Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that causes pain and cramping in your abdomen, gas and bouts of diarrhea or constipation. While there is no known cause for IBS, it may be triggered by a low-fiber diet, stress or hormones. IBS cannot be cured, so treatment is focused on alleviating symptoms. Medications are available, but dietary and lifestyle changes can often do the trick. Speak to your physician about increasing your intake of certain vitamins to help manage your IBS symptoms.
While the research on vitamins and IBS is limited, not getting enough vitamin B-6 or vitamin D may affect your symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what's best for you.
Getting Enough Vitamin B-6 May Help
Vitamin B-6 is a water-soluble vitamin found in avocado, banana, beans, nuts, meat, poultry and whole grains. The recommended dietary allowance for adults is between 1.3 and 1.7 milligrams a day. A study published in 2011 in Nutrition Research asked subjects to document their food intake for seven days. Researchers found that subjects who consumed the lowest amount of vitamin B-6 reported more frequent and severe IBS symptoms. The number of participants in this study was small, and a vitamin B-6 deficiency is not common in the United States, but speak to your physician if you're concerned about your intake.
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Lack of Vitamin D Linked to Inflammation
There is no known cause of IBS, but chronic, minor inflammation in the intestinal wall can play a role in IBS that develops after a gastrointestinal infection. Vitamin D may inhibit these inflammatory mediators, according to a letter published in 2013 in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Results from case reports published in 2012 in BMJ Case Reports showed that out of 37 patients, 70 percent reported that supplementation of vitamin D eased their IBS symptoms. More research is needed on larger groups of people in a controlled setting, but speak to your physician about this vitamin and the dose that may be right for you.
Vitamin C for Constipation
Consider taking vitamin C if your IBS is typically accompanied by constipation. With this type of IBS, your gut muscles don't contract well enough to empty your bowels. Life Extension Magazine recommends either buffered vitamin C powder or effervescent powder. Buffered vitamin C is a combination of vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. It should be mixed with a glass of water and taken on an empty stomach. Effervescent powder is a mix of vitamin C and magnesium carbonate that should induce a bowel movement in 30 to 90 minutes when taken with several glasses of water.
You Need More than Vitamins
Adding vitamins, whether through diet or supplements, may not be enough to combat your IBS. The Mayo Clinic also recommends eating mostly fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and drinking plenty of water. Eliminate beans, cabbage, broccoli, fruit juice, bananas, nuts and raisins if you're gassy. Steer clear of refined grains and reduce your intake of red meats, caffeine, alcohol and trans fats. Drink plenty of water and exercise daily. Consider taking probiotics, ground flaxseed or melatonin to reduce your IBS symptoms.
- Medline Plus: Vitamin B-6
- Nutrition Research: Low Intake of Vitamin B-6 Is Associated With Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms
- Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Vitamin D Supplementation and the Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- NCBI, Gut: Guidelines on the Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Mechanisms and Practical Management
- BMJ Case Report: Vitamin D3 as a Novel Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Life Extension: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.