IBS symptoms tend to come and go over time, and how long they last can vary from days to months.
It’s a lifelong problem that can impact your everyday life, but sadly there’s no cure.
Diet changes are recommended by the NHS to help control symptoms, such as cooking homemade meals using fresh ingredients.
But some experts say taking a vitamin supplement alongside changes like this can help. Registered nutritional therapist and digestive health expert Kym Lang from Enterosgel recommends five.
Vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory properties are good news for people with IBS, says Kym.
She adds: “A recent research review found that a significant number of sufferers are deficient, and in two of those studies vitamin D supplementation helped reduce diarrhoea.
“Our body needs sunshine to make vitamin D, so as we edge toward Christmas supplementation is a good idea. If you have IBS with diarrhoea, take a supplement containing 10 µg/d (400 IU) throughout autumn and winter.”
Our gut plays an important role in immunity, and zinc may help boost immune function, according to Kym.
She explained: “While zinc supplementation may improve post-infectious diahorrea and has also been shown to help people with ulcerative colitis, there are fewer studies on IBS.
“If you want to try zinc, choose a liquid supplement to maximise absorption, and don’t take more than 25mg – high doses can cause anaemia and weakening of the bones. You can also get zinc from shellfish, lean meat and bread.”
Probiotics are live microorganisms – bacteria and yeasts – that may be beneficial to your digestive system, according to Kym.
She explained: “There’s good evidence for probiotics improving diarrhoea, whether it’s from a stomach bug, lactose intolerance or IBS.
“It’s important to try probiotics for at least a month, to see if they help. If you don’t notice any effect, you can try another brand. Just avoid probiotics which contain FOS, as these formulations can make diarrhoea worse.”
If you have IBS with diarrhoea, you may also be lactose intolerant. Kym said: “If your small intestine can’t produce enough lactase enzymes, you’ll likely have problems digesting milk and yoghurt.
“The outcome is often loose stools, bloating and wind. Adding lactase drops to milk is one simple way to help reduce these symptoms. You can also try lactose-free milk, to be sure you get enough calcium in your diet.”
Kym said: “Enterosgel is an intestinal adsorbent shown to improve IBS with diarrhoea.
“Increased secretions of histamine and serotonin in the gut are thought to be one contributor to IBS. Enterosgel binds to these and other harmful substances, removing them naturally through the stool and reducing diarrhoea frequency.
“Because Enterosgel is drug-free, gentle and effective I often recommend it to my clients with IBS, especially if dietary changes aren’t working.”
Avoid too much vitamin C
Vitamin C’s role is to protect our body’s cells and help them heal quickly. But taking over 1,000mg a day can make diarrhoea worse, especially if you have IBS, says Kym.
She advised: “Check your multivitamin ingredients, as many brands contain high levels of vitamin C. We can’t store vitamin C in the body, so it’s better to get this crucial vitamin by snacking on colourful fruit and veg each day like satsumas, peppers and strawberries.”
Evidence from the World Cancer Research Fund shows that some high-dose supplements can increase your cancer risk, so don’t rely on them for IBS or any other health issue – always aim to boost your vitamins and minerals through food sources where you can.