It is estimated that one in five Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Colitis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease are all covered under the IBS blanket. Abdominal pain, bleeding, bloating, and frequent trips to the bathroom are all common markers of this disease. Anti-inflammatories, prednisone, and immunosuppressant drugs, laxatives, fiber supplements, and even cognitive behavioral therapy are all prescribed for IBS, with little or no real relief. There may be a natural remedy; peppermint oil. Peppermint, which is a cross between watermint and spearmint, has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for gastrointestinal problems, by blocking the flow of calcium into the muscle cells, thus reducing muscle spasms in the gut. In a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2008, scientists conducted a study of over 400 symptomatic IBS people, comparing those treated with peppermint oil to those taking a placebo. They found that only 26% of those taking peppermint oil, as compared to 65% of those on placebo, reported continuing symptoms. The scientists concluded that there was enough evidence to warrant further research on the subject, and that there was no health danger posed by taking peppermint oil for abdominal pain, flatulence, and distension.

I see several elderly patients with swelling in the legs and ankles due to venous insufficiency, which is fairly common in those whose primary activity is sitting for long periods. Poor blood flow in the legs is a common problem as we age. Compression stockings are a common prescription, but do little to cure it, and are difficult to put on for many people. diuretics are another remedy, but not without side effects and frequent trips to the bathroom all day. Horse chestnut seed extract (HCE) has been used in Europe for several years, and is believed to help strengthen blood vessel walls and reduce swelling and redness. HCE has its own possible side effects, including nausea, itchiness, and stomach upset, but it’s worth a try.

Eat your carrots and pumpkin pie. Researchers say that people with high levels of alpha-carotene are less likely to die from cancer and heart disease than those with little or none. Food is medicine…….

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.