Vitamin D aids digestion and has a role in preventing acid reflux, but it’s not a “magic pill” that’s going to cure your heartburn by itself. Rather, making sure you have enough vitamin D will help you manage gastrointestinal problems, along with improving your overall health. But how do I make sure I get enough vitamin D? And what are the best sources of vitamin D for me?
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. This means that vitamin D is found is some foods that contain fat, and is stored in your body’s fat cells. Your body can also make it’s own vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun’s rays.
Many of us can get enough vitamin D by exposing our skin to the sun for a short amount of time everyday. Sun exposure through car windscreens and sunscreen will prevent your body making vitamin D. For others, we need to make sure we get enough vitamin D from food or take supplements.
The main role of vitamin D is to help your body absorb other nutrients. So, if your vitamin D levels are low, your body isn’t getting all the nutrition it could from the foods you eat. And this can effect your health in lots of ways, not just digestions and heartburn problems.
There are 2 types of vitamin D. Vitamin D2 is made from plants and is found in foods that have vitamin D added to them (called fortified foods) and some supplements. Vitamin D3 is naturally produced in the human body and is found in animal foods. It is thought that Vitamin D3 helps your body absorb nutrients better.
Is vitamin D good for acid reflux?
Vitamin D definitely has a role to play in digestion, and research suggests vitamin D may play a bigger role in your aiding digestion that what is currently known for sure.
Vitamin D and absorption of nutrients
What has been well researched is the link between low levels of vitamin D and low levels of calcium and magnesium absorption. Calcium and magnesium both have and important role to play in digestion and proper functioning of your digestive system. These nutrients help your muscles relax and contract and help our digestive system work properly.
For example, your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscular valve that stops food from refluxing back into your esophagus (food tube).
Also, your pyloric sphincter, the muscle band between your stomach and small intestine, needs to be working properly too. If food is not transferred to your small intestine when it should, food will start fermenting in your stomach and this will cause gas to build up, put pressure on your LES and acid reflux can occur.
Vitamin D and infection control
One of the main causes of heartburn is said to be infection in your gastrointestinal system. These infections hinder digestion, inhibit acid production in the stomach, give rise to acid reflux and therefore can give you heartburn.
And when you think of infections, that is where vitamin D comes in. When you have enough vitamin D, your body, can make special compounds that have antimicrobial qualities. And these fight infection and keep inflammation at bay. As this sets off a chain reaction, your gastrointestinal system gets regulated and eventually heartburn is prevented.
How much vitamin D do you need?
The amount of vitamin D you need each day depends on your age. Average daily recommended amounts are listed below in micrograms (mcg) and International Units (IU):
10 ways to get more vitamin D and avoid heartburn
Your body makes its own vitamin D when skin is exposed to sun. Generally, the amount of vitamin D you can get from the sun depends on how close you are to the equator, and what months it is. You can view this chart if you want a rough guide of how much sun exposure you need to get enough vitamin D from the sun.
Remember that sun exposure through sunscreen and car windows will hamper vitamin D absorption a lot. So, you need to consider the consequences of not protecting your skin from the sun. There are other ways if you are concerned.
2. Fresh fatty fish
Fresh oily fish like salmon, sardines, perch, and rainbow trout contain quite a bit of Vitamin D (about 150 units per ounce). Plus, you also get omega 3 fatty acids as a bonus – they keep your heart healthy.
3. Canned fish
Canned fish, especially tuna, is another option. However, light tuna that comes in cans is your best bet – it contains 150 units to every 4 ounce serving, whereas canned sardines contain a mere 40 units for every pair of fish.
4. Dole’s Portobello mushrooms
You can also try Dole’s Portobello Mushrooms. This is because mushrooms are like human skin in that they produce Vitamin D and store it in the presence of ultraviolet rays. And since most other mushrooms are actually grown in the dark, if you are after the Vitamin D – then this variety is the one to go for. It contains 400 units per 3 ounces.
5. Milk and yogurt
Milk or yogurt can also be your source of choice, but remember, milk and yogurt provide instant relief but can cause heartburn in the long term. Find out which milk is best for your acid reflux, keeping in mind that other milks and milt alternative will not contain the same amounts of vitamin D.
Just as they help each other in your body, calcium and vitamin D also come together in milk. Natural cow’s milk contains 100 units per 8 ounce glass, and yogurt has 80 units of vitamin D in every 6 ounce serving.
6. Products that are fortified with vitamin D
Some orange juices, soy milk and cereals are fortified with vitamin D. But check the labels first to make sure you’ve got the right ones, and check to make sure you’re getting a good amount of vitamin D.
7. Egg yolks
Egg yolks also contain Vitamin D. There are about 40 units in every yolk. But since with that there is also 200 mg of cholesterol, if you have a heart issue, you should ideally go for some other source for your Vitamin D.
8. Beef liver
A less appealing option for some is beef liver. From beef liver you get about 50 units from every 3.5 ounce serving. But then if you don’t know how to cook beef liver – you’ll probably want to give it a miss! And besides, like egg, this too is high in cholesterol.
9. Cod liver oil
Since fish oil has already been mentioned, cod liver oil shouldn’t come as a surprise! And in fact, one tbsp. of this stuff contains a whopping 1,300 units of Vitamin D, so just half the amount of that takes care of your daily needs.
10. Vitamin D supplements
And then there is the final one in this list – Vitamin D supplements. These are readily available and do their job really well.
Other natural remedies for acid reflux and heartburn
- avoid your acid reflux trigger foods
- eat small frequent meals
- allow 2-3 hours after eating/drinking before you lie down
- elevate your head and torso when sleeping
- do exercises that don’t aggravate your heartburn most days
- avoid alcohol, or drink moderate amounts of alcohol that doesn’t cause heartburn
- quit smoking
Is Vitamin D Good For Acid Reflux?
With most of these options, it should hardly be a problem including them in your diet. And as for the good old solution – sunlight, just make sure you take a walk early in the morning when the sun is out but not at its harshest. Not only will you be getting Vitamin D, you will also be exercising (another essential in keeping heartburn away).
So, make these changes to optimize Vitamin D levels – for your bones, for your health and more importantly for your esophagus and to keep your heartburn at bay. Try it together with the other diet and lifestyle changes and you will see the results for yourself.