Can Vitamins Cause Stomach Ulcers?

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Take steps to reduce ulcer symptoms. (Image: SC Shots Studio SRL/iStock/Getty Images)

For years experts believed lifestyle factors like stress or eating spicy foods caused ulcers. Today, scientists assert that a bacterial infection called H. pylori causes 80 percent of stomach ulcers, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. While vitamins are not the cause, taking vitamin supplements may trigger symptoms. However, you can avoid this by making simple changes.

Vitamins and Ulcer Symptoms

Vitamin supplements can cause gastrointestinal distress even in people without stomach ulcers, as it's a common side effect. This is because vitamins, especially tablets, contain coatings, preservatives and other additives that may be hard on the stomach. Vitamins also stimulate an increase in stomach acid and this extra acid may trigger ulcer symptoms. Ulcers are open sores that develop on the lining of your stomach, so you can imagine why increased stomach acid may cause problems. An easy way to remedy this is to take your vitamins with a meal, and avoid taking them on an empty stomach.

Specific Vitamins May Cause Problems

Certain vitamins and minerals trigger gastric issues, which may trigger ulcer symptoms. Iron supplements have a reputation for causing gastrointestinal disturbance. Because food decreases absorption, iron is often taken on an empty stomach, but the elemental iron that comes in contact with the stomach may cause stomach pain. If you're taking a vitamin or multivitamin with iron that is recommended to be taken on an empty stomach, try a whole-food vitamin supplement, as it may be easier on the stomach. In the case of iron, certain forms cause less stomach irritation. These are often labeled "gentle" iron.

Vitamin C and Stomach Ulcer

Vitamin C is one of the major antioxidants in the diet. Although more research is needed, data suggests vitamin C may be beneficial if you have a stomach ulcer, according to an article published in the October 2010 issue of the journal Digital Diseases and Sciences. Due to its antioxidant activities, vitamin C may protect the lining of the stomach, the authors write. It may also decrease gastric bleeding and increase the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy to eradicate the infection.

Dietary Changes to Reduce Ulcer Symptoms

It's crucial to determine the cause if you have an ulcer. If H. pylori is the culprit, antibiotic treatment is available to eradicate the infection. In the meantime, making certain dietary changes may help reduce ulcer symptoms. Foods that are acidic, or stimulate acid production such as citrus fruits, tomato, whole milk, tea and coffee may cause problems. Spicy foods may also aggravate your symptoms, and it's best to avoid highly seasoned foods, chili powder, black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder and other spices.

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