Can Vitamin D Treat IBS?

Can vitamin D be used to treat IBS (bloating, gas, abdominal pain, etc.)? The health benefits of vitamin D supplementation appear to have been overstated. However, a landmark study has documented that vitamin D supplementation can improve IBS symptoms when compared to placebo.

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Can Vitamin D Treat IBS?

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi, this is Dr. Ruscio. And let’s discuss this issue. Irritable bowel syndrome has a number of symptoms that can constitute it. But typically, there is gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and altered bowel function—constipation, diarrhea. And it’s a very common condition. Many people suffer with some degree with the symptoms of IBS.

So we’ve all heard about vitamin D. And I think we’ve heard a lot of claims that vitamin D is kind of like the next wonder supplement. And we reviewed previously how many of those claims have probably been over-exaggerated. However, we still want to keep a keen eye to literature and see if there are areas where vitamin D supplementation seems prudent, seems to make sense, seems to be helpful.

Recently and very excitingly, a landmark study was published where a group of patients, all of whom had IBS, half of them were given vitamin D. The other half were given placebo—so placebo control, so very good science. And the symptoms were tracked over the course of six months. And what the researchers found was that there was a significant impact on symptoms of IBS in the vitamin D supplementation group compared to those who did not receive the vitamin D.

And I’ll just quote from the study here. “Over the six-month intervention period, a significantly greater improvement in IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain and distention, flatulence, rumbling, and overall gastrointestinal symptoms was observed in the patients receiving vitamin D as compared to placebo.”

The only thing that didn’t positively change was bowel habit. So if people were constipated or had diarrhea, there didn’t seem to be a large impact on their frequency of bowel movements. But all the other symptoms improved.

Now, these patients were given 50,000 IUs of vitamin D3 every other week. And if you were to take vitamin D orally, this would equate to about 3,500 IUs a day. Most vitamin D supplements contain about 2,000 IUs per capsule or per drop or per pearl or whatever it is. So what we see here is that a very reasonable dose of vitamin D—not a mega-dose, nothing crazy—3,500 IUs a day roughly or 50,000 IUs every other week was enough to have a favorable impact on symptoms in IBS.

Now, why is this? Perhaps it’s the antimicrobial benefits that we see from vitamin D. But potentially, it’s the immunomodulatory impact that we see from vitamin D where we don’t necessarily know exactly why.

This study wasn’t trying to answer the why. It was trying to answer the question of, clinically and very practically, does vitamin D supplementation help with the symptoms of IBS? This study, which was a very well-performed study looking at humans, placebo versus control, clearly showed that there was a benefit for IBS symptoms with vitamin D.

So taking a reasonable dose of vitamin D is probably not a bad idea for those that have IBS. It’s inexpensive. It’s very safe. And just as long as you have your vitamin D levels periodically monitored to make sure that you don’t become excessive in vitamin D, then I think this is a fairly safe play.

Of course, this is just the first study of its kind, at least to my knowledge. So to be very conservative, we’d want to see this repeated a few more times. But again, this is kind of your gold standard level of science, a placebo control trial.

So if you’re suffering with IBS, a reasonable dose of vitamin D—either 50,000 IUs every other week or we could theorize 3,500 IUs every day—has a very good chance to help with your IBS symptoms.

So this is Dr. Ruscio. And I hope this information helps you get healthy and get back to your life. Thanks.

If you need help using vitamin D or managing your IBS, click here

What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.

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