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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Using Peppermint Oil for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

GettyImages-1030882342Peppermint oil is a commonly used nutrition remedy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), other digestive problems (abdominal pain), the common cold, and headaches. We will focus on gut health in this blog. This remedy has been mentioned in records from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt and is becoming more popular in the modern age.

It is suggested that peppermint oil in enteric-coated capsules may improve IBS-related symptoms, such as abdominal pain. A meta-analysis evaluated 726 patients across nine studies, all of which were assessing the use of peppermint oil for treatment of IBS. All the studies showed a significant improvement in IBS symptoms and abdominal pain. The only adverse effect commonly noted was heartburn. Furthermore, another study was done where 65 IBS patients completed the study. There was a placebo group and a group treated with peppermint oil. Over the course of six weeks, those taking peppermint oil said abdominal pain (upset stomach, bloating, and gas) markedly improved, whereas the placebo group saw no significant changes. No other IBS symptoms improved. Two weeks after trials ended, the pain score increased back to the normal (same report as prior to treatment).

Drug Interactions and Additive Effects

According to the literature, the most common drug interaction is enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules taken at the same time as antacids. It is suggested that the two not be taken together, because the enteric coating will be broken down too quickly, which can result in heartburn.

Side Effects

Peppermint oil has been recognized as safe. Possible side effects associated with peppermint oil include allergic reaction and heartburn. The most common side effect associated with peppermint oil supplementation is heartburn, especially among those with IBS.

The Clinical Bottom Line

A significant amount of research shows that peppermint oil supplementation in those with IBS helps reduce abdominal pain. Additionally, it is safe. I would suggest someone struggling with IBS take peppermint oil. However, if they begin to experience excessive heartburn, I would suggest not taking peppermint oil or making sure they are not taking it with an antacid. Furthermore, it is important to remember that peppermint leaf is NOT the same thing as peppermint oil. Peppermint oil is going to be more concentrated and has the research to back up the benefits. On the contrary, peppermint leaf will be less toxic and does not have the research to support usage. 

Further Research

Much of the research done to prove peppermint oil helps with IBS was short term. Not many studies have looked into the long-term effects and safety of supplementing peppermint oil. Thus, I believe future research should look into that.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: digestion supplements illness prevention dietary supplements IBS irritable bowel syndrome

Vitamin C: How Much and Which Sources Are Best for Boosting Immunity?

GettyImages-993119894During cold and flu season, we try to do all we can to prevent illness or speed up how fast we recover from illness. One such strategy many employ is the use of Vitamin C for a natural remedy. Several products are marketed as immune system boosters because they contain large amounts of Vitamin C. Do these products really work? We set out to investigate!

What Vitamin C Can Do for You

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is not made by our bodies. We must take in this vitamin in our diet. It is needed for not only immune function but also for these uses:

  • Form collagen (skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels),
  • Repair and maintain bones and teeth
  • Heal wounds and form scar tissue
  • Aid in iron absorption

It can also help prevent cancer as an antioxidant by blocking damage that we are exposed to from air pollution, cigarettes, and UV rays from the sun.

Vitamin C deficiency is extremely rare today, but in the mid-1700s scurvy in sailors was very prevalent. Those at risk of low vitamin C intake are smokers, those with medical conditions that affect absorption (cancer cachexia), and individuals with little variety in their diets.

How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?

The recommended Dietary Allowance for men is 90 milligrams per day and 75 milligrams per day for women. Fruits and veggies are the best source of vitamin C—especially citrus fruits. It can be destroyed by heat, so cooking slightly reduces your intake. However, most of our best sources of vitamin C are consumed raw naturally, and we usually do not have to worry about this. To get a better idea of how to meet your daily requirement with food, here are the vitamin C contents of some common fruits and vegetables that are good sources:

  • Red bell pepper (½ cup, raw): 95mg
  • Orange, 1 medium: 70mg
  • Green bell pepper, ½ cup raw: 60mg
  • Broccoli, ½ cup cooked: 51mg
  • Cantaloupe, ½ cup: 29mg

In short, you can skip the megadoses of Vitamin C at the pharmacy.

Can Vitamin C Treat or Prevent the Common Cold?

In the 1970s, research was released that suggested Vitamin C could successfully treat or prevent the common cold. Several studies since then have been inconsistent and have resulted in some confusion and controversy. To date, the most compelling evidence comes from a 2007 study that showed preventative treatment in the general population did not affect cold duration or symptom severity. However, in the trials involving marathon runners, skiers, and soldiers exposed to extreme physical exercise or cold environments daily as well as the elderly and smokers, there could be somewhat of a beneficial effect. It was concluded that taking Vitamin C after the onset of illness did not appear to be beneficial. Furthermore, at doses above 400mg, Vitamin C is excreted in the urine. A daily dose in the 1000–2000mg range can cause upset stomach and diarrhea.

If you want the benefits of Vitamin C, it is best to consume the recommended Dietary Allowance daily, before the start of symptoms. Ideally, you will get Vitamin C from your food instead of a supplement; you will also get several other important nutrients in addition to your Vitamin C. Remember to make half of your plate fruits and veggies at every meal or blend up a quick smoothie for an easy on-the-go snack, slice up peppers and dip in hummus, or ask for extra veggies on that sandwich, pizza, or salad.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: nutrition healthy eating immunity vitamins supplements fruits and vegetables viruses Vitamin C

Adding Nutritional Supplements to Your Diet and Workout

Most of us have specific goals in mind when it comes to an exercise program. We work hard to achieve these results day in and day out, but sometimes our bodies may need an extra push to get over that hump. Many people question the importance of adding supplements to a healthy diet and workout routine, as well they should.

ThinkstockPhotos-471775270.jpgWith so many different supplements flooding the shelves these days, it’s hard to know which ones will truly help you achieve your desired results. Although I agree that some supplements might not be necessary to include in your program, others could be beneficial to many individuals no matter what their fitness goals are.

Not a Substitute for Proper Nutrition

Before I go any further, I want to note that supplementation is simply an addition to your diet and exercise regime. These are not meant to replace a well-balanced whole-food diet; they are meant to be used in conjunction.

Most of the nutrients we need are already being produced by our own bodies to a certain extent, as well as existing in foods we eat daily. Some essential nutrients such as protein, creatine, and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are naturally produced in the body and can be found in meat products, including (but not limited to) red meat, fish, and ground turkey. These amounts are just large enough to support daily functioning, but may not be produced in large enough quantities to aid in dramatic physique enhancements. If you are looking to take your physique to the next level, supplementation might be just what you need.

Which Ones Should I Use?

Here are the top five supplements (in my opinion, and that of many top professionals) you could add to your exercise and diet program.

  1. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): BCAAs are essential nutrients that help the body slow down protein and muscle breakdown, which can aid in preventing muscle fatigue during intense workouts. It works by stimulating the building of protein in muscles, which in turn helps prevent muscle breakdown. I would not recommend using BCAAs when trying to gain muscle hypertrophy (or size), as muscle breakdown is essential for muscle growth. Instead, try a pre-workout or caffeinated drink before your workout for extra energy.
  2. Creatine: Creatine is an organic acid that is produced in the liver and helps supply energy to cells all over the body (especially muscle cells). People take creatine because it allows the body to produce more energy, and with more energy a person is able to increase the intensity of their workouts. Many athletes use creatine to improve their overall performance. It also helps aid in quicker muscle recovery after an intense workout.
  3. Protein: Your muscles need protein grow and recover from muscle breakdown caused by exercise. You can get plenty of protein in your diet; however protein shakes are generally lower in calories than a high-protein meal. They are also portable and more convenient that carrying around whole-food meals (here are some ideas for making your own). Two widely used proteins are whey and casein. Whey is a fast-digesting protein that aids in muscle recovery and muscle growth. Casein is a slow-digesting protein that creates a longer-lasting supply of muscle-building nutrients. Many experts recommend taking a mixture of the two proteins to ensure a release of amino acids into the blood for as long as possible, therefore aiding in lean muscle gain as well as body fat decline.
  4. Multi-vitamins: Multi-vitamins are essential to support the body’s everyday functioning. Your body needs a variety of complex nutrients for optimum efficiency and performance. Taking a high-potency multi-vitamin can ensure your body is getting those essential nutrients to support thousands of metabolic reactions. Here’s more information on the importance of a multi-vitamin for your health and fitness goals, including a list of the essential vitamins and minerals you need.
  5. Fish oil: Fish oil tablets are the most efficient way to get the purest and most concentrated dose of Omega-3s into your diet. Omega-3s have been proven to improve blood circulation, which in turn will allow nutrients such as protein and carbohydrates to reach muscles. Omega-3s also help with maximizing metabolic rate, which in turn helps with fat loss.

Dietary supplements can have many health benefits as well as many performance-based benefits. If you are not concerned with taking supplements for their potential performance enhancements, you should at least be taking supplements such as multi-vitamins and fish oil tablets for your general health. They can be an easy addition to your diet and exercise regimen that may have huge effects on your overall health. Add supplements on an as-needed basis after conducting a needs analysis, and implement one at a time.

If you have additional questions or concerns about supplementation, please stop by and ask any Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS or contact our Registered Dietitian, Angie Mitchell for more information.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness nutrition fitness center protein muscle mass vitamins supplements