Top 10 Signs You’ve Overdosed on Vitamins

In today’s day and age, absolutely everything seems to be ‘fortified with vitamins and minerals’. This is leading people to believe that they have all their nutritional needs covered and also means they pay much less attention to their diet. Unfortunately, it actually isn’t enough at all. On the other hand, you have those people who are very much aware of their nutritional needs and who will eat all the fortified foods, take supplements and look for natural ways to get hold of vitamins and minerals as well. This is also a problem, as it can lead to hypervitaminosis, or a vitamin overdose.

Consider, for instance, that too much zinc or vitamin C can lead to diarrhea, nausea and stomach cramps. An overdose of selenium can lead to gastrointestinal problems, hair loss, mild nerve damage and fatigue. The reality is that it is very difficult to develop hypervitaminosis, but it is not unheard of. If, for instance, you have fortified cereals and fortified milk for breakfast, a quick snack of an energy bar, some fortified pasta for your main meal, as well as a daily multivitamin, you could actually be pushing the limits.

Top 10 Signs You’ve Overdosed on Vitamins

So how can you tell that you have overdosed? There are a couple of things specifically that you need to look for.

1. You’ve done the math and you’ve gone over. There are IUs (international units) for every vitamin and mineral in the book. An IU is the recommended daily amount. Besides IUs, there are also upper tolerable limits. If you consume fortified foods, take supplements and eat naturally health foods, you may need to calculate just how many IUs you are getting for each vitamin and mineral and work it out from there.

2. Struggling to concentrate. This is because many vitamins and minerals affect the receptors of the brain.

3. Difficulty sleeping. For some, this expresses itself in insomnia, whereas others suffer from extreme fatigue.

4. Feelings of irritability, which is one of the most common effects of vitamin overdoses, regardless of the type of vitamin.

5. Mild nerve damage, which is usually noticed through tingling and numbness in the extremities

6. Gastrointestinal upsets, mild nerve damage and hair loss. These are common side effects of taking took much selenium.

7. Hidden vitamin B12 deficiency. This happens often as a side effect of taking too much folic acid, as this can mimic the effects of vitamin B12 without actually giving the body the necessary nutrients. The danger with this is that a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to permanent nerve damage. Interestingly, however, having too much vitamin B6 can also lead to permanent nerve damage. This just shows how complicated the world of vitamins and minerals actually is.

8. Diarrhea, which is a very common side effect of too much vitamin C. It can also lead to dehydration if left untreated.

9. Anemia, heart problems and an impaired immune system, which often happen when people take too much zinc. When the body has too much zinc in the system, copper and iron can no longer be absorbed properly, leading to various problems. Heart problems can also occur in people who suffer from hypervitaminosis D (too much vitamin D).

10. Joint pain, fatigue, nausea and stomach upsets, which often happen together in people who take too much iron. Iron is one of the easiest minerals to overdose on. This is why over the counter supplements only have very low amounts of iron. In fact, they are usually sold as a combination supplement, for instance as part of a multivitamin. For higher dosages of iron, a doctor’s prescription is required.

Which Vitamins Are You Most Likely to Get too Much Of?

There are three specific nutrients that people most frequently take too much of. These are:

1. Folic acid
2. Calcium
3. Vitamin D

The good thing is that the side effects of hypervitaminosis with these three vitamins and minerals can generally be quite easily reversed. However, if a person who is taking too much of those supplements continues to take them regardless of their side effects, it will become increasingly difficult to reverse the effects. Nevertheless, generally speaking, they will usually seek medical advice for their symptoms and will then be told to stop their supplementation and perhaps change their diets.

With other vitamins, however, this is not possible. For instance, taking just slightly higher than recommended levels of vitamin A can have devastating consequences. If taken by a pregnant mother, her baby has an increase chance of being born with serious, sometimes fatal, birth defects. Additionally, hypervitaminosis A can lead to permanent problems with the skin, bone, liver and central nervous system.

Additionally, there is the issue of so-called ‘accidental poisoning’. When hearing of this, most people think about people who accidentally drink bleach or, more commonly, too much alcohol. The leading cause of accidental poisoning in this country for young children, however, is iron poisoning. This is due to parents either actually giving their children this supplement, or them not storing it properly so that their children can access it.

To avoid poisoning and hypervitaminosis in general, it is vital to always try and get all vitamins and minerals from their natural sources. For instance, vitamin C can be obtained by eating just one citrus fruit per day. Vitamin D can be obtained by spending just half an hour exposed to the sun, three times per week. Fortified foods and supplements should only be chosen after careful consideration and as recommended by a medical professional.

Resources and References:

Multiple Vitamin Overdose – Multivitamin overdose. (NIH.gov)
What Happens If You Take Too Many Vitamins? – Effects of vitamin overdose. (Livestrong.com)