At PROVOKE Health, we prioritize understanding the latest advancements in functional medicine and integrative healthcare in order to provide our patients with the most effective treatments.

One such advancement is the use of Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide (VIP), a peptide hormone made up of 28 amino acids. Found in high concentrations throughout the body — including in the respiratory system, endocrine organs, heart, and brain, , and— VIP plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health.

If you’re unfamiliar with peptides, read “The Healing and Rejuvenating Power of Therapeutic Peptides” here on the PROVOKE Health blog. In short, peptides are short strings of amino acids — much shorter than protein molecules and easier for the body to absorb and break down — that are bioactive and have a beneficial effect on the body.

Graphic for Role and Benefits of Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide

In this post, we’ll focus on the benefits of VIP, starting with its impact on improving gut health.

Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide and Gut Health

Vasoactive intestinal peptide has a significant impact on the health of your gut. Here’s how VIP supports a healthy digestive system:

  • Heightening Intestinal Health: VIP helps maintain a robust intestinal wall by reinforcing the epithelial cells that line the gut. When these cells are weakened or compromised, intestinal homeostasis — the balance and proper functioning of the gut, which involves the regulation of digestion, immune response, and microbial populations to maintain overall health — can occur. And this could lead to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Promoting Microbial Balance: VIP acts as an antimicrobial agent against certain harmful bacteria and promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. The gut microbiome — a bustling city of trillions of microorganisms living in our intestines — work together to help digest food, produce essential vitamins, and support our immune system. VIP supports the proper functioning of the gut’s microbiome.
  • Balancing Stomach Acid Production: VIP controls stomach acid secretion and aids in the absorption of water and ions in the large intestine, which is where valuable resources are recovered and reused to keep the body hydrated and balanced. This process is essential for preventing dehydration and ensuring that our cells function properly, making it a critical part of our overall health.
  • Encouraging Optimal Digestive Function: By inhibiting smooth muscle contraction and stimulating mucus secretion from Goblet cells, VIP ensures smooth peristalsis and proper digestion (peristalsis is the wave-like muscle contractions that move food and liquid through the digestive tract).

Broad Impacts of Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide

Beyond gut health, VIP is integral to several bodily functions, including:

  • Neuroendocrine-Immune Communication — the interaction between the nervous, hormonal, and immune systems: VIP enhances communication between the immune system and other bodily systems, bolstering
  • Circadian Regulation — the body’s internal clock, controlling the sleep-wake cycle and other daily rhythms: VIP acts as a neurotransmitter, playing a key role in regulating the sleep/wake cycle.
  • Vasodilation — the widening of blood vessels to increase blood flow: VIP influences smooth muscles, causing dilation and relaxation of blood vessels, the respiratory tract, the digestive tract, and other organs.
  • Immune Modulation — the adjustment of the immune system’s response to maintain balance and prevent overreaction: VIP reduces inflammation by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines and increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Therapeutic Uses of Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide

Here at PROVOKE Health, we’ve had time to consider vasoactive intestinal peptide’s extensive influence, and since it has been the focus of numerous studies, we now consider recommending its use in treating various health conditions. These include:

  • COVID-19 and Long Covid: VIP is being studied for its potential in treating COVID-19 by binding to lung cell receptors, protecting pulmonary epithelium, and inhibiting viral replication. It also reduces inflammation and promotes the production of surfactant, which is crucial for proper oxygenation.
  • Respiratory and Cardiac Conditions: VIP’s ability to reduce vascular and bronchial constriction, improve blood circulation, and open airways shows promise in treating conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) — a condition that is characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries that supply blood to the lungs, leading to symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue .
  • Mold Toxicity and CIRS: VIP is emerging as a treatment for mold toxicity and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), helping to modulate the immune response, balance hormones, and alleviate symptoms.
  • Autoimmune and Degenerative Disorders: VIP’s anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties make it effective in managing autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative disorders such as osteoarthritis.

Dosage and Administration

If your healthcare provider prescribes VIP, you’ll find that it is typically administered as a nasal spray, with instructions varying based on each person’s plan of care. It’s also not uncommon for some patients to follow a treatment course of six months.

Based on your doctor’s recommendation, VIP can be used up to four times daily, rotating nostrils. And while it is generally well-tolerated, although potential side effects may include nausea, vomiting, and pancreatitis. Your healthcare provider may recommend working with you to actively monitor your amylase enzyme and lipase enzyme levels.

Because of its connection to inflammation of the pancreas, VIP should not be used by anyone who has pancreatitis or cancer, and its use is not recommended for during pregnancy or when breastfeeding.

At PROVOKE Health, we believe in a comprehensive approach to well-being. Vasoactive intestinal peptide is a powerful tool in our functional medicine and integrative healthcare toolkit. With you in the driver’s seat of your own health journey, we are here to guide and support you every step of the way.

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About the Author: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, specializes in diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of the symptoms related to chronic and unexplained illness through nutrition, lifestyle, chiropractic, and other natural approaches to whole-health healing at PROVOKE Health in Tampa, Fla. Dr. Lewis has 20 years of experience practicing nutritional and holistic medicine. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Shenandoah University, his Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University, his Diplomate status in Clinical Nutrition from the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, his CFMP from Functional Medicine University, and his certification as a Digestive Health Specialist (DHS) through the Food Enzyme Institute. Dr. Lewis’ passion for health and wellness stems from his own personal experience. With a family history of autoimmune conditions and diabetes, and his own lab tests showing his genetic susceptibility to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid), Dr. Lewis has learned how to restore his own health and vigor to prevent the onset of these and other illnesses and live an incredibly active life. Through this process, he acquired a deeper understanding of health and wellness, which he now offers his patients in Tampa and elsewhere.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about vasoactive intestinal peptide is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this blog post should be construed as medical advice from Dr. Matthew Lewis, Functional Healthcare Group, PLLC, or PROVOKE Health, nor is this blog post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this blog post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this blog post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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Dr. Matt