We all know that the right intake of vitamins is crucial for health and fitness. But if you have ever taken a vitamin supplement you might have asked yourself: Can you take too much of them or even overdose?
The answer is a clear yes, but since they are not all equally processed by the body you are more likely to overdose on some than others.
There are some vitamins that are easily stored in the body, and if you consume too much of them you will notice the effects. On the other hand, some vitamins are not stored that easily, and you will just pee out any excess intake.
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Which vitamins are you most likely to overdose?
All vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are processed and stored along with fat, which is also why it makes sense to take them along with a meal.
Your body will then use these stores when it needs them. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, and if you get more of them than you need your body will accumulate them in your fat tissue.
Water-soluble vitamins, which include vitamin C and all the B vitamins, are not so easily stored in the body and therefore if you consume a large amount of them you will usually pee out everything your body doesn’t need.
That’s why it’s a lot more common to overdose on fat-soluble vitamins than on water-soluble vitamins (with a few exceptions, which I will get into in a second).
So, what are the symptoms of a vitamin overdose?
This really depends on the individual vitamin, which is why I want to present you the most important ones now. Let’s start with vitamin A.
Vitamin A Overdose
Usually, a vitamin A overdose happen slowly and over time. Some initial signs include dry skin, hair loss and cracked lips. If you keep going, you would experience irritability, headache and your liver would start to suffer. Now, if for some weird reason you took a huge amount of vitamin A, there is such a thing as an acute vitamin A overdose.
Here, symptoms would be very severe and you would start puking, your head would hurt like crazy and you could potentially die. But don’t worry, the only time this could happen besides excessive supplementation, would be if you ate the liver of certain animals – including the polar bear or walrus – which you probably won’t eat unless you are an Eskimo.
Vitamin B Overdose
Next on the list are the B vitamins. Even though they are water soluble, a few of them can be problematic in large amounts. For example, a vitamin B6 overdose can cause nerve damage, too much B3 can lead to nausea and too much folic acid (or vitamin b9) can cause breathing problems.
Vitamin D Overdose
Then we have vitamin D. Overdoses on vitamin D are extremely rare, especially because most of us are actually deficient in it, but it’s still possible.
Too much vitamin D can cause acute vomiting and diarrhea and if taken over longer periods of time you can run into kidneys and heart problems. But we are talking about doses of around 50,000 IU per day here. This is more than 20 times what your usual vitamin D supplement will have.
The Real Danger – Iron Overdose
Now that we went through the most important overdoses of vitamins, there is one mineral I have to talk about because unlike most vitamin overdoses this one is actually pretty common.
Probably the most widely known and the most dangerous overdose is an iron overdose. Of course, the body needs iron for the production of red blood cells, but an iron overdose can actually kill you. It doesn’t happen often in adults, but for young children and infants it’s a problem.
That’s because iron is one of the few minerals we cannot eliminate unless we lose blood. So excessive supplementation will lead to accumulations in the body.
Of course, all this is not meant to scare you. As with everything in nutrition, there is a fine line between the ideal dose and too much or too little. Supplements can really increase your quality of life and are an important part of a well-rounded diet.
But since there is a fine line between taking the right amount for your health and taking too much, your best bet is to go see a doctor and get your levels checked. Don’t just buy something and take massive amounts of it, before talking to a specialist.