Nutrition expert says two spoonfuls a day can help irritable bowel syndrome

Taking two spoonfuls of the malt barley extract could help people with IBS, NHS researchers hope
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

A nutrition expert has highlighted a food which was a favourite for parents to give their children in the 1970s and 1980s - but could have a beneficial effect on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Alex Ruani, a researcher in nutrition science at University College London, said that having two spoonfuls of sticky, sweet malt barley extract a day could make a big difference.

IBS is a common condition that affects the digestive system and causes a lot of problems for sufferers - and the exact cause is unknown. People who get it have symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.

These tend to come and go over time, and can last for days, weeks or months at a time. The exact cause is unknown – it’s been linked to things like food passing through your gut too quickly or too slowly, oversensitive nerves in your gut, stress and a family history of IBS.

However Ms Ruani told The Times that the extract - which can be bought for £9.25 for 740g on Amazon - contains many beneficial chemicals and vitamins. She said: “Malt extract is mostly starch but does have small amounts of amino acids, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium.

“It also has a high concentration of enzymes that digest carbohydrates, specifically amylase and glucanase enzymes, and their action is thought to help improve IBS symptoms.” A pilot study conducted through the NHS is being carried out to check if malt extract can help alleviate irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, with participants taking 15ml of light enzyme-rich malt extract at breakfast and 15ml with the last meal of the day.

Because it is very sweet it’s best used in place of sugar and syrups as a natural sweetener in baking, Ruani adds. Yet it can be stirred into hot milk for a bedtime drink.

The NHS says IBS is normally a lifelong problem. It said: “It can be very frustrating to live with and can have a big impact on your everyday life. There’s no cure, but diet changes and medicines can often help control the symptoms.”