Category Archives: peppermint

IBS Awareness

April is IBS Awareness Month. This calendar event is aimed at heightening awareness of the causes and symptoms of IBS, and the treatment options available. It also encourages sufferers to talk about their condition and take positive steps to manage their symptoms.

Painful tummy
IBS can cause symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation and / or diarrhoea

The exact cause is unknown, but attacks can be triggered by stress and dietary factors. Typical symptoms of IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome include abdominal pain, a sense of urgency (having to rush to the toilet), bloating and gas, and diarrhoea or constipation.

Might you have IBS?

Learn your ABC for IBS! The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that anyone experiencing the following symptoms for 6 months or longer should be assessed for IBS:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Bloating
  • Change in bowel habit

Common myths and misconceptions

There are many misconceptions about IBS, perhaps because many people find IBS difficult or embarrassing to talk about. A clear understanding of IBS can help sufferers to manage the condition more effectively.

1. MYTH: IBS is “all in the head”

FACT: For many years, doctors believed IBS was a psychological condition, only existing in the patient’s head. This misconception is damaging for patients who require practical help to manage IBS. Fortunately physicians now have a better understanding of the condition and can offer practical approaches to relieve symptoms.

2. MYTH: IBS is not a serious condition

FACT: IBS is not life-threatening, and it is not an inflammatory disease like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis. However, IBS can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and ability to function on a day-to-day basis. These are serious concerns and should be treated as such by your GP.

3. MYTH: IBS is related to lactose intolerance

FACT: IBS and lactose intolerance are not linked, although their symptoms are very similar. Some people suffer with both IBS and lactose intolerance. If your symptoms are relieved by cutting out lactose, or by taking lactase supplements, then it is possible you have lactose intolerance rather than IBS.

4. MYTH: Increasing your fibre intake will help IBS

FACT: Although fibre is an important part of a healthy diet, certain types of fibre can actually trigger IBS symptoms. In IBS, the rough edges of insoluble fibre can irritate the digestive tract, causing abdominal pain and cramps. Swapping foods high in insoluble fibre, such as bran flakes, for foods high in soothing soluble fibre, such as oats, can help to manage painful symptoms.

5. MYTH: IBS cannot be diagnosed

FACT: There is an established protocol that GPs can use to diagnose IBS. By assessing symptoms and ruling out other digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease, your doctor can accurately diagnose IBS.

6. MYTH: There are no good treatment options for IBS

FACT: There are several prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and nutritional supplements that can relieve symptoms for sufferers. Different approaches can work for different people, and it is sometimes necessary to experiment to find what works best for you. Some over the counter medications can actually make symptoms worse if they are used excessively. Dietary and lifestyle changes can make a world of difference. For example, the FODMAP diet has proved helpful to many. Probiotics (especially strains such as Bifidobacterium Infantis), peppermint oil, and soluble fibre supplements such as psyllium husk all represent effective natural approaches to troublesome symptoms.

If you have been diagnosed with IBS then a nutritional therapist can advise you on dietary management and helpful supplements. If you suspect you may have IBS then you should initially speak to your GP. After all, one of the most important messages of IBS Awareness Month is that nobody should have to suffer in silence.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC


National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Adults: Diagnosis and Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Primary Care. Feb 2008.


The Sun Chlorella guide to a healthy gut – Part 2

Continuing from Wednesday’s blog post on gut health, the team at Sun Chlorella follow on with the second part of their 10 point guide to the facts and fictions of gut health.

Sun Chlorella - The Ultimate Superfood
Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ is a natural green algae whole food supplement from Japan.

Sun Chlorella expert nutritionist Nadia Brydon, is on hand to separate the fact from the fiction when it comes to keeping your guts healthy.

“The most important thing when managing your digestion is to identify the causes and stop the patterns that lead to pain and discomfort.  Once you know how healthy your gut is you’ll be able to prevent any bloating.” says Nadia.

Don’t eat fruit – FICTION!

Candida overgrowth is a major cause of bloating and is essentially fermentation inside the gut.  Foods that encourage fermentation include sugar and that means sugar in fruit too.  However, not all fruit causes bloating.  Avoid citrus fruits but stock up on bananas, figs, blueberries, mango and papaya instead.

Supplements don’t work – FICTION!

If you are susceptible to bloating and trapped wind there are a number of effective and natural solutions.

Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ – a natural green algae whole food supplement from Japan – is Nadia’s number one choice for bloating as it contains a staggering range of nutrients including around 10% fibre, to help move food through the system more effectively.  Due to its special component – the Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF) – Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ re-stimulates the growth and repair of cells, including the growth of good bacteria (Lactobacilli) four-fold once it’s absorbed, which aids digestive health*.

Nadia explains, “Taking Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ on a daily basis helps to keep the gut healthy and happy by acting as an ‘intestinal broom’ and cleansing the bowel.  Chlorella has the highest known concentration of chlorophyll – the green pigment found in plants that converts water, air and sunlight into energy – and this helps to bind to any toxins in your intestines, preventing absorption and eliminating them as waste.”

Other options include activated charcoal – an age old remedy to help ease the feelings of trapped wind.  Peppermints or warming peppermint tea will ease digestion whilst fennel seed tea or chewing fennel seeds or dill seeds after a meal can also help prevent bloating.

Increase your fibre intake – FACT!

Diet is really important.  Avoid bread and any processed or low glycemic foods and try to eat fresh foods instead.  Cutting down your intake of foods which are low in fibre – and therefore ‘bind’ inside your gut – such as eggs, chocolate, red meat, cheese and processed foods will help reduce bloating too.  A supplement such as Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ also contains fibre which can help to move food through your system.

Sun Chlorella 'A'
“Taking Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ on a daily basis helps to keep the gut healthy and happy by acting as an ‘intestinal broom’ and cleansing the bowel.

Food mixing can lead to bloating – FACT!

Bloating can often be caused by the slowing down of digestion caused by mixing incompatible foods (such as protein and carbohydrates) at meal times – which have different digesting times.  Bread, along with lactose and gluten, is also high on the list of causative factors.

Stress can lead to gut discomfort – FACT!

Stress is a huge factor as it can cause tension in the body which in turn interrupts the digestion process.  Try to find time to unwind at the end of each day – simple breathing exercises, a relaxing bath or even meditation could help the body to de-stress.

* a recent review of research concluded that the potential of chlorella to relieve symptoms, improve quality of life and normalize body functions in patients suffering with ulcerative colitis (a long-term (chronic) condition affecting the colon and causing inflammation of the intestines), suggests that larger, more comprehensive clinical trials of chlorella are warranted; A Review of Recent Clinical Trials of the Nutritional Supplement Chlorella Pyrenoidosa in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia, Hypertension, and Ulcerative Colitis, Randall E Merchant, PhD, and Cynthia A. Andre, MSc


Written by Nadia Brydon



Natural ideas for tackling festive indigestion

I do hope you all had a fabulous Christmas?  Plenty of food has been consumed in my household and, with New Years Eve fast approaching, there may be plenty more tasty treats in the planning.  Indigestion is possibly on the menu in many homes, however there are natural ways to prevent and overcome this uncomfortable problem.

Indigestion, sometimes referred to as dyspepsia, is a general term for impaired stomach/digestive functioning occurring 1-2 hours after eating.  Symptoms may include:
Abdominal Pain centred in the upper abdomen
Rumbling noises
Excessive wind
A feeling of fullness or bloating

Indigestion commonly occurs after eating a large meal, or rich, fried or spicy food.  Alcohol, coffee, cigarette smoking and some pharmaceutical drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can also irritate the digestive system and cause indigestion.  During stressful situations or stressful periods of time we are also more susceptible to this complaint.

Our bodies are far more adept at digesting small, regular quantities of food rather than single huge meals.  However, if you are going to be consuming a large meal there are a few things you can do to minimise discomfort.  Chewing is a simple, yet highly effective, strategy for indigestion avoidance.  Our saliva contains enzymes that start digesting food within the mouth, even before it hits the stomach.  Chewing food properly enables these enzymes to mix thoroughly with our food.  Chewing also physically breaks food up into smaller pieces which make it easier to be further broken down by our stomach acid.  Taking the time to chew food until it becomes almost creamy in consistency before swallowing is an effective method of preventing indigestion and also allows us to enjoy what we are eating, really taste the flavours and savour them.  Taking time over a meal increases the enjoyment value, usually helps us not to overeat (as it is easier to know when we are full) and can help prevent indigestion.

Whilst eating try not to drink a lot of fluid.  Excess liquid with a meal can dilute stomach acid and enzymes which digest food making the process a little less efficient.  Carbonated, fizzy, drinks seem to be the worst culprits. 

Prebiotics and Probiotics
Studies (1,2) are beginning to show that probiotics and prebiotics can aid healthy digestion and prevent indigestion.  Taking a supplement containing prebiotics and probiotics regularly can prevent symptoms such as pain, bloating and flatulence within as little as 2 weeks

A probiotic is a supplement containing live friendly bacteria which aim to improve intestinal bacteria balance.  Probiotics are available as yoghurts, fermented milks, fortified fruit juices and freeze dried capsules/powders.   

A prebiotic is a food that stimulates the growth of the beneficial bacteria already present in the colon.  Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which can be bought as powders are the most common prebiotics available.  Natural prebiotics can be found in asparagus, onion, chicory
and garlic. 

Digestive enzymes
Many people will reach for antacids in the hope that they will aid their indigestion.  However, antacids are used to damp-down the stomach’s acid (hydrochloric acid) production and in many instances indigestion is actually linked to insufficient acid production in the stomach.  Taking an antacid could exacerbate the underlying cause of indigestion.  If, after a large meal, you feel uncomfortable with indigestion it may be helpful to take a supplement containing a mixture of natural digestive enzymes such as amylases, which digest carbohydrates, lipases, which digest fats, and proteolytic enzymes which digest proteins.  This will help your body to digest the food within your system.  I don’t suggest these supplements need to be used long term but they may well be helpful after a large meal if indigestion starts to make you feel uncomfortable.

Digestive enzyme use should be avoided in cases of gastritis, inflammation of the stomach lining, and/or ulceration as they will exacerbate the condition. 

Artichoke leaf extract
Studies (3,4) show that artichoke leaf extract supplements are useful for individuals who commonly suffer with indigestion.  It appears that after taking the supplement for six weeks individuals report their symptoms are improved and they feel more comfortable in general.  

Finish off the meal with some peppermint or ginger tea
A review published of studies and papers was published this year (5) which indicates that peppermint oil can be effective in reducing abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhoea.  It seems to work by reducing spasms in the digestive system.  Peppermint tea contains peppermint essential oil and it may be worth sipping on some peppermint tea after a meal – it could aid in minimizing indigestion problems. 

Another recent review paper (6) indicates that ginger may well be helpful in easing indigestion.  Ginger does contain many compounds that seem to have various effects in the body and is particularly useful in relieving feelings of nausea.  Drinking some ginger tea after a meal could be worth a try!


Please see a doctor if your indigestion persists over several days, is experienced after every meal, becomes worse over time, if you vomit, you lose your appetite, or if you start to lose weight. These symptoms may indicate an underlying gastric disorder.  Apart from poor digestion or a large meal, another common cause of indigestion is an ulcer in the stomach or upper intestines and I hope to write about digestive ulcers in 2009.

Take the time to really enjoy your New Year celebrations!

(1)Kocian J.  1994.  [Lactobacilli in the treatment of dyspepsia due to dysmicrobia of various causes][Article in Czech].  Vnitr Lek.  40(2):79-83
(2)Bittner AC et al.  2007.  Prescript-assist probiotic-prebiotic treatment for irritable bowel syndrome: an open-label, partially controlled, 1-year extension of a previously published controlled clinical trial.  Clin Ther.  29:1153-1160
(3) Marakis G et al.2002.  Artichoke leaf extract reduces mild dyspepsia in an open study.  Phytomedicine.  9(8):694-699.
(4)Holtmann G et al.  2003.  Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in the treatment of patients with functional dyspepsia: a six-week placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicentre trial.  Aliment Pharmacol Ther.  18(11-12):1099-1105.
(5) Herbal remedies for dyspepsia: peppermint seems effective.  2008.  Prescrire Int.  17:121-123
(6)Ali BH et al.  2008.  Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of giner (Zingiber officinal Roscoe): a review of recent research.  Food Chem Toxicol.  46:409-420

Written by Ani Kowal


Peppermint proves useful in IBS

Peppermint tea is one of my favourite refreshers, so I was interested to read a paper(1) published in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal linking peppermint in the treatment of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).  Back in August I wrote three lengthy pieces investigating IBS and this paper provides a nice update. 

The key to IBS is to try and find a cause to treat, this is very individual and may be linked to stress, emotions, food intolerances and more.  Any sort of diagnosis needs to be done in conjunction with a health professional.  However, it is always good to have some idea of the natural remedies that can help reduce symptoms.  The research in the British Medical Journal was a review of randomised controlled trials looking into the effect of fibre, antispasmodics (prescribed medication) and peppermint oil in the treatment of IBS.

Traditionally, people with irritable bowel syndrome were instructed to increase their daily intake of dietary fibre, because of its potentially beneficial effects on bulking stools and moving them through the intestine more quickly (speeding up intestinal transit time).  However, many individuals with IBS found this advice unhelpful and some people reported that it made the condition worse.  The study looked at types of fibre and their usefulness in IBS treatment.  The investigators found that bran fibre (usually from wheat) had no effect on IBS symptoms.  However, ispaghula fibre, a soluble fibre derived from plaintain, did have a beneficial effect and reduced persistent symptoms of IBS.  The authors of the study indicate that ispaghula may be particularly beneficial to individuals who suffer constipation as one of their major IBS characteristics.

Ispaghula husk is readily available to buy from health-food stores and pharmacies as well as online. 

Antispasmodic medications attempt to reduce spasms in the digestive system.  Doctors frequently prescribe these types of medication for IBS symptoms, particularly when an individual is suffering from bloating and pain.  In the study 12 drugs were assessed.  Only 5 of these were shown to bring about a relief for IBS symptoms.  Some of the drugs, which are specifically licensed for use in IBS e.g. mebeverine, dicycloverine and alverine actually seemed to have very little evidence behind them.  The best evidence seemed to be for a drug called hyoscine.  The most common side effects for this type of medication are dry mouth, dizziness, and blurred vision, but none of the trials reported any serious adverse events.

It is not really known why antispasmodics are helpful for IBS sufferers.  The authors of this study note that “The biological rationale for the efficacy of antispasmodics is unclear…..antispasmodics may act by reducing colonic contraction and transit time and therefore pain and stool frequency”.  In light of the evidence discussed in this medical journal I would think that further studies are necessary to investigate the use of these drugs in patients with IBS to see if they really are helpful.


Peppermint oil
There were fewer available studies to analyse for the use of peppermint oil.  However, the studies that have taken place with this remedy show consistently positive results for use in IBS patients.  In fact peppermint oil appeared to be the most effective treatment for IBS when assessed via a measure called NNT, or number needed to treat, a measure of the number of individuals that need to be treated for one to get significant benefit.  Peppermint appears to have natural antispasmodic properties and is widely available over the counter in capsule form.  Larger trials of this traditional remedy would be welcome.

The authors conclude their paper by talking about the current guidelines for the management of IBS, they discuss the fact that these guidelines have been set around previous studies that have potential methodological flaws.  In the UK “Antispasmodics are recommended as first line treatment, particularly when pain and bloating are the predominant symptoms, although which of these drugs should be preferred is not stated”(1).  They also suggest that the current clinical guidelines be updated to take into account their findings.

(1) Ford AC et al.  2008.  Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ.  337:a2313

Written by Ani Kowal