A common problem affecting the large intestine, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is estimated to affect around 11 percent of the population globally. Trivialized by many doctors and dismissively labeled a psychosomatic disorder, patients often suffer debilitating symptoms for years without any root cause ever being found. Now, however, two new systematic reviews and meta-analyses suggest that vitamin D deficiency is associated with the problem and that supplementation can improve patients’ quality of life.
With a range of symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, frequent bowel movements, diarrhea or constipation, IBS can be a particularly distressing condition to suffer from. While some patients manage to control their symptoms through experimenting with different dietary approaches, for many the disorder has a significant impact on their quality of life and impairs their ability to work and engage in normal daily activities. Given the continued failure of conventional medicine to successfully diagnose the root cause of IBS, the publication of these new systematic reviews and meta-analyses could potentially represent an important development in its prevention and treatment.
Published in the Nutrición Hospitalaria journal (NH) and the Nutrition Journal (NJ) by separate groups of researchers from China, the new papers examine the efficacy of vitamin D supplementation for IBS and its impact upon symptoms. Significantly, they show that vitamin D deficiency is associated with the pathogenesis of the disorder and that patients receiving supplements had greater improvement than those given placebos.
The NH journal paper examines 12 randomized controlled trials in which a total of 1,331 study participants received at least 3,000 IU of vitamin D for a period of 4 weeks. After evaluating the trials, the researchers found that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for IBS and that serum levels of vitamin D in patients suffering from the condition are significantly lower than those of normal people. The paper concludes that supplementation can improve the quality of life of IBS patients.
The NJ paper examines 4 randomized placebo-controlled trials involving a total of 335 participants. A variety of doses and treatment durations were employed in these 4 trials. In two of them, a dose of 50,000 IU of vitamin D was given fortnightly; one trial gave this dose for 6 weeks, the other for 6 months. The other two trials examined were based on a vitamin D dose of 50,000 IU given weekly for a period of 9 weeks, and a dose of 2000 IU given daily for a period of 6 months, respectively. No adverse effects from the dosages used were reported in any of the trials. Moreover, the researchers found that vitamin D supplementation showed protective effects both on the symptoms and the quality of life for patients with IBS. Noting that vitamin D is inexpensive and safe, they concluded that it may represent a useful and practical approach to treating the condition.
With IBS sufferers commonly also affected by mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, and vitamin D deficiency additionally being associated with these problems as well, there are clearly now multiple arguments in favor of supplementation. Given the proven effectiveness of vitamin D supplements in improving patients’ quality of life, as demonstrated in the two new systematic reviews and meta-analyses, the evidence is growing that IBS can be both prevented and treated naturally.