06:58pm Wednesday 15 July 2020

Novel IBS treatment is explored through social media

Scientists from the University’s Department of Oncology are investigating how a high-dose of Vitamin D3 supplement could be used as a novel treatment to ease the symptoms of the disease which is thought to affect more than one in three people at some point in their lives.

The pioneering collection of patient data 1 from social media sites such as blogs and social forums showed that up to 70 per cent of sufferers posting on this issue reported the supplement improved their symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating and altered bowel habits.

Lead scientist, Dr Bernard Corfe, from the University’s Molecular Gastroenterology Research Group, said: “Exploring social media in our research has led to potential new leads and insights into treatment and management of IBS. We are now planning to follow up this exciting development with a small clinical trial.”

IBS is a chronic and debilitating functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract with serious and detrimental impacts on quality of life. The symptoms are debilitating and often cause embarrassment for patients meaning many live with the disease undiagnosed. There is no single cause, but changes in diet and stress can make symptoms worse.

The condition has a significant and escalating economic burden on society – as a consequence of lost work days and time spent on regular hospital appointment. IBS accounts for 10 per cent of visits to GP surgeries.

Researcher, Vicky Grant, has suffered with IBS for almost 30 years. She reported a significant improvement in her symptoms following an introduction to a high-dose of Vitamin D3 supplement approximately three years ago.

She said: “I was quite young when my condition started, only 13 years old, and felt embarrassed to talk about bowel symptoms. Often people see IBS as a joke, not a serious illness.

“I found out about vitamin D from a patient’s blog. The patient’s history seemed very similar to mine so I thought I’d give it a go. I wasn’t really expecting it to work as I had already tried and failed with lots of other therapies. The effect was actually quite dramatic. I’m not cured, if I stop taking the therapy my symptoms do return but it is proving to be a very effective management strategy.”

IBS affects each patient differently and can be triggered by different things in each individual making the disease very difficult to treat. Patients can experience diarrhoea or constipation as a result of their symptoms or their bowel habits can alternate.

The University of Sheffield researchers are also collaborating with the IBS Network, a national charity for patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The organisation provides information, advice and support on all aspects of living with the condition.

The IBS Network are hosting a Wellbeing Day on 16 November 2013, at the Circle, Rockingham Lane, Sheffield between 10.30am and 4pm. Entry is free and visitors will be able to find out more about managing the condition as well as having the opportunity to talk to health care professionals and take part in cookery demonstrations, learn about relaxation techniques and emotional and wellbeing and IBS diets.

Vicky, is also leading the Storying Sheffield Knowing as Healing project, a participatory action research initiative, working with people living with irritable bowel syndrome. For more information visit: http://www.storyingsheffield.com/knowing-healing/or email [email protected] 

If you are affected by IBS and would like to participate in the Vitamin D trial please contact [email protected]

Additional information

1. Sprake EF, Grant VA, Corfe BM. Vitamin D3 as a novel treatment for irritable bowel syndrome:single case leads to critical analysis of patient-centred data. BMJ Case Reports 2012;13 Dec.

To participate in our research register on the University of Sheffield’s
IBS Network. The IBS Network have a newly launched self-care plan, which contains everything you need to manage symptoms of IBS. For more information about the plan visit http://www.theibsnetwork.org/theself-care-plan/

To find out more about the IBS Network visit http://www.theibsnetwork.org/

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 of the brightest students from 117 countries coming to learn alongside 1,209 of the world’s best academics, it is clear why the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading universities. Staff and students at Sheffield are committed to helping discover and understand the causes of things – and propose solutions that have the power to transform the world we live in.

A member of the Russell Group, the University of Sheffield has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2011 for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007), recognising the outstanding contribution by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

One of the markers of a leading university is the quality of its alumni and Sheffield boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students. Its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, Siemens, Yorkshire Water and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad.

The White Rose University Consortium (White Rose) a strategic partnership between 3 of the UK’s leading research universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. Since its creation in 1997 White Rose has secured more than £100m into the Universities.




For further information please contact:

Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield

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