Lots of people take supplements. They can help resolve a nutrient deficiency, improve athletic performance or reduce symptoms of a health issue.
However, just because supplements contain nutrients that our bodies need to function, it does not mean they cannot be dangerous. It’s very important for people who take vitamin and nutritional supplements to read the directions carefully and only take supplements as instructed. This is largely because taking too many supplements can be a bad thing.
Overdosing on supplements: Getting too much of a good thing
While it’s not very common and somewhat difficult to do, it is possible to take too much of a vitamin or nutrient through supplementation. This is a danger that is almost impossible to experience by only getting nutrients through food.
Some people overdose on supplements because they believe taking larger amounts will help cure whatever ailment they have faster, while others may overdose accidentally.
Taking more than the recommended dose of a particular supplement can cause unwanted side effects and can even be toxic. Always make sure to check the daily dosage limits for your age, height and weight and never take more than what is recommended.
Additionally, you should be wary of mixing daily multivitamins with more specialized supplements. Because multivitamins tend to be formulated to provide a full daily dose of each nutrient, taking another supplement with the same nutrient could lead to accidental overdose.
If you suspect that you’re experiencing an overdose from supplementation, you’ll want to take action immediately. What that action is, however, may differ based on your symptoms.
If you’re experiencing mild symptoms that aren’t life-threatening, discontinue your use of the supplements and monitor your health for a few days to make sure you’re safe. If your symptoms are severe, contact your doctor or go to the hospital to seek medical treatment. Be prepared to provide information about which supplements you take and in what dosage.
Side effects of supplement overdose
Different vitamins and nutrients can cause different symptoms in the event of an overdose. It’s important to recognize the signs so you’re able to safely stop overdosing and seek medical treatment, when necessary.
Here are some of the most common supplement overdoses and their symptoms.
- Vitamin A: Overdosing on vitamin A can actually lead to serious long-term health problems like headaches, irritability and even liver disease. In the short term, vitamin A overdoses may cause less noticeable symptoms like dry skin and hair loss.
- B vitamins: The group of eight B vitamins help perform many functions throughout the body, but toxic levels of each can cause problems, as well. For example, too much B6 is known to potentially cause nerve damage, and overdosing on B3 may cause liver toxicity, jaundice and nausea.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps the body heal, in addition to a growing list of benefits. However, taking too much can make you feel ill, causing stomach cramping and diarrhea.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is often taken by people who need to strengthen their bones to prevent osteoporosis and may also be taken by people who live in climates without a lot of sunshine. Overdosing on vitamin D is quite rare, but if it occurs, it could cause damage to the kidneys and heart by raising the levels of calcium in your blood. In the short term, too much vitamin D can lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Iron: Iron overdoses can be very dangerous for both adults and children. Iron is important for red blood cell function, but taking too much may cause gastrointestinal upset, nausea, dehydration, dizziness, headaches, low blood pressure and fevers and can even be fatal.
- Athletic performance supplements: Many athletes are used to taking creatine, an amino acid that helps build muscles, as well as other supplements like pre-workout, which can contain caffeine. While these supplements may be useful in improving performance and physical results, it’s possible to take too much. Overdosing on creatine can lead to stomach upset, dizziness and high blood pressure. Taking too much of a caffeinated supplement like pre-workout can also cause overdose symptoms related to caffeine, such as headaches, shakiness, nausea and restlessness.
The risks can be severe if you’re consistently taking “mega-doses” of supplements. For this reason, pay close attention to the recommended daily intake levels, as well as the upper limits for each supplement you take. Also be sure to speak with your doctor before beginning a new supplement to ensure it will not interact with other medications or cause health problems.