Background: Abdominal pain, that characterizes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) together with bloating and disordered defecation, is mainly related to a visceral hypersensitivity due to an increase of TRPV(1) nociceptive nerve fiber activity.
Aim: As capsaicin contained in red pepper is able to desensitize the TRPV(1) fibres, we evaluated whether the red pepper oral administration can decrease the symptoms of visceral hypersensitivity in IBS patients.
Methods: The study was performed on 50 patients with IBS diagnosed following Rome II criteria. After a 2-week washout period, 23 patients were planned to receive 4 pills/day, for 6 weeks randomly and in a double blind manner, each containing 150 mg of red pepper powder with a coat that dissolves in the colon, and 27 patients placebo. The patients scored each day in a diary the abdominal pain and bloating intensities following the 5-point Likert scale. The weekly symptom mean scores and the final patient subjective evaluation on treatment effectiveness were statistically compared among groups and intra-groups with appropriate tests.
Results: Eight patients dropped from the study: 6 in the red pepper group for abdominal pain and 2 in the placebo group. In 8 patients, the pills were reduced to 2/day, because of the abdominal pain at the onset of treatment. The intra-group comparisons showed that in patients taking red pepper the abdominal pain and bloating mean score values of the last weeks of treatment were significantly improved with respect to pre-treatment values, unlike patients taking placebo. The final patient subjective evaluation on the treatment effectiveness showed that red pepper group scored significantly better than placebo.
Conclusions: The results of this preliminary study indicate that the chronic administration of red pepper powder in IBS patients with enteric-coated pills was significantly more effective than placebo in decreasing the intensity of abdominal pain and bloating and was considered by the patients more effective than placebo.