At first glance, juicing would not seem to have a lot offer irritable bowel syndrome. Although irritable bowel syndrome causes constipation, it also causes diarrhea, and sometimes severe abdominal pain. A particular juice ingredient, however, helps relieve all three symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (also known as IBS).
Juicing for IBS
Medical scientists see IBS as the result of three different disease processes acting at the same time. One of these diseases processes is altered gastrointestinal motility. Sometimes the muscles lining the bowel wall are hyperactive and there is diarrhea. Sometimes the same muscles are hypoactive and there is constipation.
Irritable bowel syndrome also involves visceral hyperalgesia. This medical term refers to having a very low threshold of pain so that ordinarily pressure on the bowel and anus is painful. And there usually also some kind of pscyhopathology, changes in mental health, caused by the constant pain of IBS.
Most gastroenterologists who treat irritable bowel syndrome tell their patients to get more fiber but less fructose. Fruit juice is unacceptable, but the insoluble fibers in leafy greens can be just what the doctor ordered to treat both constipation and diarrhea. When constipation is the problem, this fiber absorbs water and makes the stool easier to expel with less pain. When diarrhea is the problem, this fiber also absorbs water and reduces the runny quality of the stool. But there is an additional ingredient that can reduce pain.
Hot Peppers in Juices for IBS
That “secret ingredient” in juices for treating IBS is the capsaicin found in hot peppers. Adding one or two small chili peppers to the green leafy vegetables processed in a macerating juicer to make green juices can help lower the threshold of bowel pain.
Why should a substance most of us find painful make IBS less painful? The substance that gives hot peppers their heat, capsaicin, interacts with the vagus nerve. Just as it stimulates the release of tears, it also stimulates the release of gastric juices. Just as it stimulates mucus running out of the nose, it also stimulates the passage of stool through the bowel. The relatively mild pain signal generated by the capsaicin in hot peppers “overrides” the stronger pain signal generated by bowel movement so that consuming small amount of hot pepper make the day to day symptoms of IBS less of a trial. Consumption of small amounts of capsaicin also reduces bloating. Peppers are not advised when IBS causes diarrhea, only when the problem is constipation.
It also helps to be careful about the consumption of vanilla when one has IBS. Vanilla, even in concentrations too small to be tasted, activates physical memories surrounding food. If you have ever had severe abdominal pain after consuming food or drink flavored with vanilla, your “muscle memory”will replay the experience whenever you consume tiny amounts of vanilla, too small to be detected. Many people who have IBS find that their symptoms improve when they avoid all juices, almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, soft drinks, or desserts that are flavored with even the smallest amounts of vanilla.