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Vitamin D status in irritable bowel syndrome and the impact of supplementation on symptoms: what do we know and what do we need to know?



Low vitamin D status is associated with risk of colorectal cancer and has been implicated in inflammatory bowel disease. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic, relapsing, functional bowel disorder. A nascent literature suggests a role for vitamin D in IBS, but this has not been collated or critiqued. To date, seven studies have been published: four observational studies and three randomised controlled trials (RCTs). All observational studies reported that a substantial proportion of the IBS population was vitamin D deficient. Two intervention studies reported improvement in IBS symptom severity scores and quality of life (QoL) with vitamin D supplementation.

There are limited data around the role of vitamin D in IBS.


The available evidence suggests that low vitamin D status is common among the IBS population and merits assessment and rectification for general health reasons alone. An inverse correlation between serum vitamin D and IBS symptom severity is suggested and vitamin D interventions may benefit symptoms. However, the available RCTs do not provide strong, generalisable evidence; larger and adequately powered interventions are needed to establish a case for therapeutic application of vitamin D in IBS.

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Author contributions

C.E.W. undertook the searches, collated literature and wrote the first draft. E.A.W. co-conceived the study, reviewed and edited all drafts. B.M.C. co-conceived the study, undertook the searches, collated the literature and edited all drafts. All authors agreed the final version of the manuscript.


This work was jointly supported by BetterYou Ltd and The University of Sheffield.

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Correspondence to Bernard M. Corfe.

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The authors authored two of the systematically reviewed papers. BetterYou markets vitamin D supplements.

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Williams, C.E., Williams, E.A. & Corfe, B.M. Vitamin D status in irritable bowel syndrome and the impact of supplementation on symptoms: what do we know and what do we need to know?. Eur J Clin Nutr 72, 1358–1363 (2018).

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