People pop after-dinner mints to keep the breath fresh after eating. A study found that consuming peppermint before meals can help ease symptoms of esophageal disorders.

Peppermint is known to help reduce gas and aid in digestion. New research from the Medical University of Southern Carolina suggests that peppermint oil may aid in relaxing the smooth muscles in the lower esophagus when a person experiences difficulty in swallowing and chest pains during a meal.

The research involved 38 patients enrolled for the probe. Patients who had experienced difficulty swallowing took two pieces of commercially available peppermint right before meals. Patients enduring chest pain took the peppermint tablets as needed.

Superfood Peppermint

A known superfood, peppermint is regarded for its therapeutic effects in multiple disorders because of its muscle-relaxing properties.

According to Medical News Today, mint is a calming and soothing herb that has been used for thousands of years to aid with upset stomach or indigestion. Mint can also help increase bile secretion and push bile flow, which helps to speed and ease digestion. It may also support healthy cholesterol levels.

"Peppermint oil is an established agent in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. We tried to examine its effect on patients with swallowing and chest pain issues with no apparent cause," said Mohamed Khalaf, M.D., an esophageal disorders research fellow at the MUSC Health Digestive Disease Center.

Digestive Aid

Based on the study findings, patients who took peppermint tablets before eating felt better after meals than those who did not. Taking the mints was most beneficial to patients who experience both non-cardiac chest pain and unobstructed difficulty swallowing.

Patients with esophagus spastic disorders showed improved results with 83 percent reporting they felt better or slightly better.

Esophageal disorders such as acid reflux, esophageal spastic disorders result in painful spasms that can interfere with eating. These disorders are difficult to diagnose and treat as they occur only from time to time. Experts say that peppermint offers a suitable first line of defense against these disorders.

Start Low And Go Slow Treatment

In the study, the researchers highlight the effects of the so-called Charleston Approach, which supports a "start low and go slow" treatment strategy. In cases of esophageal disorders, for example, it uses peppermint oil as a first attempt to relieve the symptoms.

To be able to use this first-line of treatment using peppermint, patients must first be examined by a doctor to rule out heart disease, and undergo endoscopy to rule out any obstruction to swallowing. An endoscopy procedure involves inserting a flexible tube fitted with a light and camera into the esophagus.

According to Khalf, there are no risks in the empirical use of peppermint oil because of its safety profile, low cost, and widespread availability.

The study is published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences.

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