The most irritating thing about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not the symptoms, but the questions. The abdominal pain and the constant trips to the bathroom pale in comparison to the unanswered questions about why IBS affects you and how you can get rid of it.
IBS is a chronic condition with little known information about what causes it and how to treat it. Treatments typically revolve around alleviating symptoms without actually resolving the disorder itself. However, doctors have recently discovered a link between IBS and a vitamin deficiency that may answer several questions.
Understand the Research
A team of doctors from the University of Sheffield in England released a study that points to a vitamin D deficiency in people with IBS. Doctors have been aware of a vitamin D deficiency in colorectal cancer patients and those who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), so looking for this deficiency in IBS patients seemed like a natural conclusion. This study combined various research projects that linked a deficiency of vitamin D to IBS patients worldwide. However, it is still unclear if a lack of vitamin D causes IBS or if IBS causes the vitamin deficiency. Several doctors argue that when you feel bad, you’re less likely to go outside, which in turn prevents a natural intake of vitamin D. Still, the research indicates that vitamin D supplements may help resolve many of the issues associated with IBS.
The Need for Vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial to our overall health because it improves bone health, mental health, immune function, and gut health. In fact, another study discovered that insufficient levels of vitamin D lead to a decreased production of defensins, molecules that are necessary for maintaining healthy gut flora. While more research is needed on this topic, this result may offer hope for a simple solution in resolving unwanted GI issues. If you suffer from IBS, talk to your doctor about your vitamin D levels. A vitamin deficiency is inexpensive and easy to determine. If you fall into the category of IBS patients with insufficient vitamin D levels, you and your GI doctor may decide that supplements are worth a try. However, there is a difference between a deficiency and low levels, so vitamin D supplements may not be your answer. It is also important to remember that symptoms of IBS vary across the board, so there is no singular remedy that will impact everyone equally.
Even though IBS patients long to hear a definitive answer as to what will stop symptoms from occurring, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your discomfort. The first is food choice. Carbonated beverages, beans, cabbage, wheat, and dairy are all known triggers for IBS. Food and drink choices do not cause IBS and do not indicate an allergy–they simply aggravate the symptoms. After eating certain foods, you may feel bloated or experience abdominal cramping, or you might suffer from diarrhea and constipation. You can also experience these symptoms as a result of stress. Stress does not cause IBS, but it can certainly trigger a flare-up of symptoms. If you practice breathing techniques or find a way to subdue your stress, you might lower the intensity of your symptoms. Unfortunately, you may not find the conclusive answers you’re searching for, but you can play an active role in managing your symptoms.
If you suffer from IBS and want to explore vitamin D supplements, make an appointment with GI Associates today. A GI specialist will be happy to talk to you about your symptoms, triggers, and explore various options to reduce your discomfort.