Peppermint can help relieve the abdominal pain of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but until recently, no one knew exactly how it provided its benefits. Symptoms of IBS, a common digestive tract disorder, can include any combination of constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, abdominal pain or discomfort, fatigue, and headaches. In April 2011, Australian researchers published a study showing that peppermint works to soothe gastrointestinal pain due to inflammation by activating an "anti-pain" channel in the colon called TRPM8. The pain-sensing fibers that are eased by peppermint are the same as those activated by mustard and chili in foods. The researchers also said that while some affected individuals complain that IBS symptoms occur after they eat fatty and spicy foods or drink coffee and alcohol, the nerve pain fibers in these patients seem to be in a continuously heightened state, perhaps due to an earlier bout of gastroenteritis. The findings were published online by the journal Pain.
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