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Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Date:11/13/2008

These older treatments may sometimes work best, researchers say

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"New drugs are always being developed, but recent ones such as alosetron and tegaserod have been withdrawn, and are now only available on a restricted basis, and renzapride has not been shown to be effective," he said.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.

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