Scientists at the University of Sheffield linked vitamin D levels with the severity of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in a new study.
The new study, published in the British Medical Journal, stated that most irritable bowel syndrome patients have insufficient levels of vitamin D.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional and debilitating chronic disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, which affects about 9-23% of people worldwide and 10-15% of people in the United States.
Many people live with the disease without being diagnosed, having to deal every day with the symptoms that can cause much embarrassment as aches and pains.
Symptoms include a combination of diarrhea or constipation, bloating, urgency (the need to use a restroom in a hurry), white or yellow mucus in the stool and the sensation of incompletely passing stools.
However, doctors do not know what causes it or how to cure it –only that stress and diet can worsen symptoms–, so patients should try different options for an extended period until reaching one that help them relieve the symptoms.
The evidence on the significant relationship between vitamin D levels of a patient and the severity of the symptoms arises from a study in which 51 patients were followed, of which 82% showed a deficiency of vitamin D.
According to lead researcher, Bernard Corfe, the Research Group of Molecular Gastroenterology at University of Sheffield, Vitamin D levels also were associated with perceived quality of life for the patient.
People with this disease have a high social impact for their lack of working days and regular visits to hospitals.
Participants were randomly given D supplements, a placebo tablet, or a combination of vitamin D and probiotics to take for 12 weeks. Patients and researchers didn’t know who was taking which tablet until the results were analyzed.
Due to the small number of people who participated in the study, and the relatively short length of test, the researchers were not able to report a significant improvement in IBS, among those taking supplements. The researchers noted that they should do a bigger study to obtain more definitive results.
Corfe explains that this new data deliver a renewed vision of how to deal with the problem: “It was clear from our findings that many people with IBS should have their vitamin D levels tested.” He added that they can now design and justify a larger clinical trial.
In parallel, the researcher Vicki Grant, who has suffered with IBS for more than 30 years, reported significant improvement in her symptoms after starting with a high dose of vitamin D3 supplement, about five years ago. She says she has read testimonials from others who have had positive effects taking Vitamin D through online communities.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to other diseases in some studies, such as inflammatory bowel disease and low blood pressure. Its consumption has also been linked with reduced heart and kidney disease.