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Reasons for Low Vitamin D in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

By Anne Tourney ; Updated August 14, 2017

If you have irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, altered bowel patterns and food intolerances may put you at risk for a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that your body requires for calcium absorption and bone formation. Your skin produces a certain amount of vitamin D in the presence of sunlight. The rest of your required intake must come from food sources or supplements. Vitamin D plays roles in regulating the balance of calcium in your body, supporting your immune system and controlling blood pressure. Because vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, a chronic vitamin D deficiency may lead to bone loss and osteoporosis.

Altered Digestive Patterns

IBS can accelerate the passage of food through your stomach and small intestine, which may interfere with your absorption of vitamin D and other nutrients. Certain foods or beverages may trigger increased bowel motility, colon spasms, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. These altered digestive patterns may prevent your body from fully absorbing dietary vitamin D. Eating foods that are rich in soluble fiber--a form of fiber that turns into a gelatinous substance in your digestive tract--may slow digestion, relieve diarrhea and improve nutrient absorption. Oatmeal, many fruits, peas and beans are high in soluble fiber. Psyllium husk is a natural soluble fiber supplement that may reduce the diarrhea associated with IBS.

Intolerance of Dairy Foods

Vitamin D occurs naturally in very few foods. Much of the dietary vitamin D in the United States comes from fortified milk, yogurt or other dairy products. If the proteins or fats in dairy products trigger your IBS symptoms, taking probiotic supplements or eating probiotic non-dairy foods such as soy yogurt and probiotic juices may promote healthy digestion and nutrient absorption by restoring the natural bacterial flora in your gut. If you are at risk for a vitamin D deficiency, your health care provider may recommend vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent bone loss.

Intolerance of Fatty Foods

People with IBS often have an overactive gastrocolic reflex, a reflex that stimulates intestinal muscle movement when you first swallow food on an empty stomach. Egg yolks and fatty fish, both significant dietary sources of vitamin D, are high in fat and trigger bowel spasms in many people who suffer from IBS, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC. Egg yolks, liver, fatty fish such as salmon and canned fish such as mackerel or sardines are natural sources of vitamin D.

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