If you have done some research or reading about acid reflux and silent reflux in particular you may have noticed some people suggesting Vitamin D and how it may help your LPR (Laryngopharyngeal reflux) or silent reflux symptoms.
Here I want to talk about if it does work and what is the science and evidence behind it if any?
Read on below to get all the important details from my research.
How Vitamin D Can Help Acid Reflux
When we think of taking a supplement, we may think of how it can enhance or bolster our vitamin or nutrition that comes with taking that supplement. The same is true for Vitamin D.
Though arguably that is not the reason you really want to consider taking vitamin D if you have acid reflux.
It is much more likely that if your vitamin D levels are low this could potentially be causing or worsening any acid reflux symptoms you may be having. The primary reason and logic behind this is Vitamin D is needed for proper muscle function in the body on a basic level.
How Vitamin D Deficiency Can Affect Digestion
If you didn’t know the LES is a valve right above the stomach known for playing an important role in keeping acid inside the stomach. The pyloric sphincter is below the stomach, and this helps control the digestion and exit area of the stomach. The UES in right below the larynx (throat area) and is meant to help stop acid from entering the larynx area.
If there is some problem with these muscles especially the LES it can often lead to acid reflux symptoms because the valve is not closely properly and keeping the acid down and inside the stomach where it should be.
Keep in mind if the LES is opening and not closely properly to keep acid inside the stomach it sometimes isn’t always directly related to the LES.
For example, if the pyloric sphincter is not working correctly or you have slow mobility of the digestive tract this can increase stomach pressure which can in turn make the LES release and open and therefore the LES wouldn’t be the root cause.
Though for certain people the LES or other important digestive muscles simply may not be functioning properly for a number of reasons one of them being due to vitamin D deficiency.
While there are no direct medical studies to confirm this, we can put these 2 understandings together that vitamin D deficiency can cause symptoms such as muscular dysfunction, muscle weakness, muscle aches or even muscle cramps. All of which affect muscles including these important digestive muscles.
Studies Showing Correlation between Acid Reflux and Vitamin D
The first study which has shown how supplementing vitamin D increases general muscle strength and muscle function which is important to note as we are wanting to increase strength and function of our internal digestive muscles as I talked about above.
There was another study done on children with GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) symptoms with nasopharyngeal symptoms (meaning problems with the nose and throat area primarily). The findings showed that the children with these symptoms are quite characteristic of vitamin D deficiency. These children where then supplemented with Vitamin D3 which lessened symptoms over the period of 1 year for acid reflux and also acute respiratory viral infection (ARVI) likely caused by pepsin entering the airways which is common in LPR patients though this element was not covered or talked about in the study.
There was also a study done on Indian women with LPR to see if there was any correlation between worsened symptoms and a greater vitamin D deficiency. While the study found no correlation in that regard meaning the women with worse deficiency did not have worse symptoms.
Though there was an interesting finding that out of all the women 74% of them had vitamin D deficiency which is very high. This also perhaps shows some correlation between the deficiency and having LPR in the first place.
There was another study done showing the role of vitamin D3 in combination with a supplement mixture called Grisù. The study showed that the combination of the supplement and vitamin D3 may exert a gastroprotective effect to maintain or restore the integrity of gastric epithelium through an antioxidant pathway. As we are focusing on Vitamin D here it’s been mentioned as it may help counteract intracellular cell death and improve epithelial regeneration.
What this really means in simple English is that cells and tissue inside the digestive tract would be able to regenerate or heal more easily with Vitamin D3. Because oxidative stress can cause or worsen gastric problems which in turn leads to inflammation and oxidative stress. The vitamin D3 is said to negate this to a certain level.
Out in the Field Findings
If you have done research on people with GERD or LPR you may have noticed certain people who started to take vitamin D and suddenly all their symptoms were gone or vastly improved in a relatively short period of time.
While this has not been a common finding it does seem to happen. With certain people saying they saw no improvement versus some people saying they where basically cured of all symptoms.
Before we can talk about what you can do, we first must talk about people who are more prone to vitamin D deficiency and signs that may indicate that you have low levels of Vitamin D.
People Prone to Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is common, among children less than 5 years old, pregnant and breastfeeding women and people over the age of 65 years old. Also, people who have limited exposure to sunlight are much more prone to this.
Keep in mind people who live further from the equator are less likely to get the needed sun light during the day especially in the wintertime. Also, people with darker skin are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency due to needing more time spent in the sun to generate the vitamin D when compared with people with lighter skin.
Low Vitamin D Signs
Here are some common signs that you may be low in vitamin D –
- Fatigue (feeling tired)
- Bone pain
- Muscle problems (weakness, aches & cramps)
- Mood problems like depression or anxiety
How to Increase Vitamin D Naturally
Before I get into what’s the best action to help and increase your vitamin D levels, I first want to talk about how to increase vitamin D levels naturally.
The best way to get vitamin D naturally is from the sun, while there is no official recommendation but as little as 10-15 minutes in the sun per day is enough for lighter skinned people.
If you are further from the equator, you may need more time in the sun as you are further away from the sun. Also depending on the season and location can mean this effect is greatly diminished in certain places and times.
Also, the more skin you expose to the sun the more vitamin D the body will produce naturally. So, if you cover up most of your skin, the body will be producing much less Vitamin D than if you where in a tank top and shorts.
You can also get vitamin D from a selection of different foods. These foods include fatty fish and seafood such as salmon, tuna, sardines. Mushrooms are also a good source, and eggs too (in particular the egg yolks).
What to Do Next?
If you do your research it seems to be that there is more correlation to people who have LPR who are vitamin D deficient, through it can still be possible if you have GERD or more common acid reflux such as heartburn, indigestion that you could be deficient.
While increasing your vitamin D naturally would be optimal it often isn’t always practical or possible for certain people. People who live further from the equator or have little exposure to sun due to location or lifestyle etc. may struggle to get much if any vitamin D naturally therefore choosing to supplement vitamin D often is the best choice as it is more predictable and consistent if you need to take a higher dosage than trying to get it naturally. Not to say that you shouldn’t try to increase it naturally too, but supplementation is a more reliable and consistent way to go.
Knowing that you have 3 options – take a vitamin D supplement blind and see how you fare, test your vitamin D levels and then based on results decide to supplement or not and finally decide not to take any at all. Let me explain these 3 options in more detail –
Take a Vitamin D Supplement Blind
Your first option if you think you can perhaps benefit from taking vitamin D is to take it blind, meaning without confirmation of knowing your vitamin D levels. Of course, if you don’t want the hassle/stress of giving blood this is an option. This may be more logical to do if you have some of the common low vitamin D signs as we covered above.
When it comes to choosing the right dosage there are a few things to consider. Typically, the NHI (national health institute) recommends an average intake of 400-800 IU or 10-20 micrograms.
The problem here lies that people who are deficient may need to take a higher supplementation to help them get to the normal levels and the lower supplementation may not be sufficient as I explain in section below – “Deficient Vitamin D Levels”. But someone who has normal levels could have a detrimental effect from taking a higher dosage. This is why I recommend you test your vitamin D levels firstly which I will cover in the next section below.
Test Your Vitamin D Levels
The most likely best protocol to decide if you need to take Vitamin D is be tested at your local clinic or doctors’ office. This is usually done by drawing some blood and having it tested.
This test used to check your vitamin D levels is called a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A level of 20-50 nanograms/milliliter is considered normal. If you are below a level of 12 ng/ml, then you are considered deficient. Though anything below 20 should consider supplementation generally speaking.
Normal Vitamin D Levels – What to Do
Once you have completed the test and your results have come back in the normal range chances are your acid reflux is not being caused or being correlated to a lack of vitamin D. Therefore, there is likely another root cause for you.
My best recommendation in this case is to eliminate acid reflux trigger foods and follow a low acid diet like my Wipeout Diet Plan. In terms of medication, I recommend Gaviscon Advance for people who have LPR/silent reflux to be taken after meals and at bedtime.
For people with heartburn or GERD I suggest any kind of Gaviscon though generally the diet and lifestyle changes will make a bigger impact. I also suggest if taking PPIs like omeprazole to consider getting of them as I talk about more here – Getting Off PPIs and Acid Rebound.
Deficient Vitamin D Levels – What to Do
Once you have completed your test and your results have shown that you are low or deficient in vitamin D then the best and most consistent form of action is to add a Vitamin D supplement to your diet.
There are 2 types of vitamin D which are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 tends to be the better choice because it may raise vitamin D levels more effectively.
In terms of dosage this is what’s recommended (assuming you don’t have problems absorbing vitamin D) [dosages as reported from UpToDate]–
In peoples whose 25-hydroxy vitamin D level is <12 ng/ml treatment is taking 50,000 IU of vitamin D2 or D3 by mouth 1-2 times per week for 6-8 weeks then 800-1000 IU or more of vitamin D3 daily thereafter.
In peoples whose 25-hydroxy vitamin D level is 12-20 ng/ml treatment is taking 800-1000 IU though some may need a higher dose. It is recommended people here continue taking 800 IU daily.
In peoples whose 25-hydroxy vitamin D level is 20-30 ng/ml taking 600-800 IU daily is using sufficient.
Don’t Take Vitamin D
Your 3rd and final option is to simply not take vitamin D at all whether you think you aren’t deficient or simply don’t want to take it that is always an option.
Vitamin D Side Effects
Before I come to the conclusion, I want to make a quick note on Vitamin D side effects – The vast majority of people do not experience side effects when taking vitamin D. For the select few who may experience side effects these include weakness, dry mouth, nausea etc.
The only occurrence where it may be unsafe is when someone is taking a higher dosage (such as 4000 IU daily) for a longer period which can cause heightened levels of calcium in the blood.
In conclusion it can be seen that there is undoubtedly some correlation between people with acid reflux and people who need more vitamin D, this is especially true for people with silent reflux/LPR.
Therefore, as explained above it’s a good idea to try and supplement if you do not have enough vitamin D in your blood.
People who do this may see a drastic improvement in symptoms and it could be the magic cure for their acid reflux problems. Though you must keep in mind there is no guarantee for improvement of symptoms.
On a final note, I think it’s worth trying if you do happen to be low in vitamin D, as there is little to no risk and perhaps a big upside.
For any further questions consider a private acid reflux consultation here.
What Vitamins Help with Silent Reflux?
On top of vitamin D, there are some other supplements which may help but they are not considered to be a reliable and guaranteed fix for everyone. To name a couple of these – melatonin and Zinc-L-Carnosine.
Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Gastric Problems?
While this is no concrete evidence that suggest this there are multiple studies that do show some correlation that in fact people with lower vitamin D are more prone to gastric and digestive issues.
Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Throat Problems?
There is some correlation between vitamin D deficiency and LPR which is a form of acid reflux that affects the throat and larynx area primarily. This could perhaps be the cause of the throat problems which is in turn caused by the LPR.
Does Vitamin D Help with Stomach Problems?
In some cases, it can help, and certain people have stated how it has been a massive help to them. Though while this is possible for some for others it makes little to no difference.