Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) impacts about 12% of the the population. If you have IBS, it is important to be aware of potential micronutrient deficiencies that can occur. Let's take a closer look at some of these micronutrients:
Zinc is a mineral that is found within the cells of our body that helps wounds to heal, support our immune system by fighting off bacteria and viruses, helps to make proteins and DNA, and plays a role in maintaining the function of our intestinal barrier. In a population based study, they found that several people with IBS were deficient in Zinc. Which may explain some of the IBS symptoms.
It is recommended that most adult women consume 8 mg of zinc per day and men consume 11 mg of zinc per day. Common symptoms of zinc deficiency are:
Higher risk of infections
Poor wound healing
There can also be too much of a good thing. Taking too much zinc can cause: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping, and headaches
To ensure you are consuming enough zinc in your diet, lean towards:
Meats: chicken, turkey, oysters, lobster, crab.
Grains: Fortified cereals or breads.
Others: Dairy products, nuts, and beans.
Of course, some of these foods can be triggers for those with IBS, so if you are not able to consume enough zinc through foods ask your doctor or Registered Dietitian if supplementation would be ideal for you.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning our body can only absorb it when consumed with fat. Therefore, Vitamin D's absorption is based partially on how well our gut can absorb dietary fat. Most of the absorption occurs in the ileum portion of our small intestines with most of the vitamin D receptors and regulatory mechanisms in the cecum and colon regions, and when that is inflamed our body doesn't absorb Vitamin D well. This is commonly seen in people with Crohn's, Ulcerative Colitis, or Celiac Disease, but can be common in IBS as well.
You can meet your daily Vitamin D needs through consuming foods rich in Vitamin D, supplementation, or UV sunlight. For people 18 - 69 years old need 15 mcg (600 IU) per day.
Foods rich in Vitamin D include:
Cod liver oil
Dairy alternatives fortified with Vitamin D.
Lactose is the sugar that is found in dairy products. Dairy is a rich source of calcium, and many people with IBS find that they do not tolerate dairy products. Women need up to 1500 mg per day of calcium, but our body can only absorb half of our needs at once. Aim to consume 2-3 servings of calcium rich sources per day. Other sources include:
Sardines and salmon with bones
Calcium fortified breads.
Dairy alternatives (soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, etc)
According to the NIH office of dietary supplements, “magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body. Some of these reactions include protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation”.
The gastrointestinal tract is a muscle that the nerves hep control the contractions and movement of food through the digestive tract. This is why constipation and magnesium can be related.
The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is:
14-18 years old 420 mg for men, and 360 mg for women
19-30 years old 400 mg for men, and 310 mg for women
31+ years old 420 mg for men, and 320 mg for women
Foods rich in magnesium include:
Nuts: almonds, cashews, peanuts
Beans: black beans, kidney beans, edamame
Grains/Starches: potatoes, rice, fortified cereals
Fruits/vegetables: bananas, raisins, avocado, spinach
Adding a magnesium supplement can help to improve the gut motility. consult with your doctor or Registered Dietitian on appropriate dosage for you.
Several of these foods rich in these micronutrients are not well tolerated for people with IBS. If you are not able to consume a variety of these foods ask your doctor to see if you need to test your nutrient levels or if you need to supplement to help meet your daily needs.
1. Hujoel I. Nutritional status in irritable bowel syndrome: A North American population-based study. Journal of Gastorenterology and Hepatology. 2020 Feb 12;4(4):656-662. doi:10.1002/jgh3.12311.eCollection 2020 Aug.
2. (2019, December). Zinc. National Institute of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/.
3. Khayyal Y, Attar S. Vitamin D deficiency in people with irritable bowel syndrome: Does it exist? Oman Med J. 2015 Mar; 30(2): 115–118. doi: 10.5001/omj.2015.25
4. Sikaroudi M, Et Al. Vitamin D3 Supplementation in Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients: The Effects on Symptoms Improvement, Serum Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone, and Interleukin-6 - A Randomized Clinical Trial. Complementary Medicine Research. 2020 Mar 23;1-8.