Can vitamins make you sick?

When it comes to staying healthy and strong, vitamins are important. They help your body function properly. Most of the vitamins you need can be found in the foods you eat, but if your diet doesn’t give you what you need, supplements can give you a helping hand.

Supplements come in the form of powders, tablets, capsules and syrups.

Although vitamins are good for you, an overdose can harm your health. Balance is vital.

Too much of a good thing

Just as you can overdose on drugs or alcohol, you can also go over the limit with things that are good for you, including vitamins. Every vitamin has a daily limit and if you exceed it, you can develop a condition called hypervitaminosis. It’s difficult to overdose on any vitamin through your diet alone, but different supplements along with a vitamin-rich diet can put you at risk for the condition.

There are different kinds of hypervitaminosis, each with different symptoms.

Common ones include:

Hypervitaminosis A

Vitamin A is well known for its health benefits when it comes to skin, hair, healing and eye health, but too much can be dangerous. Hypervitaminosis A usually happens as a result of taking too many supplements or therapeutic retinoids. Depending on how much excess Vitamin A there is in your body, you’ll have different symptoms.

Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headaches, skin irritation, pain in the joints and bones and sometimes even coma. A severe overdose may lead to hair loss, loss of appetite, bone pain, liver failure, vomiting and eczema.

Maximum daily limit:

  • Men: 3 000 mcg
  • Women: 3 000 mcg

Hypervitaminosis B6

Vitamin B6 is important for regulating energy, muscular function, heart health and the digestive tract. An overdose of B6 may leave you with painful skin rashes, nausea, heartburn, and sensitivity to sunlight.

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An acute overdose can have more serious consequences which may damage sensory nerves. This can cause fatigue, a reduced sensation to vibration, temperature and touch, poor coordination and paraesthesia (tingling or prickly sensation) in the hands and feet.

Maximum daily limit:

  • Men: 100 mg
  • Women: 100 mg

Hypervitaminosis D

Vitamin D is vital for regulating the immune system, for the absorption of calcium and to maintain healthy bones and teeth. It also helps your body resist certain diseases. Your main source of Vitamin D is from the sun and from food such as mushrooms. Too much vitamin D may damage your heart, blood vessels and kidneys. There’s also an increased risk for fractures and certain cancers.

Maximum daily limit:

  • Men: 50 mcg
  • Women: 50 mcg

Hypervitaminosis E

Vitamin E occurs naturally in many foods like nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and unprocessed cereal grains. Taking extreme doses of Vitamin E supplements can cause symptoms like fatigue, weakness, headaches and gastrointestinal problems. Blood clotting and haemorrhaging may be symptoms in serious cases and amongst men, there is an increased prostate cancer risk.

Maximum daily limit:

  • Men: 1 000 mg
  • Women: 1 000 mg

Good to know

  • Never take more than the recommended daily limit of any vitamin unless your doctor gives you the okay.
  • Your diet should give you enough vitamins, so try to get your daily doses from food first.
  • If you’re taking supplements to make up a deficiency, tell your doctor immediately if you feel any side-effects.
  • A multivitamin has a lower risk of hypervitaminosis than single vitamin supplements.

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