ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Insight on Herbals Eludes Doctors, Patients Alike
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
Living Near Major Road May Boost Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Low Vitamin D Raises Women's Hip Fracture Risk
CANCER
Healthy Behaviors Slow Functional Decline After Cancer
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Minorities Distrust Medical System More
CAREGIVING
Reduce Suffering, Urge Heart Failure Patients and Caregivers
Bariatric Surgery Centers Don't Deliver Better Outcomes
Falls Are Top Cause of Injury, Death Among Elderly
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
Health Tip: After Liposuction
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
DIABETES
Laughter May Lower Heart Attack Risk in Diabetics
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
DIET, NUTRITION
Myrrh May Lower High Cholesterol
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
1976 Italian Dioxin Release Damaged Babies' Thyroids
Hypertension May Hit Black Males Earlier
Plastics Chemical Tied to Aggression in Young Girls
EYE CARE, VISION
Retinal Gene Is Linked to Childhood Blindness
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
Blood Sugar Control Helps Diabetics Preserve Sight
FITNESS
Occupational Therapy Plus Exercise Benefits Osteoarthritis
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
GENERAL HEALTH
Music Therapy For Prehistoric Man?
Week of Historic Senate Hearings on Integrative Medicine May Open New Doors
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Trouble
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Dangerous Toys Still on Store Shelves, Report Finds
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies
MEN'S HEALTH
Countdown to Hair Loss
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
MENTAL HEALTH
Shop 'Til You Drop: You May Feel Better
A Simple 'Thank You' Brings Rewards to All
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
SENIORS
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
How Much Fish to Eat While Pregnant?
Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers At Risk
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Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- For some patients, the best therapy for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be older, cheaper drugs such as fiber, antispasmodics and peppermint oil, a new study finds.

According to researchers, these simple treatments have fallen out of favor because of the availability of newer (and more expensive) drugs, some of which have been taken off the market due to safety concerns.

But more traditional therapies should become first-line treatments in guidelines for the treatment of IBS, the experts say.

"IBS can be difficult for physicians to treat," noted lead researcher Dr. Alex Ford, from McMaster University, Health Sciences Centre in Ontario, Canada.

"New drugs are always being developed, but recent ones such as alosetron and tegaserod have been withdrawn, and are now only available on a restricted basis, and renzapride has not been shown to be effective," he said. On the other hand "older drugs, which are cheap, safe, and in some cases available over the counter, appear to be effective in IBS."

The report is published in the Nov. 14 online edition of the BMJ.

As many as 45 million Americans may have IBS, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders reports. Between 60 percent and 65 percent of IBS sufferers are women.

In addition to pain and discomfort, people with IBS experience chronic or recurrent constipation or diarrhea -- or bouts of both. While the exact cause of the condition isn't known, symptoms seem to result from a disturbance in the interaction of the gut, brain and nervous system, according to the foundation.

For the study, Ford's team reviewed trials that compared IBS treatment with fiber antispasmodics and peppermint oil to a placebo or no treatment. The trials included more than 2,500 IBS patients.

The researchers found that fiber, antispasmodics and peppermint oil were effective treatments for IBS. Specifically, that meant that to prevent IBS symptoms in one patient, 11 needed to be treated with fiber, five with antispasmodics, and 2.5 with peppermint oil.

There were no serious side effects associated with any of these treatments, the researchers note.

Peppermint oil appeared to be the most effective therapy of those reviewed, the researchers found.

In trials comparing fiber with placebo, insoluble fiber such as bran was not effective. Instead, only soluble fiber, such as ispaghula husk, reduced symptoms. For antispasmodics, the most effective was hyoscine. This should be used first among antispasmodics, Ford's group advised.

"Physicians, particularly those in primary care, who are being asked to take increasing responsibility for the management of IBS, should consider the use of these agents as first-line therapies for IBS," Ford said.

Dr. Roger Jones, from Kings College London and author of an accompanying journal editorial, welcomed the study.

"These treatments might be slightly more effective than recently thought and they are worth trying," Jones said.

For some patients with pain and diarrhea the antispasmodics may be useful. Patients with constipation should try fiber and for other patients, peppermint oil may be helpful, Jones said.

"If you have IBS which is not under reasonably good control or you are not happy with your symptom profile, you should see your primary-care doc or gastroenterologist for review and perhaps remind them that there is new evidence about the effectiveness of these traditional medicines and you would like to give it a go," Jones said.

"Alternatively, if you feel sufficiently well-informed and confident, you can go do it yourself and get these treatments at the pharmacy," Jones added.

More information

For more information on IBS, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.



SOURCES: Alex Ford, M.D., McMaster University, Health Sciences Centre, Ontario, Canada; Roger Jones, M.D., Kings College London, London; Nov. 14, 2008, BMJ, online

Last Updated: Nov. 14, 2008

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