Vitamin D Supplementation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Woman with vitamin D bottleVitamin D has been a hot topic in recent years.

Much of that has been connected to a growing realization that many of us are deficient in vitamin D and that the deficiency is associated with a range of negative health outcomes.

For example, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of death (1,2) and the increased risk of some diseases (3).

There is still much to learn about vitamin D deficiency and its implications for health, and research is ongoing.

One particularly interesting recent study looked at vitamin D in relation to irritable bowel syndrome (also called IBS).

The potential connection between vitamin D and IBS is important because of the nature of IBS as a condition.

IBS is a particularly concerning condition, because there is no known cause and also no effective treatment for the condition. However, the way that people eat and stress can be aggravating factors. This is why sites like Stephanie Clairmont focus on the potential of diet to help treat IBS.

But, the study in question was spurred on by research that showed a link between gastrointestinal issues and vitamin D.

Relatively little research has been done on this link.

The Study Itself

This study had a sample size of 97 and considered two different treatments. One treatment was vitamin D supplementation while the other was vitamin D and probiotic supplementation. There was also a placebo group.

Not surprisingly, the authors found that supplementation with vitamin D improved the levels of vitamin D in the blood.

However, supplementation with vitamin D had no significant impact on quality of life measures.

Man holding stomach, nausea conceptThe authors did observe some trends, suggesting that all treatments improved the quality of life – but those trends were not strong enough to be statistically significant.

In their study, the authors also found that the population with IBS did have significant vitamin D deficiency.

Because of this, the authors suggested that people with IBS should be screened for deficiency, as they may need supplementation.

That outcome shows a link between vitamin D and IBS, although it doesn’t show whether the vitamin deficiency caused the IBS.

The authors also noted that the observed vitamin D deficiency could cause a lower quality of life in people with IBS (as with the population in general), due to the negative impacts of vitamin D deficiency.

For example, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to fatigue and may even play a role in fibromyalgia (4).

At the end of the day, this means that supplementation with vitamin D may have an indirect impact on quality of life, even if it doesn’t have a direct one.

Regardless, more research is needed to truly have an idea about how vitamin D and IBS interact, and whether supplementation with vitamin D can help to decrease symptoms

Strengths and Limitations

The study was a pilot study into the potential impact of vitamin D on people with IBS.

A pilot study tends to be smaller and less rigorous than a typical scientific study. Typically, it will also cost less and require fewer resources.

This type of study focuses on finding some evidence to support the theories of the author(s).

If the desired data is found, then this provides support for the importance of a larger scale and more in-depth study.

The nature of the study also means that we cannot read too much into its results.

Nevertheless, the outcomes of the study do illustrate that there is a potential relationship between vitamin D and IBS.

Despite being a pilot study, this study did also have some advantages.

Taking a supplement, gel capThe experimental design was a key advantage.

In particular, the authors used a randomized and double-blinded design and tested vitamin D, a placebo and vitamin D with probiotics.

That design means that participants were randomly placed into those three groups. Additionally, neither the participants nor the people working with them knew which person was in which category.

Those approaches help to decrease the potential for bias and can also help decrease the placebo effect.

Overall Implications

At the end of the day, this was a pilot study with a relatively small sample size.

That limits the conclusions we can draw.

Still, the study did show that vitamin D deficiency is common among people with IBS.

Even though the authors didn’t see any relationship between vitamin D and quality of life for people with IBS, the vitamin D deficiency did suggest a possible mechanism.

Those outcomes provide support for future research into the area.

If you suffer from IBS, the outcomes are an indication that you should keep an eye on your vitamin D levels.

After all, it is relatively easy to supplement vitamin D or to get more of it through sunshine. So, that is worth doing even if the connection between vitamin D and IBS is far from resolved. The site IBS Vegan also highlights how this study was relevant and ways that IBS suffers can take advantage of the conclusions.

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What do you think? Does a connection between vitamin D and IBS seem possible?


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