Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS, is a condition in which the muscles of the intestines contract abnormally. Since milk thistle has a mild laxative effect, it may offer relief to those who suffer from this difficult problem.
Also known as spastic colon, IBS often causes pain, cramping, diarrhea and constipation, either after meals, upon awakening, or both. Between ten and twenty percent of people experience IBS at some point during their life, often as young adults. Frequently associated with stress, IBS affects almost twice as many women as men, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It can be brought on by over-use of laxatives, a diet too low in fiber or from temporary bowel inflammation from illnesses such as infectious diarrhea.
IBS is treated in several ways, including drug therapies, include more fiber in the diet, and counseling in the case of depression or anxiety. Since milk thistle is useful as a mild laxative and an effective stool softener, this herb has recently become an option for sufferers who wish to try an herbal alternative. By increasing bile production in the liver, milk thistle helps the bowels achieve regularity and may calm the symptoms of IBS in some people who suffer from this difficult condition.
The generally recognized dosage of milk thistle is 100mg to 200mg taken twice daily in capsule form or as a tea. Pregnant women should avoid milk thistle, as it may interfere with fetal development. You should also avoid it if you have allergies to plants such as ragweed, chrysanthemums or daisies, since it may produce adverse reactions in this population.
Side effects are rare, but do occur occasionally. Make sure to consult your doctor or healthcare professional before adding milk thistle to your otherwise healthy diet.