We all know that having vitamins and minerals in our diets daily is essential for living a healthy life. But did you know that you can take too many vitamins to a point of toxicity in your body? I learned this at school but never thought I would ever reach those levels. I mean they are vitamins, the essential ingredient to everyday life, they can’t hurt me right? I learned this the hard way.
To give you a bit of a background, I have celiac disease and have known for just over 3 years. The biggest thing with celiac disease is it can cause malnutrition in the body due to the decreased absorption rate in the small intestine. However, once your small intestine starts to heal on a gluten free diet, you start to be able to absorb nutrients at a regular rate. I did not keep this in mind when I went through my most recent diet venture. I get my blood tested every three months to check TTG levels (celiac test) and iron levels. I have not been able to decrease my TTG levels and my iron keeps fluctuating. My most recent test came back, and yet again, my TTG was up a level and my iron had dropped significantly. I have been keeping an eye on this for the past two years and the TTG is always high (when it should be low) and the iron is always going up or down but never out of the iron deficiency range. Point of my story, this is what drove me to do what I have now done.
When I was first diagnosed I went on a paleo based diet called the hypoallergenic diet, where you cut out processed foods, dairy, certain meats and refined sugars along with caffeine, we temporarily cut out grains as well considering my condition. You can however eat certain fish and meat, fruit, vegetables, some starches, nuts and seeds and natural sugars. Along with this diet I took a nutrition powder to help boost my vitamin and mineral levels, I only took one scoop of it a day for a month. I tell you, I felt better then I have in years while on this diet. It all started going downhill when I started eating processed foods and going out to eat again. I had the brilliant idea, let’s do this diet again and fix my blood levels once and for all.
I’m not sure if it was because I was so motivated to feel better or that I had the thought that I could not be taking too many vitamins because I still have active celiac disease, but I made a big mistake that I thankfully caught quickly.
I started the diet just over a week ago, and I started to feel good, then I got a lot worse. I started to have symptoms of being tired, bloated, gas, sharp abdominal pains, hair felt brittle and was falling out some, I became constipated, was not sleeping well, and just in the last day and a half (brace yourself, this is a bit gross) I have been having mushy, yellowish, foul smelling stool that sticks to the toilet bowl. Now I have seen this before because the same thing can happen with someone who has celiac disease, but I know I have not eaten gluten lately so this is what started to make me question the last week. Keeping in mind the change in diet could be a factor as well, but the last day and a half I have not taken any supplements (other then a digestive enzyme before meals and a probiotic at night) and continued with the same diet and my digestion has improved, no sharp pains or bloating and bowel movements are becoming normal.
Over the last 9 days, I was taking the nutritional powder supplement twice a day, a multivitamin, an iron supplement, vitamin D, and biotin…now that I look back at this; past Lauren; you were taking way too many vitamins! I guess I was just thinking, “it can’t hurt right?”
Recommended Dietary Allowance / Adequate Intake / Tolerable Upper Intake Level: What does this all mean?
The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) and the AI (Adequate Intake) are the amounts of vitamins and minerals you need to keep healthy and nourished. They’re tailored to specific ages of women and men.
The UL (Tolerable Upper Intake Level) is the maximum amount of daily vitamins and minerals that you can safely take without risk of an overdose or serious side effects.
How Much Is Too Much?
Take a look at the UL (tolerable upper intake level), and do not exceed it. “There are some vitamins and minerals that you can safely take a dose much higher then the RDA or DV without coming close to the UL” WebMD. “With some vitamins and minerals, the upper limit is pretty close to the RDA. So it’s easy to get too much. For example, a man who takes just over three times the RDA of vitamin A would get more than the upper limit. High doses of vitamin A — and other fat-soluble vitamins like E and K — can build up in the body and become toxic. Other risky supplements include the minerals iron and selenium” WebMD. Personally, I would not exceed the RDA and not go near the UL to play it safe.
For an example of the possible symptoms, here is a quote from one of WebMD’s articles: “Too much vitamin C or zinc could cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Too much selenium could lead to hair loss, gastrointestinal upset, fatigue, and mild nerve damage.”
An Important Message: Supplements are designed to be an addition to your everyday diet. You should be getting as many nutrients from the food you eat as you can so you do not have to take a supplement. Supplements should only be an addition to your everyday routine if you are not getting certain vitamins and minerals naturally from the food you eat. You should eat a well balanced diet and only take supplements to fill the nutritional gaps. Following a whole food diet will be sufficient enough for most people without having to resort to an expensive supplement that you will essentially be peeing away. However, in some cases supplements are necessary, for example, malnutrition from celiac disease or iron deficiency. But even in those cases you should just take them to a point that the nutrients you were missing are now level. After they become level, stop taking the supplement and continue getting it from it’s natural food sources. The end goal is to always get you off of supplements for the long-term, or until they are needed again.
So, just how many vitamins was I taking?
First things first, there are water-soluble vitamins (they dissolve in water) and fat-soluble vitamins (do not dissolve in water). Water-soluble vitamins are readily excreted from the body, while fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in tissues. Fat-soluble vitamins are more likely to cause toxicity, although water-soluble vitamins can do so as well.
|Fat-Soluble||What I consumed||RDA||UL|
|Vitamin A||1355 mcg||700 mcg RAE||3000 mcg|
|Vitamin D||50-75 mcg||15 mcg||100 mcg|
|Vitamin E||117.3 MG||15 MG||1000 MG|
|Vitamin K||0||90 mcg||N/A|
The following water-soluble vitamins have set ULs, as they can cause adverse side effects when taken in high doses:
|Water-Soluble||What I consumed||RDA||UL|
|Vitamin C||625 MG||75 MG||2000 MG|
|Vitamin B3 (niacin)||38 MG||14 MG||35 MG|
|Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)||45 MG||1.3 MG||100 MG|
|Vitamin B9 (folate)||2550 mcg||400 mcg||1000 mcg|
|Mineral||What I consumed||RDA||UL|
|Selenium||270 mcg||55 mcg||400 mcg|
|Zinc||50 MG||8 MG||40 MG|
|Iron||63 MG||18 MG||45 MG|
The calculations above are some of the vitamins and minerals that can potentially cause damage in the body, I was taking everyday for 9 days. I went just a bit over or WAY over the RDA and just a few I went over the UL. After researching the side effects of taking too many of just these vitamins, it explains why I was getting the symptoms I was the last few days. This is not even including the vitamins and minerals I was getting from the food I was eating. Moral of the story, do not take over the RDA of vitamins and minerals in a day (again, unless your doctor has told you so for deficiency reasons).
What have I learned?
- Your multivitamin may have more then the RDA of a vitamin or a mineral within it. Which means, if it is a water-soluble vitamin, you are just peeing the unneeded amount out. They can potentially be a waste of money, unless you are deficient in that vitamin or mineral, your body will soak up all it needs in that case.
- Harmful symptoms can occur if you take too many vitamins and minerals everyday, and it may hit you by about day 3 or 4, and just get worse as you continue to take them.
- Unless you have a deficiency in a vitamin or a mineral, or have an underlying condition that is preventing you from absorbing the correct nutrients from your diet (like say celiac disease), taking a multivitamin everyday may be a waste of money as most of the nutrients and your money will be going down the toilet.
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