Irritable Bowel Syndrome has become a common problem, affecting some 12 million people in Britain alone. It seems that women are more likely to be sufferers than men and generally younger people, in the age group 20-40, are most likely to be affected.
Many sufferers are too embarrassed to seek help from their GP, and tolerate the problems. These sufferers are not even included in the above statistics!
It is the pain in the lower abdomen that drives most people to visit their GP. The pain is generally low down and can range from a dull ache to pain of such severity that the sufferer is doubled up. It can last from a few minutes to a few hours and can be spasmodic or persistent. The spasm can affect the whole bowel or just a small section.
If your symptoms persist for more than a few days be sure to see your doctor, particularly if you have lost weight, are lethargic, passing blood or have black stools; for it is always important to diagnose IBS and rule out other more serious problems.
IBS can be triggered by a number of factors including lack of dietary fibre, anxiety or depression, food intolerance, stress, or an intestinal infection such as food poisoning.
Peppermint oil has been shown to have an anti-spasmodic or carminative effect on the smooth muscle of the gastro-intestinal tract. Its action on the intestines has been studied more extensively than any other properties in relation to its application in IBS. In a trial at a Copenhagen hospital, sufferers from IBS were given 200mg of Peppermint Oil twice daily and 68% reported improvement in their symptoms.
Peppermint is also helpful in other areas of IBS as it can help to reduce flatulence and acts as a mild antiseptic in diarrhoea. Peppermint supplements are widely available. Taking the oil is the most potent way and a capsule containing between 40 to 50mg of oil taken 3-4 times a day can help sufferers.
Calcium too plays an important role in regulating contractions of all the body’s smooth muscle. During a contraction in the gut the calcium level in a cell increases. The menthol present in peppermint is believed to block off the channels by which the calcium enters the cells. With a reduced supply of calcium the muscle relaxes and does not squeeze so tightly during the contraction therefore reducing both the pressure and pain.
How you live in your teens determines bone mass in later life.
Achieving peak bone mass in young adults has a major effect on bone density in later life. A study reported in the British Medical Journal was undertaken to examine the effect that factors such as exercise, smoking and calcium intake in teenagers and young adults would have on their bone mass in later life. 264 young people aged between 9 and 18 took part. At the start of the study, the mineral density of bones in the spine and thigh was measured using special X-ray techniques and levels of physical activity, smoking and calcium intake were monitored. Genetic factors play a major role (up to 80%) but the remaining 20% or more may be due to lifestyle factors including exercise, smoking and calcium intake. In men, regular smoking reduced the density of the femoral (thigh) bone by 9.7% while women who took 800-1200mg calcium per day showed an increase in thigh bone density of just under 5%. Taking all the results into account, the authors of the report concluded that regular exercise and adequate calcium intake were more important in achieving maximum peak bone mass than reducing smoking.