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. Prac

    My Viamin D level is very low its around 9.. Doc. has recommended 50,000 IU once a week. I have taken just one and didn’t realize that heartburn/acidity could be caused by this. thanks for this post.

  2. Jen

    I also get very bad GERD with even small doses of D3 (2000IU). Has anyone found a brand or form that doesn’t cause as much acid reflux. I’ve already tried the gummy form…

  3. JF

    50,000 IU Vitamin D once a week for 2 mos.!!! After taking 4 pills, suffering with heartburn!!! Stopping it now! My common sense tells me it is too too high a dose, even if it is taken only once a week, especially for a 79 yr. old woman. My doc needs to read these side-effect comments listed.

  4. Leigh
    Madison, MS

    I just googled “Vitamin D and acid reflux” because I just realized that I had been having less acid reflux as of late. I have started taking a sublingual tablet (under tongue) for the last couple of weeks (10,000 IU once a day).

    I normally take the D3 capsules but my tested level was still just 16. I was thinking I was going to find that Vitamin D helped acid reflux, but then the comments were saying the opposite. So maybe the regular capsules have been causing me some stomach issues and I just didn’t realize it. Some of you may want to try the sublingual tablets instead. You can also get it in liquid drop form. I plan on taking the sublingual tablet for a month or two and then get retested.

  5. Sean

    Interesting study on the subject.

    I’m not 100% sure but it seems like the mega doses are what’s causing the acid reflux, maybe toning it down by taking supplements daily. Also magnesium and calcium are important to take with vitamin D since they work together in the body.

  6. MJ
    Dallas, TX

    My doctor prescribed 50000 IU of Vitamin 2 once per week for 12 weeks, I took 3 times & started having stomach issues, no GERD, but stomach cramps (mild), constipation, dry mouth and lack of appetite. My doctor said to quit taking, which I have done and take the D3 over the counter. I am afraid to take anymore until I feel better. I called the pharmacist & he agreed. I am sorry I ever took this supplement, has made me feel terrible. I thought vitamins were supposed to make you feel better, haha!

    • robbie

      I also have very low D and gerd so Dr. recommended Sperti vitamin d light. Have used for about 4 months 10-15 min every other day is what I am at and my levels have really gone up. No stomach distress. Yes expensive but no supplements worked for me with “gerd” so splurged and my husband and myself use it. One bulb was broke when arrived but company was great to deal with a sent a new one right away. There are some other companies but my Dr. has experience with this particular one and has had good results. Good luck

  7. Niecy

    Currently experiencing severe Gerd and was taking prescription vitamin D 50,000. Glad that other’s have shared their experiences because doctors are reluctant to admit this significant side effect that is causing me havoc. Experiencing arrthymia also. I hope these symptoms subside soon.

  8. CP

    Wow!!! Just got back from seeing my dr after suffering with ‘severe’ abdominal pains and now acid reflux for a while. I started taking vitamin d3 5,000IU and a k2 tablet daily after a blood test revealed I was severely deficient in vitamin d and now just 4 months of taking the tablets I am high in vit d. I now have to stopped the tablets. I am hoping that this will sort all the pain and acid reflux. Wish I had seen this site before now.

  9. TM

    I too suffered from acid reflux after being on 50,000 IU of vitamin D. I took four doses about once a week. A month later and I am still suffering from it. I never had acid refulx in my life. I am not overweight or anything either. I sure wish my doctor would of prescribed a smaller dose because is getting on my nerves. I am not a spicy food person but I may get mild wing or something and now I cant even tolerate them anymore. I sure hope this goes away soon. I will go with the 2000 IU of D3 gummies once I’m back on track.

    • Star
      Cantonment Florida

      I take the D3 gummies 1000u 2x a day as recommended… never had acid reflux in my life but do now… it’s bad every night when I lay down. I can’t sleep, and woke up choking almost died one night in sleep because I couldn’t get my breath. I was choking on acid in my throat and it burned like fire and couldn’t swallow food for days liquids only. This is my wake up call! Going to call my doctor tomorrow… I need something else… Prescribed medicine D2 didn’t do this to me. I had a little indigestion but not anywhere near this bad.

  10. james

    Yes I have been on several courses of the 50,000 units for low “D” and have had lots of gerd issues…Just had an endo and they found barretss esophogus.
    I am sure they will deny the D caused it.

  11. F.R.N

    Just today I started taking vit D 50000IU six hours later I had a very bad acid reflux. I had to take omeprazole 40mg to make it better. So there seems to be a link between the high dosage of vit D and acid reflux for me.

  12. prema

    I have gastric problems since I started take Vitamin D (50,000) once a week. Acid Reflux, abdominal discomfort burping etc. I inform about this problem to Doctor, but not from Vit D his answer. I am sure my problem started from this only. I am very happy to these comments about Vitamin D problems.

  13. Deniel

    I have a Hietal Hernia with constant acid reflux. I restarted Prilosec 20mg daily over two months ago and just added Vitamin D2 50,000 U weekly. Reflux became worse about 18 hours after dose.
    It was recommended that I freeze the capsule and take it at bedtime. I did not wake up in the middle of the night with reflux and so far no reflux during the day either.

    • Amy

      Freeze the vitamin-D?!

  14. Maryam

    All of a sudden I would wake up with acid reflux around 6 every morning. After assessing the situation it occurred to me that the only thing different was my taking 20000 Iu of vita d before going to bed. I am going to change and take it during the day after a meal.

  15. Farhan

    What is the normal level of Vitamin D? I did a test and was told by the doctor that it is 6. Is this bad?
    People’s Pharmacy response: If your doctor was testing 25 hydroxyvitamin D, 6 is extremely low. The desirable level would be between 30 and 80 ng/ml

  16. Tony

    I’ve been taking Vitamin D 2500IU daily for almost ten years plus whatever I get from foods which is not much. Never had acid reflux, heartburns etc.
    Two months ago I went to 5000IU daily as a test to see would higher dosages affect my ankylosing spondylitis. About three weeks later I started having nausea, loss of appetite, heartburn and heart palpitations. It wasn’t until about seven weeks later I started linking higher Vitamin D to these symptoms. I temporarily quit supplements for two weeks and my GI problems and nausea were gone. Now I’ve been on my usual dosage for 5 days and I’m getting heartburn again… could be coincidence, or not, but perhaps I’m still having little too high levels.
    Wikipedia says this about the symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease:
    “Hypercalcemia, which can increase gastrin production, leading to increased acidity.”
    Too much Vit D, my huge dairy consumption, acid reflux..maybe, maybe..

  17. Deborah L

    My husband asked me today if I changed our nighttime vitamin regimen in the last two weeks, as he was experiencing heartburn when he woke up, and found it painful to have his morning cup of coffee. In fact, I had started giving him vitamin about 2 weeks ago. Seems there might be a connection..

  18. Gina

    I get terrible heartburn/GERD from vitamin D also. No one believes me either, especially docs. It’s nice to hear this happens to other people, although my sympathies to you all, especially for not being believed. My D level is very low and I’m fine. I don’t get enough sun but I’m not depressed and I don’t see why all of a sudden D levels are so important. People have lived hundreds of years, thousands of years, without taking all these pills.

  19. Laurie

    I am SO glad to have found some posts. I will try to be brief:
    About a year ago I started having acid reflux and insomnia. I thought it was hormonal changes. About that same time I started a new fish oil capsule. I took 2 at night. I never had acid reflux, so didn’t associate the fish oil. I was put on a PPI, didn’t work, put on a stronger PPI, didn’t work. Then to “help” myself feel better, took 2 more fish oil capsules in the morning, acid reflux got worse!
    When I finally realized it was the fish oil, it caused a lot of damage. The GI said I was most likely starting up acid reflux anyway (does not run in family, not overweight, no history). Had a scope, all fine, take the purple pill, eat well. I had a good summer of feeling good (and I usually stop my D3 supplement in the summer).
    Fall came, and at some point I started my 2000 IU D3 drops. My acid reflux was worse. Had a hard fall, played around with different PPI’s. Winter came and I ran out of my 2,000 IU and bought a 4,000 IU and thought I’d do 1 drop/day. Well, about a week ago I was writing down my meds for a doctor appt. and another light bulb went off: ahh!! I was taking 8,000 IU!! For a few weeks before I had been having heart palpitations and severe acid reflux. I stopped any drops.
    Since I stopped the drops, my acid reflux is feeling SO much better!! So, again… now realizing that the D3 may have flared me up???????
    The thing that saddens/maddens me is that 2 doctors and 2 GI’s never asked me questions about supplements, and if they had I doubt they would know side effects.
    I’m staying off of D3 and I’m hoping to wean off the “purple pill”.

  20. W.H.

    I happened to come upon this post on Vitamin D just as I was having the exact same issue! I have had very low D – as low as 12 a few years ago, and highest was 23. In 2010 a physician put me on the 50,000 D for 8 weeks, and it was the best I had felt in 15 years! We now live in a different state, and when I discovered that my D was low again, my doctor put me on 50,000 D again once a week, since I had told her how great I felt after doing this in 2010.
    Well, the brand of D I am taking now is different – the blue-green gel pill D2 (name: Ergo (?)). Whatever I took in 2010 was a white chalky oval shaped tablet. Since starting the 50,000 D2 three weeks ago, I have had very bad reflux, abdominal pain and cramping, severe insomnia, and palpitations. I didn’t connect that it might be the D until I saw this post. I am at a loss as to what to do.
    I called the pharmacist this morning, and he suggested trying D3 instead – I will ask my doctor; he also did not know what the 50,000 D was that I took in the white tablet form in 2010 – he thought maybe it was some sort of compounded formula, since it did not fit the description of current prescription forms of 50,000 D. I get a lot of sun, and my D is naturally low, so I’ll have to find something that I can take long-term that does not cause side effects.

  21. Cindy

    I am so very grateful for this discussion. I was racking my brain as to why I was having heartburn so often. I was eating extra almonds to deal with it. I take quite a few vitamins and herbal combinations but non had given me heartburn. I have been taking a popular brand of vitamin D3, 2000 units. I happened to be so busy for 4 days that I missed taking my vitamins and noticed I had no heartburn. Then I read this post. If not for other’s experiences I would not have singled out the D3. Thank you! ~ Cindy

  22. DFW

    Has this person had a blood test for high parathyroid hormone and/or calcium levels? Hyperparathyroidism can cause low vitamin D levels. It happened to me.

  23. Margaret

    Started taking Vitamin D a year ago at the request of my doctor because my levels were low. He tested me because I was feeling spacey and my thinking seemed foggy. I started with 500 IUs a day, but upped it to 1000 IUs a day for the past several months. He recently re-tested me and my Vitamin D levels are now fine. Just recently, however, I have started to get heartburn that seems to start shortly after I take my Vitamin D. When I read the question above, it was like a lightbulb went on! I’m going to go back to 500 IUs a day and see if that helps. I’ll also try the 15 to 20 minutes of sunshine daily. I’m hoping I can find a balance between clear thinking and no heartburn!

  24. LynnZ

    I am allergic to the sun so must get my Vit. D with D3 supplements. I did not do well with the oil based supplements, I have no problem with the dry (powder filled) capsules. I just make sure there is some fat in the meal I take the supplements with. Also, when I was taking half in the AM and half in the evening my already restless sleep became worse. I switched to taking all in the AM, I am sleeping better than ever.

  25. Wendy

    In my opinion, this is yet another case where the medico-pharmaceutical complex has stepped in with an inferior product simply to make money. A Vitamin D3 supplement of 1000 to 4000 IUs is inexpensive, easily absorbed, and in my opinion more effective than D2, yet doctors prescribe the D2. Less than 5 minutes of research on the internet would clue them in, but how many have enough interest in their patients’ welfare to take the time?

  26. ml

    I had the same problem with larger doses of doctor recommended taking Nexium daily (with all the side effects, I looked for a better solution). A friend that had suffered from stomach problems including heart burn & acid reflux, shared her solution…taking Papaya Enzymes…a small bottle of 100 pills available in any drugstore OTC is just over $5.00…a natural solution with no side effects, they taste good…follow the instructions as to the amount necessary for your symptoms and CHEW them, don’t swallow. Even a relative, a non-believer, recently tried them with success!

  27. MLB

    I have never experienced the gut problems when taking Vit. D but I do have problems with blood sugar when taking this no matter what dose. Vit D. lowers my blood sugar and I become very hypoglycemic. I have asked every Dr. I have ever seen and they appear not to have a clue of what is going on. My Vit. D levels are low but can not tolerate living every day so shaky I am unable to function. Food does not seem to make a difference.

  28. SJ

    I too experienced very severe acid reflux around the time I did a 50,000 IU/week vitamin D regimen. It was not until much later that I started to wonder if the two things were linked. I looked for information online to see if there was any case for that suspicion but found nothing. After doing a second vitamin D regimen about a year later, the reflux flared up again, though not as severely. I became even more suspicious of a connection. Now, months after finishing the second regimen, I try to keep my D levels up by taking 5000 IU of D3 once a week. I find that I often have mild to moderate heartburn on the day that I take the pill. I am glad to see some evidence that this may be recognized as an actual side effect.

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