Nearly 50,000 instances of vitamin toxicity are reported annually to US poison control centers (Medscape). Fat-soluble vitamins have a higher potential for toxicity than do water-soluble vitamins because of their ability to accumulate in the body. Fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K. The water soluble vitamins are C and B complex (B1,B2, etc.), which are more easily excreted through the urine.
If you suspect vitamin toxicity of any kind, the following are signs and symptoms to look for: abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Specifically for vitamin A, drowsiness, irritability, and vision problems can occur. For vitamin D, bone pain and kidney problems (kidney stones) are common. For vitamin E and K, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, easy bruising, and bleeding are red flags. Water soluble vitamins such as C and B complex in mega-doses can cause excessive thirst and urination, skin conditions, blurry vision, and abdominal cramps.
Of note, iron containing vitamins are the most toxic, especially in children. Iron tablets are particularly tempting to young children because they look like candy. The liver is one of the organs most affected by iron toxicity, but other organs such as the heart, kidneys, lungs, and vessels also may be impaired due to iron deposits. Ingestions exceeding 60 mg/kg of iron can cause severe toxicity and may be lethal (Medscape).
It is important to follow your providers vitamin recommendations, as well as recommended daily allowance (RDA) or daily value (DV) printed in vitamin bottles to avoid vitamin toxicity. Educate yourself on the benefits and limits of vitamins by reading reliable sources. Harvard Health provides a great list of vitamins/minerals along with benefits and cautionary advice. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/listing_of_vitamins
This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.
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April 8, 2023
November 8, 2023