person holding their stomach in pain, calm chronic diarrhea, IBS, low FODMAP diet

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. cheryl
    Phoenix, AZ

    I started taking Vitamin D 5000 about a month ago. I then I’ve been SO tired somedays. I also take Aciphex & have twice now gotten the worse heartburn. Is this because of the D3? I don’t know if I want to keep taking it.

  2. Isabel
    Edmond OK

    I asked my doctor to check vitamin D level. It was 18, and I was prescribed weekly Vitamin D supplement. After three weeks of this, I began having a feeling like a throb under my breastbone, mid-chest, occasionally. Thinking it was trapped gas, I didn’t do anything about it (I have had cardiac tests due to sports, and all were negative for any heart issue). After a few weeks I began to have burning esophagus, a feeling of something in my throat and a cough. I NEVER have any kind of stomach problems. I began taking Zantac and cut WAY back on caffeine and have calmed it all down, but still have a bit of pressure feeling and the feeling of a bubble in my throat. Cough and burning have stopped. The ONLY thing I have done differently in my life is begin to take the Vitamin D supplement. I began researching, and found this and other anecdotal evidence that the supplement may be causing my symptoms. My doctor scheduled a GI scope with gastro doctor. I am feeling better now, and think I may discontinue weekly Vitamin D and wait on the scope.

    • cj

      From reading most of these comments, it does not sound as if most people are reacting to the added Vitamin D. They are diagnosed at extremely low levels, start on Vitamin D and have reactions of acid reflux very soon afterwards. Instead of reacting to the supplement, it seems they are just finally getting the symptoms that occur with too LOW of vitamin D for too long, and it is more a matter of timing. It takes a while for vitamin D levels to build up, and it can take a while for them to lower enough to create the acid reflux problem. Stick it out, basically. And, some people are saying their symptoms improved but they want to go off the vitamin D. Why on earth do that, when the symptoms improved ? As for amts like 50,000 iu being taken in suddenly from nothing at all, that is insane. One wants to build up more slowly, not overdose. Overdosing can create its own problems, and, yes, one could have very poor reactions.

      Initially, despite taking 2k iu D3 5x a week, I scored a 19. I was upped to 4k iu 5x a week *then later went to 6x wk), and was told to be patient. Due to other symptoms I am guessing I was quite deficient for at least a couple of years (without prior testing) before the extreme acid reflux aspect set in, and when it did, my acid reflux was insane, with constant burping and regurgitation. People were scrabbling for answers, but after retraining my muscles a bit with temporary Omeprazole, then shifting off with tons of friendly bacteria and some digestive enzymes, I’ve drastically improved (and am now off of the Omeprazole completely). My rib pain/memory issues etc have also improved. HOWEVER, it has been taking MONTHS. Not weeks. I was warned of this from the beginning.

      If a person starts taking D then has the acid reflux/GERD only within 1-4 weeks, the MORE likely (Occam’s Razor) issue is the LACK of vitamin D kicking in, NOT the supplementation itself (which should eventually improve the situation). As noted before, it takes a while going both directions for these effects to evolve. If the person is being tested for such things, there is most likely a symptomatic reason for the testing to begin with, which indicates things can readily degenerate to the ‘next level’.

      Vit D3 needs to be gelcap/oil form to be best assimilated. It also is best taken with a little bit of fat for optimal absorption. One needs to keep magnesium levels up as well. Not just for absorption, but on its own, low magnesium can contribute/cause the problem of acid reflux. B-12 is another one. (All of these, note, also affect energy levels.)

      (Basically, here is the irony. Vitamin D interferes with some medications prescribed for acid reflux, yet, those same medications will deplete vitamin D, which contributes to the acid reflux to begin with. (Those same medications also tend to deplete magnesium and B-12, which, again, contributes to acid reflux if deficient). Catch-22? You bet. I say, go as natural as possible. However, I am grateful for the temporary bout with medication, because it is also necessary to retrain the muscles if the situation has been going on for a long while (mine had been). I reduced to 5 days a week, then 4, then 3, then eliminated the meds altogether after that, utilizing only friendly bacteria (shelf stable form, not fermented food) and digestive enzymes.

      • cj

        I tried to edit my former post, but was unable to. Aside form typos I don’t think I made it clear anywhere that D3 is the supplement to use as a consistent measure. I consulted several doctors who all told me to keep away from D2 due to ineffectiveness combined with ‘issues’ people have reported.

        Also, I am not out of the woods yet. I am above the 45th parallel, so vitamin D becomes more crucial, and my levels were still not ‘optimal’ last tested. I am being re-tested this month to see if my supplement level needs to increase. My levels HAVE raised enough to stop the acid reflux/GERD, however, as well as to have improved some of my other symptoms.

        I’m very grateful for what has transpired – I kept asking my former doctor to test me for supplemental issues since I’d been suffering from fatigue and joint/bone pain (which seemed different than my usual bouts of fibromyalsia plus incredibly and unhappily consistent) for well over a year (during which we tried other things), and he resisted. It took switching doctors and nearly another year before I was tested for things like vitamin D levels, while I was on a waiting list for the Gastroenterologist. It was actually a Neurologist who tested me, (my memory issues had become horrible enough to have concerns over early onset Alzheimer’s, plus I had other symptoms which made other doctors (even my Ophthalmologist) concerned I might have MS). By that time, I’d been suffering from the extreme acid reflux issues (regurgitation/excessive burping/upper intestinal pain) for over 5 months, and life was pretty miserable all around.

        With the acid reflux quite minimal now (just some burping once in a while instead of the previously experienced daily hours of it with constant throat/upper chest pressure problems) and no pain or regurgitation , and with the bone/joint pain almost completely gone, along with obvious enough improvement in memory and general functionality, which have become better in a consistent and practically linear manner, I can say… thank goodness for vitamin D3 (although, indeed, if one can get enough from sunshine, more power to doing it that way/to them) !!!

  3. Lisa

    I too have a low vitamin D level, 15. I was told to take 4000iu a day for three months. I started with 2000 iu 1 week ago and was taken to emergency yesterday severe chest pains and short of breath. I was diagnosed with GERD. I already took my vitamin D today but will stop it tomorrow to see if calms the reflux. It’s almost spring so I will start sitting out in the sun when I can to get my D.

  4. KATE

    Vitamin D interferes with my proton pump inhibitor. Only use it under medical supervision.

    • Kim
      Mansfield Ohio

      Yes I started vitamin d2 same thing my chest bone was so sore from acid reflux, I stopped taking them, I have no pain anymore or acid reflux, it’s over prescribed.

  5. Nelle

    if you are Vitamin D deficient also crucially check your B12 levels! You should watch the youtube videos by sally pacholok or her interviews re B12 deficiency. Vitamin D and B12 deficiency seem to coincide a lot. B12 depletion can literally kill you, cause all sorts of neuro problems, so check it out. Also, vitamin D is FAT soluable, not water soluable, so taking a tablet has to be taken with something fatty like fatty meat, butter, oils etc. But that can be icky so you can get D3 in MCT oil with K2 as well. look it up on the net, you’ll find it, it’s drops so it’s already in an oil based state, and you absorb it easily. I get throat irritation from the D3 tablets every time, but I’m thinking it’s not the vitamin but perhaps some additive or some weird thing IN the tablets that cause that. Tablets have fillers usually, and you never really know what fillers are, some prescription drugs even contain bark I kid you not, or shellfish etc.

    A note on B12, if your doc says you’re in the normal range, ask what your range is! Then compare that to the “gray zone” of 250 to 900 where most neurologic and fatigue, aches, pains, memory loss, etc start, and treat yourself with B12 sublinguals, higher dose…if you’re in the gray zone, treat yourself if they are not willing. you can’t overdo B12 either. lots of information on the net about that too. I take sublingual liquid 6000 mcg a day as a loading dose, wonderful results and now I’ve started the D3… so I’m getting back on track.

  6. Chelsea

    Hello everyone,

    I think a major issue could potentially be that vitamin D supplementation can deplete magnesium levels, with higher supplementation levels corresponding to a more rapid magnesium depletion. After having done some research it seems that side effects of vitamin D supplementation actually coincide with magnesium deficiency. This is because magnesium is essential for the absorption and metabolism of vitamin D, so when you start increasing your vitamin D intake, it uses up magnesium in your body and if you do not factor this in, results in magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency impairs the effective emptying of the stomach, leading to reflux and the uncomfortable symptoms with it. It seems that the best way to prevent this from happening is to supplement magnesium with the vitamin D. I recommend some individual research on supplement dosages.

    It seems that a lot of doctors these days are deficient in knowledge about nutrition and the interdependence of nutrients in the proper functioning of the body. What is interesting is that some medications used to treat acid reflux (like PPIs) can actually deplete magnesium long term, and if magnesium is already low and causing the acid reflux, this is a nearly guaranteed path to more health problems long term. I believe many diseases could be easily prevented, treated and possibly reversed (in the case of nutritional deficiencies being mistaken for chronic diseases).

    Hope this helps someone solve some problems!!

  7. Raja U

    I am having acid reflux from 3 months and finally the thing which is helping me is early morning empty stomach 1 spoon of organic wheat grass powder in a half cup of water. Hopefully it will help plus it will fuel the body with some calcium.

  8. Jaclyn

    I take a Vitamin D 1000 UL a day and even the one seems to cause acid reflux. Feels almost immediate. I try not to stop taking it as my test showed extremely low levels of Vitamin D.

  9. Jonathan

    I had a Vit D level of 15.3 and was prescribed 25,000 IU twice a week (total 50,000 IU/week) for 6 weeks. I completed the course 2 weeks ago now. I didn’t seem to have too much problem while I was taking them other than slightly bleeding gum and metallic taste and benefits were I got less achy bones and muscles and seemed to have a bit more energy than I had done after about 4 weeks of taking them. While I was taking the supplement I never thought anything of it but I did start getting acid reflux (which I’d never had before). It seems to be from certain triggers (mainly coffee/caffeine it seems) so I’ve ditched caffeine and replaced that with hot water and the last 2 days that I’ve made that change it’s been much more controllable, even to the point of eating curry/spicy food hasn’t triggered it. As others have mentioned I now do feel quite ill (bloated, dull pain in stomach, fatigued, a cold, sore throat and headaches) just over the last week or 2 since I’ve stopped taking the tablets, which again I didn’t really link to a strong dose of Vit D but it seems very much like it!

  10. Amy

    I have been tested for vitamin D deficient and was at a 22. Started on D3 2 weeks ago and have severe indigestion and heartburn to the point thought I was having a heart attack. I switched and tried taking it at night as suggested and was even worse. I read that you should not take the prescription one, but one with betters oils for your body to absorb. I will be switching as well as adding calcium and mag. Anyone else have this issue?

    • Bhargav

      I’m 28 year old and I faced similar condition like increased heart rate, acidity and got tensed.

      3-4 hours were terrible after taking a medicine.

    • Kim
      Buff Point NSW

      OMG!! I have never in my life suffered from reflux but am taking Vitamin D & have experienced horrible reflux for weeks now. I decided to google if vitamin D may be linked & was surprised to say the least. I am going to stop until I speak with my GP

  11. Sandy

    Blood work from a wellness exam 6 or 7 yrs ago revealed a vit d level of .07. The doctor was shocked that I was able to function and told me to take like 5000 IU a day. I tried but almost immediately noticed it increased acid reflux.

    The highest my D level has gotten is 13 but every time I try to take the vit D3 supplement, the acid comes back. I’ve had to go to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack but was diagnosed with esophageal spasms and prescribed a PPI.

    I have read articles about vit D deficiency being a result of some other process in the body and oral supplementation of vit d is not advised. I believe it after all these years of acid reflux being aggravated every time I give it another try. I also don’t think my doctor believes me when I tell him the vit D causes reflux.

  12. Renee

    I also showed very low vitamin D levels in a blood test my doctor ordered. She had me take 50,000 IU’s once a week. This was a prescription vitmin D. I started taking it Around Oct 19 last year. The Monday after Thanksgiving, I woke up with what I thought was the start of a cold. I had a sore throat, coughing and constant mucus in the back of my throat. My voice was rough as well.

    I finally figured out the beginning of February that I didn’t have a chronic cold, I had acid reflux. I have never had this before. Only recently have I figured out that this could be from too much vitamin D! Can anyone tell me how long it took them to recover? It seems to be getting better now that I haven’t had vitamin D in 10 days or so.

  13. Laurie
    Oklahoma City

    I had awful acid reflux, so bad it caused mast cell activation. My Chromogranin a level was 110, which is high. Chromogranin a is co secreted with pth, so its obvious that I have hyperparathyroidism. So I took vitamin d3, and no good response… I took vitamind2, and BOOM…. no more acid reflux….HEY EVERYONE…it might be your parathyroid being overactive and shooting too much hormone, that is highly acidic. Do your homework…lol and try d2.

    • Cee

      My symptoms are exactly identical to yours. I too didn’t have this problem until I started taking the 50,000 IU’s once a week and 2,000 over-the-counter everyday which was my doctor’s instructions. For weeks I have been dealing with a barking cough that keeps me up at night. I am also trying to find relief because nothing seems to work.

    • Cee

      My Vitamin D level was 6.24 so my doctor prescribed Vitamin D2. She told me to take 50,000 IU’s once a week and 2,000 IU over-the-counter everyday. However, after 10 weeks of taking so much Vitamin D I started getting sporadic pain in my throat. This lasted for about 2 days then immediately after that I developed a sore throats with lots of mucus and a constant mild cough throughout the day. This lasted for a couple of weeks.

      Although the mucus has mostly drained now I have a persistent loud barking cough that occurs mostly at night (sometimes sporadically during the day) when I go to bed. I can’t seem to find any relief for it. My doctors say I’m fine and that my lungs sound fine and that my throat is a little irritated which could come from acid reflux. However, they immediately stopped my Vitamin D2 (prescribed) usage and told me to continue with taking the over-the-counter Vitamin D3 once a day.

      I’ve since stopped all of my Vitamin D usage until I can get some relief from this cough. I’ve had this annoying hard barking cough for weeks and I can’t get any sleep at night. I tried over-the-counter cough medicines but nothing has worked. I too really need relief from this Vitamin D side effect.

    • Diane
      Oklahoma City

      Laurie, it’s like I’m reading my own story. I also have severe reflux (lpr with burning throat), high chromogranin A, and high pth (also possible mast cell activation). No joke, I live in OKC. Can you tell me who in OKC diagnosed your Mast Cell Activation, and which doctor are you working with for your hyperparathyroidism? Did you have surgery to have it removed, and if so, did your reflux resolve?

    • Stefan

      Hi, I suffer from the same symptoms as you after using more than 5000 iu day for several months. How long did it take for the pain in your throat and mucus to get less?

  14. Linda

    I have taken vitamin D for over a week now after seeing the benefits on Trust me I`m a Doctor. My father who was also taking them asked me if I was having constipation. I was suffering constipation the most awful acid reflux & for days thought I was having a Heart Attack I was in such pain. Needless to say the tablets have been thrown away. I shall never watch that stupid proggramme again.

  15. Kevin
    Irvine, CA

    My mother was low in Vitamin D. About 3 months ago she started taking 2,000 IU of liquid D3 sublingual everyday.

    Last week she started getting severe heartburn at night and after minor heartburn after eating.

    She will be stop taking the Vitamin D.

    Does anyone have any advice for quickening her recovery?

    • Heather

      I heard that, mine are in the trash, right next to the folic acid. I feel like I have a air bubble in my throat, bloated, and the vitamin d messed with my sleep to. It’s been four days since my first and last dose. Now everything effects me, food beverage. Took Tums, Beano. Nothing is working. Awful! ?

  16. Marie M
    long island ny

    I am a 65 year old female. I never had any problems with heartburn, reFlux etc. My vitamin D level came back low and i was told by ohysician to take supplement. This week I thought I was going to die when I was suddenly hit with excruciating pain in my esophagus going up to my throat and even neck, burning, tightening, bitter, hot, I actually felt the flow of this acid rising up. I just began taking vitamin D with calcium a week before. I am still feeling effects in my throat, can’t swallow normally, and some pain. I am sure vitamin D had caused this to happen. No more for me, I will seek sunlight for this deficiency.

  17. Tara
    NE Ohio

    I have been getting horrible heartburn and acid reflux and only just recently figured out it is caused by the 50000 IU D3 that I’ve been taking. Going to stop taking it for a while until my stomach heals.

    For those who are having trouble getting relief try DGL tablets! (Do a search on Amazon for DGL) I chew one thoroughly and swallow then place another in my mouth and let that one slowly dissolve (which is the proper way) when I’m having a bad flair up. Then I would recommend taking one 3 times a day until you have had no symptoms for a week at least.

    Another thing I use to help heal my stomach/throat is marshmallow root capsules.

    Hope this helps someone!

  18. Diana
    San Jose, CA

    I have been told by my doctor that I am vitamin D deficient. I took 6,000 iu’s of vitamin D for 2 days & got extreme bloatedness & major heartburn. Now my acid reflux is so irritated & I feel awful. I stopped for now until I can get my stomach back to normal. I will go back on my omeprazole 20 mg. My heartburn is so bad it makes me cough.

  19. Linda

    I have heard and take medication for this which works but I have low level of vitamin d and have been told to take at least 2000 mg per day. When I do, it makes my herd act up as well as heart burn. I have tried several kinds tablets, chewables, and gel caps I have had reactions from all.

  20. Ellen
    Northridge, California

    Like many of you who have written in, I started taking Vitamin D for the same reasons and have only been on it a week to discover that my GERD is really activated. From your comments, I now know that this a possible link to taking the Vitamin D. Fortunately, my GERD medication is combatting the effects.

  21. Sherry

    My doctor put me on weekly vitamin D also. She said my level was 4 and she had. never seen it that low. I have a lot of symptoms that suggest I have a severe deficiency. I’ve taken my 3rd dose this week and I have horrible acid reflux! I’ve had issues with the acid reflux before and take Zantac 150. I can take 2 a day but have never had to take over one. I really don’t want to have to take it at all but don’t know if any other way to get my vitamin D up because I have skin cancer issues and can’t be in the sun everyday! Help!!!

    • Heather

      I never had a problem eating or drinking anything, ever, until I took one dose of vitamin D, weekly, and one dose folic acid daily. Now three weeks down the road I still have an air bubble in my throat. I was so bloated by the next day I was uncomfortable in my baggy jeans. Ruined my holidays. Thanks for the warning, doc. I got the five pounds that stuff put on me off a few days after taking it. The nurse tried to give me ometrazol, but guess what the side effects are? Gas and bloating, nausea, cramps, constipation. Great.

  22. Joanna Mead

    I’ve suffered with vitamin D deficiency for years and every time I take supplements I get even more ill. Severe heart burn, bloating, upset tummy, and severe tummy cramps. I’m taking 4-5000 IU per day which should be safe yet I can’t tolerate it and am going to have to reduce to much smaller amounts which won’t help with my defiency but there is no way I’m carrying on with this!! Its awful.

  23. grace

    I was taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day, and it caused me extreme bloating/gas/and constipation. Also weight gain from the bloating.

  24. Hank
    New York

    I am a man. I don’t know how common it is for men to have problems with taking vitamin D3 supplements but I have to tell you…the supplements were recommended to me by a nurse practitioner who said I was very low according to my blood work.
    Almost immediately I started having a lot of throat discomfort but no heartburn like acid reflux. I did actually try acid reflux medicine but it didn’t help the problem at all.
    After several attempts of taking the supplements I just had to give up because I couldn’t handle the throat discomfort.
    I also seem to get this problem now when I eat or drink foods that are high in vitamin D, like milk. I don’t remember having this problem in previous years I am middle aged now.

  25. Lisa

    I was taking 4,ooo ICus per day for over a year, I was in pain everyday with heartburn. I read that Vit D helps with the absorption of calcium, and I was eating 6-10 Tums per day, I also read too much calcium causes heartburn……so I stopped taking the vit D and started a 3 week therapy of OTC Omeprazole 20mg per day. The first day I had no heartburn, I’ve been heartburn free for the last 6 days while on these meds, I forgot what it ffelt like not have pain and bloating every minute of every day. Well, I decided to start back on my Vit D today and I am having bad indegestion pain again. I am done with Vit D.

  26. Kate

    I have been taking vitamin D 50000 IU once a week for 3 weeks. It has finally occurred to me that the bad reflux I have been feeling for the last couple of weeks is from this hard vitamin D! I had not had heart burn or reflux for years and years. Now I constantly feel acid in my throat and the irritation is making swallowing difficult.

    How can doctors not know about this??!?!

  27. Margo

    I have had 3 doses of the 1 time per week 50,000 units of Vitamin D2 and have developed severe heartburn, insomnia, shakiness, hot flashes and increased urination.

    I contacted my doctor who told me vitamin D would not cause any of these symptoms. I wish doctors would get more training in nutrition!

  28. JK

    I was taking 2000 IU first thing in the morning and was having terrible indigestion and bloat every single day. Starting taking it after lunch instead and those symptoms have gone away.

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