Photo credit by Michel Brouwers
Vitamin poisoning is a little-known but very serious danger, especially if you have small children in your household, but also for adults who have the mindset that more is better. The truth is, there is such a thing as too many vitamins, and it can cause serious health problems, even death, in the form of vitamin poisoning. Following is an explanation of vitamin poisoning and what you can do to prevent or treat this problem.
Vitamin poisoning, which is also sometimes referred to as vitamin overdose or hypervitaminosis, refers to literally being poisoned by excessive levels of vitamins in your body, whether it's caused by overdose or storing too many of them over the long term. Anything at excessive levels is not good for your body, even water—there is a very serious condition called water intoxication that can cause death if you drink very excessive amounts of water all at once. Vitamin poisoning is similar, although the effects vary depending upon which vitamin you're taking and your own body chemistry. For example, excessive amounts of vitamin C may merely cause diarrhea, while extremely large doses of folate can cause kidney damage, and an overdose of multi-vitamins containing minerals such as iron can cause actual death. This problem was more prevalent in children, who were attracted to the multi-vitamins that were sweetened and packaged to be appealing like candy. Fortunately, packaging requirements have largely eliminated this problem, though it always pays to be safe and keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
Most vitamin poisoning falls somewhere in between these two extremes, and is caused by either overuse of vitamin supplements in a mistaken belief that if the recommended daily allowance is good, taking five times that is five times better, or having a problem digesting fat soluble vitamins so they build up in the blood. The good news is that the former problem usually disappears shortly after you stop the overuse of the supplements, and the latter problem can be improved by finding different forms of the vitamin that are easier to digest.
Vitamin poisoning symptoms can include joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, mouth tingling, fatigue, headaches, dry skin and hair, brittle nails, double vision, anemia, pernicious anemia, water on the brain, numbness, difficulty walking, kidney or gallbladder stones, skin flushing, or liver damage, depending on the vitamins involved and the amount of the overdose. Obviously, all of these symptoms are also symptoms of many other diseases and disorders, so you shouldn't make an assumption that you have vitamin poisoning unless you're clearly aware that you took gigantic overdoses of a vitamin, but you should mention vitamins when your doctor asks you about any medication you take regularly. A good doctor will recognize the possibility that vitamin poisoning is causing or contributing to your illness and examine you properly in order to rule out or confirm this hypothesis.