A large proportion of people living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are vitamin D deficient, a new study has found.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield discovered a significant association between a patient’s vitamin D levels and the severity of their IBS symptoms, particularly the extent to which IBS affects their quality of life.
The study, which is the first of its kind, found that out of 51 IBS patients tested 82 per cent exhibited insufficient vitamin D levels.
Lead scientist, Dr Bernard Corfe, from the University’s Molecular Gastroenterology Research Group, said: “IBS is a poorly understood condition which impacts severely on the quality of life of sufferers. There is no single known cause and likewise no single known cure.
“Clinicians and patients currently have to work together and use trial and error to manage the condition and this may take years with no guarantee of success.
“Our work has shown that most IBS sufferers in our trial had insufficient levels of vitamin D. Furthermore there was an association between vitamin D status and the sufferer’s perceived quality of life, measured by the extent to which they reported impact on IBS on life.”
IBS is a chronic and debilitating functional disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract which affects around 10-15 per cent of the western population. Little is known about why and how the condition develops, although it is known that diet and stress can make symptoms worse.
The symptoms often cause embarrassment for patients meaning many live with the condition undiagnosed.
IBS accounts for 10 per cent of visits to GP surgeries and the condition has a significant and escalating burden on society as a consequence of lost work days and time spent on regular hospital appointments.
Dr Corfe added: “Our data provide a potential new insight into the condition and importantly a new way to try to manage it. As a result of this exploratory study, we’re now able to design and justify a larger and more definitive clinical trial.”