Exploring Papaya: Can it be a Game Changer in IBS Management?

Papaya has been claimed in numerous sources that it can be helpful in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. But how much truth is there in this claim and is it really an effective approach to combat IBS? Let us clear all your questions in this article.

About Papaya

The papaya, botanically known as (Carica papaya), is the most widely consumed fruit in Mexico and Central America. Spanish explorers discovered this fruit in the 16th century and introduced it to Europe and America. The largest producers of this fruit are India and Mexico. This fruit is well-known for its bright orange appearance and sweet taste. This fruit has several important nutrients that make it extremely beneficial to health. Papaya takes 10 to 18 months to mature, depending upon climate and location.

Now you know about papaya, lets understand what IBS is and its relation to Papaya.

Irregular Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Person having abdominal discomfort due to Irregular bowel syndrome

Irregular Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a widespread gastrointestinal disorder. It affects the colon (Large intestine), causing difficulties in a person’s stomach. As a result of this, a person has to deal with problems such as diarrhea, constipation, and bloating on a daily basis, affecting quality of life. It is not a disease, but rather a condition, with no known cause and no treatment currently available. IBS is classified into three types: –

  • IBS (D) – A person with this condition complains of diarrhea causing loose and sometimes watery faeces.
  • IBS (C) – This condition causes constipation resulting in difficulty in excreting poop or faeces.
  • IBS (M) – This is also known as a mixed version of IBS C and D since a person can have both diarrhea and constipation. 

Is there any scientific evidence that proof that papaya can help with IBS?

Let’s explore whether there is credible evidence supporting the use of papaya for IBS management. In 2013, researchers conducted a randomized control experiment to see whether papaya could be helpful in treating IBS symptoms. In this experiment, they chose individuals with chronic gastrointestinal disorders, such as constipation, bloating, and heartburn.

During this experiment, the patients were given a mixture of 18 ml caricol, which was given for 45 days before the results were analyzed.

Randomized control experiment for patients with chronic gastrointestinal disorders

The findings obtained that those individuals who completed the experiment noticed some degree of relief in symptoms such as bloating and constipation, however there is no significant improvement found in Heartburn. The reason could be because the individuals who participated did not have any previous history of heartburn, therefore there was insufficient evidence to understand whether there was improvement in symptoms such as heartburn or not. 

However, the degree of relief observed while the intake of papaya was extremely marginal and minor, thus it is hard to say whether papaya helps with IBS or not. There is not enough evidence and research as for now to prove this. 

Should You Consume Papaya for IBS Despite Lack of Concrete Evidence?

Papaya may or may not aid in IBS, but it should be included in your diet. It has numerous benefits. It contains several nutrients, for example: –

  • Vitamin A: Papaya is high in Vitamin A, which supports eye health and protects the eyes from damage.
  • Vitamin C: It includes Vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system, improving the ability to fight an illness.
  • Potassium: Since potassium is present in papaya; it also supports heart health. Potassium regulates the electrical impulses that travel to the heart and are crucial for managing muscle contraction and relaxation. It also aids in the excretion of sodium through the urine when sodium levels in the body rise.
  • Good for gym goers: People who go to the gym and generally consume a high protein diet for optimum muscle building would benefit from papaya because it contains a proteolytic and digesting enzyme called Chymopapain. Chymopapain breaks down protein into amino acids, thereby facilitating the body’s digestion and absorption process.

In conclusion, you should definitely add consume papaya in your diet whether you have IBS or not.

Mindful eating practices

Mindful eating is a holistic approach to consuming food that goes beyond mere sustenance. It involves being fully present during the entire eating experience, from the selection of food to its digestion. This practice holds the potential to profoundly impact the management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and enhance overall digestive well-being. Alongside incorporating papaya into your diet, adopting mindful eating practices, particularly the act of eating slowly and chewing methodically, can play a significant role in minimizing the likelihood of triggering uncomfortable IBS symptoms.

When you slow down the pace of eating, you provide your digestive system with the time it needs to process food effectively. This measured approach reduces strain on the gastrointestinal tract and minimizes the potential for discomfort.

Chewing your food thoroughly is a fundamental yet often underestimated aspect of digestion. Adequate chewing breaks down food into smaller particles, enabling easier absorption of nutrients by the stomach and intestines. Additionally, thorough chewing prompts the release of saliva, which contains enzymes crucial for initiating the digestive process.

Avoiding distractions while eating, such as television or work-related tasks, is integral to mindful eating. Such distractions can lead to thoughtless overconsumption. By devoting your complete attention to your meal, you can fully enjoy its flavors while avoiding overindulgence.

Portion control is another facet of mindful eating that is particularly pertinent for individuals with IBS. Overloading the stomach with a large meal can result in discomfort and bloating. Mindful eating encourages an understanding of appropriate portion sizes to mitigate these symptoms. Remember that mindful eating is a gradual journey that requires dedication and patience, but the potential improvements it offers to digestive health make it a worthy pursuit.

Individual variability

When we think about how papaya affects irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it’s important to know that people’s bodies can react in different ways. Everyone is unique, and what works for one person might not work the same way for another, especially when dealing with IBS symptoms. This happens because of various things like our genes, overall health, the mix of tiny organisms in our gut (microbiota), and the specific type of IBS we have, whether it’s more about constipation, diarrhea, or both.

When we eat papaya, how it affects IBS can be quite complex. Some people might feel better and have fewer IBS symptoms when they add papaya to their meals. Others might notice smaller changes or maybe none at all. This shows how complicated IBS can be, and it means that finding what helps can be different for each person. This is why it’s really helpful to talk to a healthcare expert, like a doctor or dietitian, who knows about IBS. They can give you important advice based on your own health and situation, helping you decide if papaya is a good addition to your diet. Working together with them can lead to better management of IBS symptoms and a better quality of life.

So, is there no cure for IBS?

Unfortunately, there is no permanent treatment for IBS, although its symptoms can be controlled by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In IBS, you have to recognize those food items that trigger your symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation and bloating and you have to either eliminate that food item from your diet completely or replace it with a non-harmful substitute.

For example, if milk triggers IBS symptoms, you may either stop consuming it or experiment with alternatives such as coconut and almond milk. You should include probiotics in your diet since they include a lot of healthy bacteria that are helpful in the restoration of your gut microbiota, which improves your overall digestive system.

You will also need to adhere to the FODMAP diet, which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that cannot be properly digested in the small intestine, causing bacteria to ferment excessively, resulting in bloating, diarrhea, and constipation in the body. It is extremely beneficial to combine the low FODMAP diet with a balanced diet to get relief from Irregular bowel syndrome symptoms.

References: 1) Muss C, Mosgoeller W, Endler T. Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2013;34(1):38-46. PMID: 23524622.

2) Cozma-Petruţ A, Loghin F, Miere D, Dumitraşcu DL. Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients! World J Gastroenterol. 2017 Jun 7;23(21):3771-3783. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v23.i21.3771. PMID: 28638217; PMCID: PMC5467063.

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