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Difficulty going to the bathroom, feeling of fullness and abdominal discomfort, bloating and flatulence; sometimes, cramping. These are all typical symptoms of a condition, constipation, that everyone has undoubtedly experienced more than once in their lifetime for a wide variety of reasons. Stress, disordered eating, inadequate fluid intake, travel, drug therapies that interfere with bowel motility, pregnancy, etc. are just some of the most common causes, which generally occur occasionally and persist for short periods.

For some people, however, constipation can become a faithful and persistent companion, without being able to identify a factor that can justify it and on which to act to alleviate the discomfort. In these cases, we talk about chronic functional constipation: a condition that primarily affects the elderly and women and is usually associated with a significant reduction in quality of life, as well as increased health care expenditures for visits and examinations, often unhelpful therapies, and treatments to manage possible complications.

A recent Italian study, conducted in collaboration between the“Xavier de Bellis” Hospital of Castellana Grotte (Bari), the University of Bari and the University of Chieti-Pescara, indicates that chronic functional constipation may be related to low levels of vitamin D in the blood, suggesting a new possible strategy to alleviate their discomfort, based on the supplementation of this essential vitamin to protect bone health, immune system function, maintenance of good mood, and many other key organic functions.

In the study, 86 patients with chronic functional constipation and 86 healthy subjects with overlapping demographic and general clinical characteristics (85% women; mean age 50 years) were evaluated with respect to intestinal motility/functionality, possible dysbiosis (alterations in composition of the intestinal microbiota) and plasma levels of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25-OH-D). In addition, all participants were assessed on mood and quality of life.

The analysis showed that patients with chronic functional constipation had significantly lower plasma levels of 25-OH-D than controls with normal bowel function and that vitamin D deficiency was a significant risk factor for chronic functional constipation even after removing possible confounding factors. In addition, reduced bowel function was accompanied by symptoms of anxiety and/or depression and reduced quality of life.

Pending the understanding of the mechanism underlying the correlation between reduced bowel function and vitamin D insufficiency, the researchers suggest measuring plasma levels of 25-OH-D in all patients with chronic functional constipation and, if deficits are found, compensating for them with targeted vitamin D supplementation, which is also certainly beneficial in terms of bone and immune metabolism, especially among postmenopausal women and the elderly.

Source

Panarese A et al. Chronic functional constipation is strongly linked to vitamin D deficiency. World J Gastroenterol. 2019;25(14):1729-1740. doi:10.3748/wjg.v25.i14.1729 (https://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/abstract/v25/i14/1729.htm)

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