Is artichoke a miracle drug for IBS, the way some formulators, commentators, and marketers would have you believe it is?
Well the product makers got a little ahead of the clinical research, but it turns out they were probably right.
According to the American Botanical Council (which graciously employed me some years ago), some German research finds that (1) artichoke leaf stimulates the flow of bile from the liver and (2) the resulting extra bile in the intestine may relieve abdominal pain. loss of appetite, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and other symptoms.
In 2004, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a clinical study that found that taking artichoke leaf extract every day for two months relieved the cycle of constipation alternating with diarrhea and reduced the number of attacks by an average of 26 per cent.
You shouldn't take artichoke leaf if you have biliary or gallbladder disease. A typical dosage is one or two capsules 1-3 times day, capsules usually 320 mg of 13-18% caffeylquinic acids.
What about real, raw, boiled, or parbroiled artichoke leaves? Well, the vegetable itself probably will have little effect on IBS symptoms. In fact, various low-fiber vegetables have minimal effect on IBS symptoms save one, chile peppers.
Chili peppers and powder have little or no effect on either the constipation or the diarrhea that typically accompanies irritable bowel syndrome. What they can do, especially in men, is to influence another symptoms that causes even greater distress than irregularity.
Chilies raise the threshold of pain in the rectum. The sharp pains of irritable bowel syndrome, sometimes so severe they cause men to pass out, are less intense when peppers are eaten. Some men notice a similar effect from mustard (which is often beneficial in heartburn).
So, if you have IBS, take your artichokes as extract, but if you want to load up on any vegetable, consider chili peppers.
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Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Marakis G, Booth RG. Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life in otherwise healthy volunteers suffering from concomitant dyspepsia: a subset analysis. J Altern Complement Med 2004 Aug; 10(4), 667-9.
Agarwal MK, Bhatia SJ, Desai SA, Bhure U, Melgiri S. Effect of red chillies on small bowel and colonic transit and rectal sensitivity in men with irritable bowel syndrome. Indian J Gastroenterol. 2002 Sep-Oct;21(5):179-82.
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