- Vitamin D, sometimes called the ‘sunshine supplement’ helps people who suffer Irritable Bowel Syndrome return their habits to normal.
- Irritable bowel syndrome linked to poor mood, depression and anxiety
- Vitamin D is anti-inflammatory, which may ease discomfort in IBS sufferers
- IBS affects between 10 and 15% of people in the UK, and has no clear cause
- Up to 24% of children and 20% of adults in the UK are deficient in vitamin D
A new study suggests that the extreme discomfort suffered by those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can be alleviated with a daily dose of vitamin D.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Oncology and Metabolism, University Of Sheffield in the UK. For the study, the team reviewed seven studies: four observational studies and three randomised controlled trials on the relation between Vitamin D and IBS. Their examination of these research papers indicates that with a regular daily intake of the ‘sunshine supplement’, symptoms of the condition, especially their irregular bowel habits return to a more normal state. It also benefits their mental state as IBS has previously been linked to depression and anxiety.
IBS affects between 10 and 15 per cent of people in the UK.
IBS sufferers appear to have a deficiency in their levels of vitamin D and is not related to their ethnicity in this case.
IBS is a severe irritation of the intestinal wall of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) causing extreme discomfort and severe abdominal pain in the bowel area. Other key symptoms are marked changes in bowel habits, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. It is highly debilitating, chronic, and can occur without warning. Many sufferers often have relapses. Following a poor diet and having stress in work and life is implicated in causing the condition as well as this latest finding about low vitamin D levels in the body. The situation is highly embarrassing for sufferers. It is often undiagnosed with people having the condition for many years in various forms before realising it. IBS now accounts for 10 per cent of all visits to GP surgeries. The condition has a significant and escalating burden on society as a consequence of lost work days and time spent on regular hospital appointments.
The researchers did not speculate on the reasons why vitamin D would reduce IBS but this vitamin is a potent anti-inflammatory. There is no clear cause for this unpleasant condition. Inflammatory processes are heavily involved in creating the condition however. A more general conclusion from the research was that regular supplementation with vitamin D improved the quality of life of IBS sufferers.
Lead author of the study, Dr Bernard Corfe, stated:
“The study provides an insight into the condition and, importantly, a new way to try to manage it. It is evident from the findings that all people with IBS should have their vitamin D levels tested and a large majority of them would benefit from supplements. IBS is a poorly understood condition which impacts severely on the quality of life of sufferers. There is no single known cause and likewise no single known cure.”
Vitamin D is essential for general wellbeing, including bone health, immune function, mental health as well as gut health. Vitamin D is also associated with reducing the effects of arthritis which is another unpleasant inflammatory condition of the joints. Lack of vitamin D is also associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Vitamin D deficiency is high in the UK with up to 24 per cent of children and 20 per cent of adults lacking this key vitamin. Low levels of Vitamin D can be remedied relatively easily by taking supplements once it is diagnosed.
There is also considerable interest in the role that gut flora and fauna have to play in health gastrointestinal tracts. Probiotic micro-organisms are also known to play a part in reducing the effects of IBS and soothing other general stomach and intestinal tract issues.
The study is published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
University of Sheffield. 2018. Vitamin D supplements could ease painful IBS symptoms. Publ. 25th January 2018 https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/news/nr/vitamin-d-supplements-ibs-1.759023 Accessed 26th January 2018.
Williams, C.E., Williams, E.A., Corfe, B.M. (2018) Vitamin D status in irritable bowel syndrome and the impact of supplementation on symptoms: what do we know and what do we need to know? Review article. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. doi:10.1038/s41430-017-0064-z