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]
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/
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