Posted on Fri, 4 Sep 09
Normally, our small intestine contains very little bacteria however an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine is not uncommon and may result in symptoms of bloating, constipation diarrhoea, discomfort and abdominal pain, a collection of symptoms otherwise know as irritable bowel syndrome (1). With current drug management approaches for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) relatively ineffective, up to 50% of IBS sufferers turn to complementary and alternative therapies for help. But which therapies work?
Mint helps the most
In a recent review it was found that of the existing scientific evidence for complementary therapies for IBS there is reasonable support for hypnotherapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, peppermint oil, probiotics and some herbal formulas (2). Of all of these therapies peppermint oil was amongst the best supported by evidence with most studies finding a daily dose of 3 to 6 enteric-coated capsules containing 0.2 to 0.4 mL of peppermint oil effective.
Peppermint oil may improve symptoms by killing off bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Peppermint oil has been shown to reduce the growth of at least 22 types of bacteria, including virulent antibiotic resistant strains, and has been shown to normalise bacterial overgrowth in IBS (3). These findings collectively support the traditional use of peppermint as a digestive aid, a use that dates back thousands of years to the medical practices of the ancient Greeks (4).
1. Pimentel M, Chow EJ, Lin HC. Eradication of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth reduces
symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol 2000;95:3503-3506.
2. Shen YH, Nahas R. Complementary and alternative medicine for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Can Fam Physician. 2009 Feb;55(2):143-8.
3. Logan AC, Beaulne TM. The treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth with enteric-coated peppermint oil: a case report. Altern Med Rev. 2002 Oct;7(5):410-7.
4. Kligler B, Chaudhary S. Peppermint oil. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Apr 1;75(7):1027-30.