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Side Effects and Symptoms of Taking Too Many Vitamins

Updated on March 24, 2013
Are you poisoning yourself with vitamins?
Are you poisoning yourself with vitamins? | Source

Vitamins: Too Much of a Good Thing

Even though vitamins are good for you and essential to your health, getting too much can cause negative side effects. You need to know how much you need, how much is dangerous, where to get them, and what they do for your body.

Vitamin C

Benefits: Vitamin C is commonly known for its ability to assist in immune system functioning. Vitamin C is even more important in smokers because it can prevent damage cause by the smoke and free radicals. It also has been said to help maintain skins youthful appearance.

Risks: Vitamin C enhances iron absorption, so high levels can lead to iron poisoning. High levels of Vitamin C have also been theorized to increase the risk of miscarriage.Extremely high levels can cause upset stomach and diarrhea.

Sources: red pepper, orange juice, grapefruit juice, kiwi fruit, green pepper, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts and cantaloupe

Vitamin E

Benefits: Vitamin E is very important in protecting the skin against sun damage, pollution, drugs and other free radicals because it contains antioxidant properties. It can be used to treat sunburns, skin aging, age spots, stretch marks, psoriasis and scars. Some studies even show that Vitamin E intake above the daily recommended amount can be beneficial in preventing certain ailments. These include menstrual pain, Alzheimer's, asthma, arthritis, breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Risks: An excess amount of Vitamin E can cause abnormal bleeding and risk of hemorrhaging, diarrhea, flatulence, bloating, weakness, headache, fatigue, and blurred vision. Extremely high doses of Vitamin E for prolonged periods of time have been found to increase risk of death.

Sources: wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, nuts, nut oils, palm oil, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, kiwi fruit and pumpkin.

Get Vitamin D naturally from the sun
Get Vitamin D naturally from the sun | Source

Vitamin D

Benefits: Vitamin D is essential for our body to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, our bones would become very brittle, thin and oddly shaped.

Risks: Excess amounts of Vitamin D can cause a loss of appitite, nausea, vomiting and constipation. Toxic levels of Vitamin D, called hypervitaminosis D, causes an overabsorption of Vitamin D in the intestines and calcium is lost from the bones. This can also be dangerous when is causes hypercalcemia, a high amount of calcium in the blood. Too much Vitamin D can also lead to depression and cause issues in nerve functioning.

Sources: sunlight, dairy products, eggs, cereal and certain fish.

Vitamin A

Benefits: Vitamin A helps your eyes function and react properly to light. Vitamin A also has antioxidative properties that help protect the body from free radicals.

Risks: Effect of taking in too much Vitamin A are nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, headache and dizziness. If you have a surplus of Vitamin A for a prolonged period of time, your liver is at risk. This can lead to scarring and deterioration of the liver. The condition is called hypervitaminosis A and is typically caused by supplements instead of food.

Sources: animal livers, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, butter, kale, spinach, pumpkin, collard greens, cantaloupe and egg.

Vitamin K

Benefits: Vitamin K can reduce the risk of arterial calcification and cardiovascular disease. Vitamin K is essential in blood clotting, bone health and brain and nervous system functioning Without an adequate amount of Vitamin K, the body has greater risk of atherosclerosis and stroke.

Risks: Vitamin K can actually inhibit antioxidants from doing their job. Too much Vitamin K can result in oxidative damage from free radicals. It can also reduce the effect of blood-thinning medications resulting in dangerous blood clots.

Sources: kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, swiss chard and asparagus.

Vitamin B

Benefits: Vitamin B is actually a group of 8 different vitamins that make up Vitamin B Complex. These vitamins play a very important role in cell metabolism. Vitamin B12 keeps nerves and red blood cells healthy. Vitamin B Complex plays an important role in energy production, good digestion, health nervous system, healthy skin, hair and nails.

Risks: Typically, any excess Vitamin B will be excreted in the urine since it is water soluble. However, excess Vitamin B3 or Niacin can nausea vomiting and glucose intolerance. Skin can also become flushed, itchy or have a burning sensation. Headaches and increased intracranial blood flow is also common with excess Niacin. Extreme excess amounts of Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine can result in peripheral sensory neuropathy. Excess Vitamin B9 or Folic Acid can mask a B12 deficiency and cause permanent neurological damage.

Sources: turkey, tuna, liver, whole grains, bananas, potatoes, lentils, chili peppers, beans and molasses.

Iron

Benefits: Most of the body's Iron is located in hemoglobin. Iron carries oxygen to other parts of the body through these hemoglobin. Iron is essential for proper health and growth. It is necessary for the body to produce red blood cells and regulate body temperature.

Risks: The body has no natural way to get rid of extra Iron. Any excess is stored in body tissues like the liver, heart and pancreas. Severely excess amounts of Iron can cause liver and heart damage. Symptoms of too much Iron are tiredness, constipation, nausea, upset stomach, heart palpitations and pain in the joints.

Sources: beef, chicken, clams, cod, flounder, oysters, pork, salomon, shrimp, tuna, turkey, almonds, baked beans, black eyed peas and bread.

Daily Recommended Amount Vs. Toxic Amount

Vitamin / Mineral
Daily Recommended Intake
Upper Limit
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
400 IU
1000 IU
Vitamin A
700 - 900 mg
3,000 mg
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
1.3 mg
100 mg
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
14 - 16 mg
35 mg
Vitamin E
20 IU
1,000 mg
Vitamin D
600 IU
2,000 IU
Vitamin C
75 - 90 mg
2,000 IU
Vitamin K
65 - 80 mg
Not Defined
Iron
10 - 15 mg
45 mg
Zinc
12 - 15 mg
40 mg
Numbers based on adults. These amounts will fluctuate if pregnant or lactating. IU - international units mg - milligrams

Zinc

Benefits: Zinc stimulates a ton of enzymes that get different reactions started in our body. Zinc helps maintain a healthy immune system, wound healing, your sense of smell and taste, and DNA synthesis. Zinc is also needed for sperm development, ovulation and fertilization.

Risks: The most common issues associated with too high Zinc intake is gastrointestinal problems. Upset stomach, diarrhea and vomiting are also common symptoms of excess Zinc. Often, Zinc poisoning can result in hospitalization due to decreased urine output. Heavy metal poisoning is a possibility from excess Zinc. This kind of poisoning causes a metallic taste in the mouth, low blood pressure, convulsions, shortness of breath and shock.

Sources: oysters, beef shanks, Alaskan king crab, pork shoulder, fortified breakfast cereals, chicken leg, pork tenderloin, lobster, baked beans, cashews, cheese, milk and yogurt.

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Conclusions

Most people do not need to worry about overdosing on vitamins and minerals through their normal daily meals. Toxic levels are typically only reached when an individual is getting the nutrient from a source other than food or drink.

Unless you have a vitamin deficiency or a medical condition, I would not recommend taking any vitamins or supplements without consulting with your doctor. Often times, if the issue is severe enough, a doctor will tell you which vitamins or minerals to take. If you do not have an extreme case, you can typically increase your intake by simply eating foods that are rich in that vitamin or mineral.

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    • sleepylog profile image

      Sleepylog 4 years ago from Australia

      Glad to see such an article because too many people abuse supplements hoping to get faster results, alas it doesn't work that way and it IS possible to have to much of a good thing.

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

      What people need to realize that sometimes the side effects of taking to much can be worse than what they are trying to fix.

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      The Daily recommended amounts is a nice reference.

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

      rasta1 - If you will notice, it really takes quite a bit more than the recommended amount to cause damage.

    • themsasterofall profile image

      themsasterofall 4 years ago

      The fact is that vitamin overdoses are quite uncommon, but deficiencies are commonplace in our society. Even many fat soluble vitamins are not toxic unless you take ridiculous amounts of them over a period of time. Also, the so called "recommended daily allowances" are only the determined minimal amounts the government has determined you must get every day so that you won't die. Many of them were also established decades ago and as such are grossly inaccurate anyway.

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

      themsasterofall - I do agree with you that it is not that common, but I want people to know that it is possible.

    • sleepylog profile image

      Sleepylog 4 years ago from Australia

      Yes, Vitamin A is a good example.

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

      Yes it is.

    • Abdul Wahabone profile image

      Abdul Wahab 4 years ago from Yanbu Al-Bahar, Al Madinah, Saudi Arabia

      oh, i never knew that excess intake of vitamins can have such side effects,

      Thanks for sharing the info........

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

      Your Welcome Abdul. Thank you for reading.

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