Have You Tried Licorice?
A few months ago, I experienced a multi-day IBS flare-up that had me staying close to home and afraid to eat much. My symptoms were intense, causing me a lot of pain and discomfort, as well as frequent trips to the bathroom. None of my usual tricks were working to ease my symptoms. I closely watch what I eat normally, avoiding gluten and dairy and limiting my sugar and alcohol intake. But even eating within my limitations and choosing mild foods, my intestines felt like they were on fire. I happened to talk to a friend who also has IBS, and we were trading our home remedies when she brought a new one to my attention: licorice.
Licorice for IBS
Most of us think of the candy when we think of licorice, and its distinctive taste has people either loving it or hating it. However, the candy has only a small amount of licorice extract. Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has been used as a digestive aid for thousands of years. It wasn’t officially documented until the 1940’s, when researchers found that licorice could heal peptic ulcers. Unfortunately, consuming large quantities of licorice was found to increase the incidence of several other health problems, including raising blood pressure to very high levels and increasing headaches. Research continued to explore the benefits and risks of this root medicine and found that by removing the glycyrrhizinic acid, the benefits could be maintained while the side effects were eliminated. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is available over-the-counter (no prescription needed) and helps heal the digestive tract as well as inhibiting intestinal spasms, which can cause diarrhea.
How licorice works
DGL is believed to heal the digestive tract by increasing the body’s mucus-producing cells in the gastrointestinal lining. In addition to its benefits to digestion, DGL may also help fight inflammation, kill viruses, bacteria and parasites, and cleanse the colon. DGL is considered safe and has no known side effects, although some drug interactions have been seen with people taking the drug Prednisone or other corticosteroids and Digoxin or other diuretics. If you’re taking corticosteroids or diuretics, avoid licorice root, and talk to your doctor or pharmacist about this and all supplements you take.
My friend told me she has been using DGL for years for herself and her son, both who suffer from IBS. After hearing about my friend’s positive experience with it, I ordered a bottle of DGL for myself. The bottle recommends taking 2 of the chewable tablets 20 minutes before a meal. (To be honest, I don’t always remember 20 minutes ahead of time, so I’ve taken it as little as 10 minutes before eating.) I don’t use the supplement every day – I just use it when I’m experiencing a flare of symptoms. And, for me, it works. It seems to calm my digestive system down and removes that “fire in the belly” feeling.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?