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Scientists Discover How Peppermint Soothes Gastric Pain

FRIDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- New research offers insight into how peppermint helps relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

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.

"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.

More information

Learn more about irritable bowel syndrome from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: University of Adelaide, news release, April 19, 2011

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