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Peppermint Oil And IBS: What You Need To Know

Written by Jim Duncan, MSW | Last updated:

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Irritable bowel can be debilitating for those who suffer from it. There are many strategies to help you manage your health issues, such as peppermint oil for IBS. But how can you know if it’s the right choice for you? Read on to find out more about how peppermint oil for IBS works, and how your genes may influence how you respond to these strategies.

An Introduction to Peppermint Oil and IBS

It’s one of those, “Oh, by the way,” conditions. You’ve just finished a meal with friends and one of them gets up and quickly makes for the bathroom. “Be right back! Just my IBS acting up.” Oh, okay. No biggie, right?

If you’d known ahead of time, you would’ve pulled out your tiny bottle of peppermint oil and casually plopped three or four drops into their glass of water. Wait, you didn’t know you could take peppermint oil for IBS?

Imagine though, having that, “got to get to the bathroom now!” feeling, every day. Or knowing that when you sit down on the toilet, it’s going to be rocks coming out. Every. Day. Even better, having it go back and forth between rocks and water. Those minor annoyances become, “Oh, no way!” if you imagine having them every, single day.

If that still isn’t hitting home for how insidious this condition can be, consider this. On average, IBS patients reported they would give up 25% of their remaining life (15 years) to live a symptom-free life [1].

What Is IBS?

IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. You may have heard it referred to as colitis. It is what doctors call a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which basically means that your brain and your gut aren’t communicating on the best of terms.

It is marked by:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

IBS can be classified by whether your stool is hard, watery, or a mix [2]. It’s classified in this manner for medication purposes.

It’s not an uncommon condition. Somewhere upwards of 20% of adults in the U.S. have IBS symptoms, but less than half of that get diagnosed [3]. Depending on the severity and regularity of the symptoms, and it varies a lot, many people may not consider what they have to be a chronic condition.

You’re more likely to get it if you are under 50, female, have or had mental health issues like anxiety or depression, or have a family history of the condition [4]. 

What Causes IBS?

It currently has no known cause, but intestinal muscle contraction, either strong or weak, and abnormalities in the nerves of the digestive system appear to generate the stool problems and stomach discomfort [4].

The major instigators of symptoms seem to be stress and/or food. This is part of the reason why it goes undiagnosed so often, because what instigates it isn’t necessarily a regular event.

How Can You Use Peppermint For IBS?

Peppermint oil comes from the flowers and leaves of the peppermint plant, a hybrid of spearmint and watermint. People have used peppermint for thousands of years as a medicinal for a number of ailments from joint pain to intestinal problems. It gets used in [5]:

  • Foods
  • Cosmetics
  • Topical ointments
  • Supplements 

You can ingest peppermint oil by simply adding drops to something like tea (3-4 drops) or taking a 180-200mg supplement pill, though the most recommended form would be enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules. This is the most efficient method, as it keeps the oil from breaking down in your stomach [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 11].

Once in the intestine, peppermint oil has a substantial spasmolytic effect on the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract. This is an amusing way of saying that it relaxes your gut muscles [12, 6, 13]. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to tell their friends that the peppermint oil is, “spasmolytic!”.

A Gene-Based Approach to Peppermint Oil and IBS

There are two gene variants that can have a significant impact on IBS, both in negative ways. In the first, people with a certain COMT (“worrier/warrior” gene) variant are more likely to develop health issues like IBS when they’re stressed out.

This variant makes things like dopamine, which work to make you feel and move better, break down much faster. Stress management strategies like yoga and meditation are more likely to work for people with these variants.

The S1PR1 gene is another one that’s associated with IBS. A variant of this gene may upset gut muscles, making them contract more readily. You can use peppermint oil for IBS to help relax your gut muscles and block internal pain receptors in the gut [14, 15, 16, 17, 18].

Please note: Peppermint oil may interact with certain medications. If you are taking any medications, consult your doctor before using peppermint oil [19, 20].

Is Peppermint Oil For IBS A Good Strategy For You?

There are many ways you can soothe your gut, but what works for someone else might not work for you. Does peppermint oil for IBS work for you? Well, the answer to this question may depend on your DNA.

We’ve discussed two genes that can influence gut health, but there are many others that can play a role. Some people may benefit from taking peppermint oil for IBS, but the same is not true for everyone. 

If you’re interested in a gene-based approach to improving your gut issues, you should check out SelfDecode. SelfDecode will give you personalized and prioritized recommendations based on your DNA to help you focus on what’s most important.

DNA-based recommendation of peppermint oil for IBS

Unlike other DNA companies that only analyze a handful of genetic variants, the SelfDecode Irritable Bowel DNA Wellness Report looks at over 390,000 variants to give you the most accurate and science-backed results. The strategies that work best for you may be written in your DNA, and SelfDecode can help you discover them!

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About the Author

Jim Duncan

MSW
Jim completed his M.S.W. in Social Work Administration at Portland State University. He has always been interested in analyzing social issues, and he helped fund and start a program against domestic violence. He has also conducted many public speaking sessions about violence against women, and published 3 fiction novels. Inspired by SelfDecode’s mission to make precision health a reality, he decided to use his natural writing ability to help teach the world about the power and promise of genomics. His areas of interest include science-based writing,  astronomy, and genomics.

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