Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be debilitating causing cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. IBS can affect and one’s work, sleep and relationships.

Most treatments for IBS consist of medications that are often ineffective and can have numerous side effects.

According to a study published last month in Nutrients, researchers investigated the effects of vitamin D supplementation to see if it causes any improvements in the symptoms of IBS.

This systematic review and meta-analysis included all studies published until April 4, 2022. The search for randomized controlled trials assessing vitamin D efficacy in IBS with outcome including primary Irritable Bowel Severity Scoring System (IBS-SSS) and secondary IBS quality of life (IBS-QoL) as well as serum vitamin D 25-OH was performed in six databases. The research team included 6 studies consisting of a total of 616 patients.

As a result, the pooled analysis found no difference between vitamin D and placebo in improving IBS-SSS. However, the pooled analysis favored vitamin D over placebo regarding increasing the serum level of vitamin D 15-OH and improving the IBS-QoL.

Vitamin D can impact the gastrointestinal tract by its immunomodulatory properties. In the pathogenesis of IBS, immunological and inflammatory roles are important as research has suggested that the activation of inflammatory mediators have a crucial role in the development of IBS development. For example, the upregulated mast cells, T-cells, and other pro-inflammatory cytokines are a few known key factors.

In addition, the increased inflammation upregulates the neural activity in the intestine leading to visceral hypersensitivity as well as abdominal pain. On the other hand, decreased inflammation can improve the sensory nervous system in the gut, causing normalization of gut functionality and reduced IBS symptoms. This can be explained by the presence of vitamin D receptors in the nervous system as they play a role in the synthesis, maintenance, and upregulation of neurotransmitters levels.

The gastrointestinal tract is the body’s ‘second brain,’ it is made up of a self-contained, complex network of neurons, neurotransmitters, and proteins embedded in the lining of the GI system. It is responsible for all aspects of the digestive process, from the esophagus to the stomach and small and large intestines and may be responsible for IBS symptoms.

There are other nutrients that can support patient with IBS. For example. Perilla frutescens is an herb native to Eastern Asia that demonstrates antispasmodic, prokinetic, and anti-inflammatory effects, which help normalize and promote health bowel function and provide relief from GI symptoms. In addition, there are some specific researched strains such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-3856 that have been shown to reduce digestive discomfort and abdominal pain in individuals with IBS.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: Abuelazm M, Muhammad S, et al. The Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on the Severity of Symptoms and the Quality of Life in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients, 14(13), 2618.


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