If you have acid reflux, you may wonder if a vitamin like B9 — which also goes by folate or folic acid — is a trigger. But "acid" is a misnomer: The vitamin has nothing to do with acid at all — and it certainly does not cause reflux. Here's the scoop, plus what vitamin is good for acid reflux.
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Folic Acid Does Not Cause Reflux
Per Mount Sinai: Folic acid is the man-made version of vitamin B9 or folate that's found in supplements and fortified foods that can help prevent or reduce the following:
- Birth defects.
- Heart disease.
- Age-related hearing loss.
- Age-related macular degeneration.
- Certain cancers (colon, breast, pancreatic, cervical, stomach).
And, says New York City-based Robin Foroutan, RDN, HHC, registered dietitian and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, if you have acid reflux, there's no reason to shy away from it, as folic acid does not contribute to or cause acid reflux.
In fact, Mount Sinai notes, if you take medications for your acid reflux — antacids, H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) — you may need more folic acid, as these medications can actually lower your body's ability to absorb folate.
Can Supplements Cause Acid Reflux?
There is not one vitamin or mineral that is harmful for people with acid reflux, Foroutan says. However, she says, if you have reflux, ideally, try to get these nutrients from foods rather than supplements, as supplements can make some people nauseous or upset their stomach, particularly when not taken with food, she says.
Here's why: Acid reflux can sometimes be a sign of not enough stomach acid. "That may sound counterintuitive, but if the stomach doesn't secrete enough acid, food in the stomach ferments, creates gas and pushes on the sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach," Foroutan says.
"That allows stomach contents to seep up into the esophagus, triggering heartburn symptoms. A common sign of too little stomach acid, aside from reflux symptoms, is feeling nauseous from taking supplements," she says.
Folic Acid for Your Health
If you're looking to score more folate in your diet, it is especially rich in these foods, among others, per Mount Sinai:
- Dark leafy greens, mustard greens.
- Brussels sprouts.
- Root vegetables.
- Beans (like soybeans, kidney, lima, white, mung).
- Whole grains.
- Orange juice.
You should be able to get enough folic acid from your diet. But if you don't (and, as Foroutan cautions, the supplements do not seem to aggravate your reflux), you might consider adding this dietary supplement to your regimen under your health care provider's supervision, Mount Sinai says.
Read more: The 5 Best Foods for Acid Reflux
Supplements come in the following options, per Mount Sinai:
- Soft gels.
While folic acid is sold separately, you will also find vitamin B9 in most multivitamins and B complex vitamins. The latter is preferable, per Mount Sinai, because other B vitamins are needed for it to work.
Zinc for Calming Acid Reflux
But if you have GERD and are looking for a vitamin that can help soothe it, Foroutan says it's important you be sure you're getting enough zinc in your diet. "Zinc, particularly a form called zinc carnosine, is good for acid," Foroutan says. And PPIs can reduce zinc stores like it can folate, she says.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), the best zinc food source is oysters. Other good food sources of zinc per the ODS are:
- Red meat, lean meats, poultry.
- Legumes (baked beans, chickpeas).
- Seeds, nuts (cashews, almonds).
- Soy products.
- Whole grains.
- Milk products.
- Fortified breakfast cereals.
How to Treat Reflux
Foroutan says these are other tips for calming your reflux when it riles up:
- Chew thoroughly and slow down at mealtimes. "Eating on the run can trigger reflux or [it] can make reflux symptoms worse," she says.
- Avoid reflux-triggering foods (spicy or fried foods, tomato sauce, wheat, dairy, citrus).
- Don't eat before bed or lay down after meals. "It's best to stop eating three hours before bedtime."
- Drink between, rather than with, meals.
And, Foroutan says, if these steps don't help, you may need antacids to help calm your stomach.