I can’t say enough good things about vitamin D3. It’s been shown to protect against osteoporosis, help fight cancer, lower heart disease risk, and improve mood and memory. Which is why it came in at No. 4 on my Desert Island Supplement list this year.
But now, after reading a new study about how the “sunshine vitamin” also helps improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), I’m tempted to move this essential nutrient up a few notches.
IBS, by the way, is a vague term for a bunch of symptoms — namely, recurrent bouts of gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. The thing that bothers me about this term is that mainstream doctors are quick to slap the “IBS” label on anyone who complains of any of these symptoms — and leave it at that. This is typical western medical fare, where making the diagnosis is more important than addressing the root cause.
The fact is, there are a number of factors that can lead to IBS symptoms. Things like stress, medications, gluten or lactose intolerance, an imbalance of gut microbiota, or food allergies — just to name a few culprits.
But eating too much sugar is the leading cause of IBS. It leads to an overgrowth of yeast and causes a leaky gut. Leaky gut causes the lining of your digestive tract to become irritated and permeable. And it also inhibits the absorption of essential nutrients, like vitamin D. So it makes sense that supplementing with those missing nutrients would help improve symptoms. Of course, if you don’t start by addressing the underlying cause of why your gut is leaking in the first place, there isn’t enough vitamin D in the world that will cure your IBS.
That said, let’s take a closer look at this new study.
Using a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, scientists from the University of Sheffield in the UK set out to assess if vitamin D supplementation would benefit IBS patients. At the beginning of the trial, all 51 participants had their blood tested to assess their vitamin D levels. They also answered questions about their symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, frequency of bowel movements, and quality of life.
Then the researchers randomly assigned participants to three different groups. One group got a placebo. Another got vitamin D supplements and a placebo pill. And the third got vitamin D supplements and probiotic supplements.
After 12 weeks, researchers tested the participants’ blood again. Not only did taking vitamin D boost the subjects’ blood levels of the nutrient dramatically, it also improved IBS symptoms — by as much as 70 percent.
The addition of the probiotic didn’t make much difference in this study. But, then again, the probiotic preparation they used only contained two of the most common strains of bacteria, which isn’t really enough to make a measurable difference in anyone’s health.
I suspect if they’d used a multi-strain formula like Dr. Ohirra’s it would have made a much bigger impact. But, I digress. And the study findings on vitamin D are certainly impressive on their own.
Of course, I hate to toot my own horn, but I’ve been using this approach for 20 years. Ever since Dr. Robert Atkins taught me that supplementing with high doses of vitamins A and D can help any bowel disorder. (You need plenty of vitamin A to reinforce the junctions of your intestinal walls and ensure proper function of the cells lining your gut.)
There are actually lots of supplements you can take to keep IBS under control. You might have to experiment a little to find a combo that best suits your particular symptoms. And don’t forget: the first step towards curing IBS is to address the root cause.
Working with a physician skilled in natural medicine will help streamline the whole process. If you don’t already have a naturopathic doctor, you can find one in your area by contacting the American College for Advancement in Medicine at 800-532-3688 or www.acam.org.
But I always recommend taking vitamin D3 every day — whether or not you have IBS. You need at least 2,000 to 5,000 IUs per day, but you can safely take up to 10,000 IUs. It may seem like a lot, but it’s very safe. And the fact is, many people need doses this high to keep their levels in the optimal range (you want yours to be at least 80 ng/mL).