find their symptoms appear after consuming fatty and spicy foods, coffee and alcohol, but it is more complex than that,” Brierley said. “There appears to be a definite link between IBS and a former bout of gastroenteritis, which leaves nerve pain fibers in a heightened state, altering mechanisms in the gut wall and resulting in ongoing pain.”

The study was released online this week in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Pain.