person holding their stomach in pain

Q. My blood level of vitamin D (16) is very low. A few years ago I was prescribed 50,000 IUs once a week, but I had to quit after just one month. It caused severe acid reflux that took me several months to get under control.

I’d feel a lot better if I could get my vitamin D levels up, but how can I manage that with my hypersensitive stomach? Using acid suppressors over a period of time creates a rebound reflux that really makes things worse. I’d appreciate any suggestions you can offer.

A. With such a low level of vitamin D in your body, you would probably feel better if you could bring it up. Low vitamin D has been linked to asthma, infections, depression, joint pain, heart disease and high blood pressure, among other problems.

You might want to try a lower dose of vitamin D3 to see if you can tolerate it. The earlier medication you took was vitamin D2. Vitamin D3 is available OTC in doses such as 1,000 or 2,000 IU.

Now that spring is here, you might also want to get 15 or 20 minutes a day of sun exposure. We are sending you our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency for more details on the pros and cons of this essential nutrient. We also describe the appropriate levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the test that showed your body is so low in this vitamin.

Although vitamin D is not supposed to cause side effects, you are not the only person to report difficulties, particularly with the high-dose once-a-week regimen. Anyone else who has had a reaction to vitamin D may report it in the comments below.

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  1. JJ
    New York

    My blood worked showed that I am low on vitamin D (13) range. Doctor gave me D2 (50,000 IU),once a week for 3 months, since my stomach is highly sensitive, instead of D2 I started taking over the counter (Sundown D 1000 IU), of course I asked my doctor first. I was taking vitamin D after breakfast, was fine for a week, all of a sudden I started feeling sick with stomach pain and headache, dizzy, also experiencing acid reflux symptoms. Not sure if vitamin D is causing these problems, should I stop taking this pill or continue… don’t know. Will consult the doctor again, but with these problem how can I raise my D level? Can’t drink too much milk or eat other dairy products also. People with low level of vitamin D have many health risk, just feeling helpless and frustrated!!!!

  2. seth
    Citrus heights

    Yeah I just bought vitamin D3 supplements and puked in my mouth in my sleep after 1 pill it was 1000ul or something.

  3. james

    V-D 50,000 units causing severe heart burn! Other V-D’s causing severe constipation. I will never again put garbage in my body to suffer and the Doctor and the Pharmaceutical co’s collecting my money for me to suffer. there is no healing into medications. They are just another “DOPE” to hook people. The more we suffer from medications the more we run to the doctors from the side effects caused by drugs. Flush the garbage in the toilet and I garanty you will feel alive and well again! Thank You, Yogurt. you are a healing food.

  4. Donna

    I too was diagnosed with low vitamin D level and was put on a prescription. It made me feel awful. I asked my doctor if I could switch and he had me change to over the counter vitamin D3. I can’t say that how I felt changed much. I had to go to my ENT because of a sore throat and a terrible upset stomach with gas. They make you feel like they had never heard of problems like yours before. I was so happy to read that I am not alone. I may cut back on my dose so I can see if I feel any better.

  5. Cre8nsmiles

    I, too, am experiencing a lot of acid reflux since starting a vitamin D regimen, prescribed by my dr. Little bit of nausea as well. Have always had back pain so didn’t think the D was related to an increase in pain. Glad I saw this site. It confirms what I’d been thinking as the D was the only change I’ve made lately!

  6. Audrey

    I have been on one Vitamin D3 capsule or 1000IU orally daily on 4 separate occasions over the past 9 years to reverse low levels. The first time it made me feel much better so I took two capsules per day and then, plus each time since on the lower dose again, I experienced some gastrointestinal symptoms mainly of bloating and feeling unwell after meals after taking it for about a month. I have never had higher doses than that and latterly have refused those because of my prior experiences and for me I believe the symptoms are more a lack of blood supply to my gut which I had more seriously after an operation earlier on so I know the symptoms. I also was back then given a calcium channel blocker which opens blood vessels and have since assumed that the problem with Vitamin D is that as it is a calcium channel pusher it is likely to narrow our blood vessels and therefore in some if not all of us make us unwell possibly in various ways. So whenever I have had side effects after being made to take Vitamin D, I have simply stopped the capsules and taken the medication for a while until I get better. Just now I am finally being tested for Coeliac Disease which could solve my need to take supplements at all. Gastrointestinal symptoms have been listed as a problem in a recent Medical Journal of Australia article entitled “Supplement claims rejected” published on Monday 27 July 2015 which is worth a look. Also Coeliac Disease which when diagnosed requires a life long gluten free diet to heal the gut, can cause Vitamin D depletion because if not treated it damages the gut and you cannot absorb the nutrients in your food including Vitamin D and Calcium and that can lead to osteoporosis in later life so in my opinion instead of Vitamin D supplements we should be checking the public in general for Coeliac Disease and treating it accordingly.

  7. Kim

    I stopped taking the 50,000 (once a wk) because of severe side effects with my stomach. I went to see my Dr – who had seen another patient with similar problems earlier that week – & she couldn’t believe I was having this problem. So what are we to do if we can’t tolerate it? I started getting 15 -20 minutes of sun but now I worry about skin cancer and my Dr said as we age our skin can not synthesize vitamin D very effectively. Nevertheless, this stomach discomfort is frustrating.

  8. Scott
    Portland, OR

    I’m so glad I found this site! I live in the Pacific Northwest and was diagnosed with low vitamin D (as low as 14). I had no health issues but I was advised by my doctor to raise my levels nonetheless. I quickly discovered that liquid D3 capsules (2000 units) caused my stomach to burn, so I stopped after one or two doses. But I persisted, and decided to try a D3 tablet form instead.

    I started at 1000 IU per day, always with food, and my stomach seemed fine. After two weeks I upped it to 2000 IU per day, and also started adding some calcium. For 3-4 weeks all seemed well, and I was glad to have found a formula I could tolerate. UNTIL ……. one day I became seriously nauseous after taking the tablet. I immediately stopped taking the D3, but it was too late. Over the next two days my stomach started burning and I developed severe acid reflux. Same symptoms as described by others, including night time burning which kept me awake. And I could feel a lump in my throat too, something I’ve never had before.

    To make a long story short, it’s now a month later and I’m still battling nausea and acid reflux (GERD). A PPI (Prilosec OTC) did relieve the symptoms after a 14 day course, but then returned after I stopped. Now I’m seeking medical treatment and hoping I can heal the damage. I’ve talked to three doctors and none has heard of a connection between Vit D3 and reflux. Why not?? It’s so obvious, and this website shows there are a lot of us out here. Somebody should fund a research study to document the danger of Vit D3 supplements, so that the knowledge can become mainstream.

    If some people have succeeded in getting their D3-induced reflux under control I’d be greatly interested to hear how you did it!

  9. Evelyn

    I recently had routine blood work done because I take blood pressure pills. My test results showed I had a very high ferriten (iron) level and a very low vitamin D level. I was sent to a hemotologist to have more blood test run. And was told to take 3000 iu of D3 every day. Shortly after taking them I got pain in my stomach, feelings of bloating and often nauseous. When the second blood test results came somehow my high iron levels were going back down. I told the doctor about my stomach issues so he changed my vitamin D3 to 50000 iu D2 every other week. Now I’m really hurting! Plus I have celiac. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  10. Anna

    I was diagnosed with GERD in December of 2014. I had been experiencing severe symptoms that gradually increased since August of 2014. In December I was throwing up from eating and had to slowly take all fatty and acidic foods out of my diet. Each episode of throwing up would mean days to recover from the pain in my chest and intestines. Prior to that I had experienced gluten sensitivity, as well and wondered what was wrong with me.

    I’m a very solution focused person and didn’t just want to take a pill to make it something I could live with. So I waited to get an appointment with a really good internist. She was very proactive about helping me find the root cause of my GERD, as I am very young and should not be having it (not overweight, no coffee, no drinking, no smoking, hardly eat chocolate, eat mostly a vegan (except for eggs and a little cheese due to lactose issues/gluten free diet).

    I got a comprehensive blood test in March of 2015 and came back perfectly normal and healthy, except for 1 thing. My vitamin D level was at 8 (normal range is 30-100). I immediately ordered some 5,000 iu over the counter vitamin D3 (make sure what you are taking is not synthetic D2, I take the Trunature brand which includes 200mg of Flaxseed oil) and began to take 1 each day. (The high doses of vitamin D3 that my doctor prescribed for me always left me feeling worse) I visited a pharmacy to pick up my Omeprazole and the pharmacist recommended I take 50,000 iu/week, so I increased my dosage on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to equal the 50,000 per week. I took it at that level for 3 months and then began to experience worse heartburn and throwing up. So I figured (based on what I’ve read on the internet) that I was getting too much and that my levels had probably gone up. I had scheduled a endoscopy for the beginning of June 2015. I wanted to delay until June just in case I got better, so it would give me enough time to cancel. Because I wasn’t feeling well, I decided to go through with it and everything came back normal and healthy, which confirmed that Vitamin D was my issue (the doctor confirmed that there was nothing else they could do or test for since everything was normal) So I had my Vitamin D levels retested and they came back at 52 (which is AMAZING!), but I still have GERD.

    It can take several months to get better and heal your system after you have injured yourself to this degree with such a severe vitamin D deficiency. I am now maintaining my Vitamin D levels with a much lower dose (10,000 iu/week) and have been able to eat a few more things that I was not able to before. I expect to slowly improve over several months. I hope by December of this next year, I will be better. I’m not rushing to go eat acidic foods or high fatty foods again, because it’s not worth the agony, but I’ve been able to have some things with gluten that I wasn’t able to have before. I dream of the day I can eat a tomato again without experiencing pain or an avocado (hello delicious healthy fat!).

    My diet has been so severely limited I’d feel weak often, because all I was able to eating were a few different vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peas, carrots, cucumber, celery), potatoes, yams, apple juice (acid free), apples, bananas, mushrooms, soy milk and gluten free crackers. No seasonings, herbs, sauces, dressings, etc aside from salt. Salt and honey are the only things I used for flavoring food. Even egg whites made my reflux flare up because I had cooked them in a tiny bit of coconut oil, so I had to cut them out. I ate fish for the first time in forever, just so that I could get some more nutrition. Baking Tilapia (no added oils, just sprinkle salt on it) in foil worked well and didn’t have too much fat. I try to eat it a couple times a week for extra energy.

    I’m hoping and dreaming of getting better. I hope those with a D deficiency will do something about it. It can lead to serious and horrible things. I can’t believe something that seemingly small made me so sick.

    • Jonathan Williams
      North Hollywood, CA

      Anna –

      Have you been tested for SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth?)

  11. Cathy

    In my recent physical my physician stated that I was very low in vitamin D. I was given Vitamin D drops and instructed to take three drops under my tongue a day. A week into taking the vitamin I noticed a knotty feeling in my gut and was very gassy. Of course, it took me a couple months to realize that it could be the vitamin D. I stopped taking the vitamin yesterday and pray this gassy discomfort leaves quickly. I thought I was having something seriously wrong with me. I am very healthy- teach outside for six hours a day in Phoenix, Az. Amazed that I’m low with vitamin D.

  12. Lovetta

    I have the same symptoms. I’m sorry that you all are dealing with this. I am having a hard time deciding if I want leg pain or reflux. Both are very hard to tolerate. :( I’m glad I found this site and found out that I’m not the only one.

  13. Jessica

    I have been taking vitamin d3 for 3 days, 2000 I.u. This morning I got bad gas pains all over, hands got really cold and burning feeling. Also burning sensation on back. I had a bowel movement this morning. Ever since I took the vitamins this morning, after my walk, I feel my stomach hurts and left side hurts. Trying to walk all day and feel nauseous. I’m not taking as much as everyone on here, and for a short period of time. Why is this? Too much? I am waiting for my doctor to order a lab test for me to see how my numbers are with a complete vitamin panel. I felt in the last few days amazing even today. Feel calm. I also forgot to take my Xanax. I take it only as needed and a very low dose, and I have not taken that in three days either, I called my doctor and she said she does not think its from withdrawals. Just my anxiety is high. I never felt this way before missing my Xanax. I’m also anemic, and when I felt my hands and feet being so cold and burning sensation, I took a iron pill. Ugh, I guess stop the vitamins and just get checked to see if I even need to take supplements.

  14. Sandy L.
    United States

    I have been low in vitamin D at every yearly physical for several years. However, when I begin taking the D3/Calcium supplements my doctor recommends my chronic reflux flairs up quite badly and my usual medication doesn’t seem to help. Consequently, I take the supplement for a few days until I can’t stand the reflux any more & then I quit. Of course, my vitamin D levels are still low at my next checkup. My doctor doesn’t seem to believe that the supplement is causing the reflux, but the reaction has been pretty consistent for at least 3 years. Any ideas?

  15. Jessica
    Cleveland, Ohio

    I started taking once a week vitamin D supplements because I was also low. By the third week I started to experience pain, empty, knotty feeling in my stomach about an hour after eating. So far it has only happened 3 times. I did an ultra sound to rule out gallbladder but the only other thing I can thing of is because of this vitamin D supplement. It is the only thing that has changed in my diet. My doctor told me to stop taking it and see how I feel in two weeks. Any one experience something similar? So far all doctors seem to think Vitamin D is not causing this issue.

  16. Jen T

    I was prescribed 10,000 IU of vitamin d for six weeks after I had a stress fracture and my bloodwork showed a low level (21) of vitamin d. I have had severe reflux since I started taking it. The reflux is causing a nagging cough. I have not had a problem with my reflux in over three years. Dr said she doesn’t think its the vitamin d but nothing else has changed in my diet except that.

  17. Susie

    I have been taking 10,000 i.u. Vit. D 3 Daily now for over a month due to low lab results. I am experiencing a lot of heartburn. Miserable. The naturopath gave me a D3 10,000 IU in one tiny capsule, but wondering if maybe like 5 of the 2000 through the day might be a better option?

    • Tammy

      I’m glad I found this website. I’ve taking vitamin D 50,000 weekly. After 5 weeks I experienced loose stools, sweating, aching in my back, joint pain and itchy skin. I stopped and now I have a nagging cough.

  18. Kavya K.

    Im facing similar issues as above….upper n middle back …feel severe burning sensation
    ..take vit d3 once a week 60k and have taken for 4 weeks once a week…how fo I stop these burning sensations in my back…pls help

  19. amanda
    yorkshire, uk

    I was prescribed the vitamin d chewable tablets after being told by the doctor that my levels were very low, (+ early menopause).
    I started getting the acid reflux and bronchial aches and pains, more noticeable when i’m sitting down.
    It’s a relief to know I’m not the only one.

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