Expert Opinions

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I have been suffering from irritable bowel syndrome for three years, and nothing seems to relieve it. A friend mentioned a product called Calm Colon. Does it work?

Anonymous, via

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a frustrating disease. IBS patients suffer from intestinal muscle spasms, resulting in diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, and pain. Though the condition is very common, tests often reveal nothing abnormal.

Calm Colon, made by the Los Angeles based health and beauty company Samra (, contains a blend of Chinese herbs, including dang shen, huo xiang, fang feng, and chai hu. The company says their product duplicates a 20-herb formula used in an Australian trial (Journal of the American Medical Association, 11/11/98). The study showed that after 16 weeks of therapy, patients who took the formula had fewer symptoms than a placebo group.

Although study author Dr. Alan Bensoussan isn't sure Calm Colon is a good replication of his study formula, Samra says the only difference is that its product uses liquid extracts instead of raw herbs, which should not be a problem. Some physicians who have recommended the formula have seen positive results, and it may be worth a try. Other supplements often recommended for IBS include enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules (take 1 or 2 three times a day between meals) or the dietary fiber psyllium (1 to 3 tbsp. powder a day).

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