Study: Vitamin D Supplements Ineffective Treatment for Painful IBS Symptoms

Trials were conducted on participants with the chronic digestive condition to assess whether vitamin D reduced the severity of their symptoms and whether it could improve their quality of life.

A new study from the University of Sheffield indicates that vitamin D supplements are not effective in mitigating the painful symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Trials were conducted on participants with the chronic digestive condition to assess whether vitamin D reduced the severity of their symptoms and whether it could improve their quality of life. The results of the study showed that despite an improvement in the participants’ vitamin D status in response to vitamin D3 oral spray supplementation over a 12-week trial, there was no difference in their IBS symptom severity over the same period or a reported change in the participants’ quality of life.

The researchers found that although vitamin D supplements do not ease the symptoms of IBS, vitamin D deficiency is widespread among the IBS patient population, potentially leading to an increased risk of fractures and osteoporosis in the long-term.

“There has been interest from researchers and from patient groups in the potential of high dose vitamin D to alleviate symptoms of IBS, but there haven’t been many properly controlled trials in this area,” said study co-author Liz Williams, MD, in a press release. “What our research shows is that supplementing vitamin D at a safe dose did not reduce the severity of IBS symptoms.”

She said it is worth noting that vitamin D supplementation did correct deficiencies in individuals found to have poor vitamin D status, as well as its importance for other aspects, such as bone and muscle health.

Bernard Corfe, lead author and professor of Human Nutrition and Health at Newcastle University and Honorary Fellow at the University of Sheffield, said that for some people living with severe IBS, low vitamin D levels may be attributable to changes in diet and lifestyle.

“Unfortunately, all of these coping mechanisms can be detrimental to overall health and wellbeing and reduce exposure to valuable sources of vitamin D,” Corfe said in the press release. “Given that vitamin D is essential for overall health and wellbeing, it is still important people with IBS get tested and treated and seek dietary advice so it does not impact on their long term health.”

The research team has been following this issue since 2012 when they suggested a possible link between people living with IBS and low vitamin D levels. Additionally, the current study is the largest and most definitive to date showing vitamin D’s ineffectiveness with severe IBS symptoms, according to the authors.

Little is known about why and how IBS develops and because there is no cure for it, further research is needed to identify better ways to support and manage those living with the chronic condition.

“There is a range of management strategies that people living with IBS can seek help with from their GP, but because of the heterogeneity of the syndrome, managing IBS can be trial and error for each individual patient,” Corfe said in a press release. “As it is estimated that between five and 15 per cent of the population could be living with IBS—some undiagnosed due to the anxiety and embarrassment their symptoms can cause—it is vitally important we continue with research to find new ways to diagnose, treat and understand the impact of IBS on the population.”

REFERENCE

Vitamin D supplements ineffective treatment for painful IBS symptoms. The University of Sheffield. July 30, 2021. Accessed August 2, 2021. https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/news/vitamin-d-supplements-ineffective-treatment-painful-ibs-symptoms