The Dangers of Taking Too Many Supplements

Taking too many vitamins, minerals and supplements can be hazardous to your health. While many people safely consume vitamin supplements on a daily basis, it is possible to take too high a dose, which can cause adverse side effects. Overdosing on certain vitamins can cause serious complications and, in rare circumstances, even death. Too much vitamin C or zinc could cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Too much selenium could cause hair loss, gastrointestinal discomfort, fatigue, and mild nerve damage. If people choose to take a multivitamin, it's best to look for one that doesn't exceed 100% of the daily value of any nutrient and avoid spending a lot of money, Kitchin said. “There's no solid evidence that it will help you, but as long as you keep a reasonable dose, it won't hurt either,” Kitchin said. Vitamins and minerals are essential for good health, but a person can drink too much. Just as a person can eat too much sugar or drink excessive amounts of water, a person can also take too many supplements. For example, high doses of vitamin B could cause hip fractures, study finds.

People should always check the dosage of each supplement they take. The first sign that you've taken too many vitamins or supplements is usually gastrointestinal. You may experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. It may mean that you've taken a vitamin on an empty stomach that is better tolerated with food, or that you're taking more supplements than your body should handle. To be safe, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new vitamin or supplement regimen.

Niacin (vitamin B) blush is uncomfortable, but only lasts 2 to 8 hours. Vitamins A and D can cause symptoms when taken in large doses every day, but a single large dose of these vitamins is rarely harmful. B vitamins usually don't cause symptoms. Once the human body uses the vitamins and minerals it needs, the rest is excreted or stored. Once you know what you need most, the next logical step is to add vitamin supplements to your daily routine.

Supplements have labels that indicate how much of a recommended dietary dose needed, so that's where you can fill the gap, said Dr. Bailey says, adding that targeting 100 percent is a good barometer to follow. The problem arises when the percentage is not tracked. So what's the first physical indicator that you're getting too much of something? Dr. Bailey says that each nutrient has different warning signs, but the Office of Dietary Supplements, which is connected to the National Institute of Health, has some pretty surprising fact sheets that describe everything in great detail. Supplements can also interact with each other, Kitchin said, or with medications you're already taking.

Any ingredient in a multiple vitamin supplement can be toxic in large amounts, but the most serious risk comes from iron or calcium. Last spring, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) officially recommended not taking vitamin E or beta-carotene supplements, claiming that they could increase cancer risk or poor heart disease outcomes. But if your gut works well and you're following a balanced diet, you're probably getting all the nutrients your body needs and shouldn't have to take a supplement. If you're vegan or vegetarian and don't eat animal products, you need a vitamin B12 supplement, which you can only find in animal products. Dr. Bailey says that the key is to check the recommended daily allowance percentages in the different supplements you take; if your diet is quite healthy, there's usually no reason for the total to exceed 100 percent.

If your nutrition is poor or you have a condition or illness that prevents your body from absorbing certain nutrients, then yes, you need to take supplements. As a natural progression of aging, the kidneys do not filter as well so it would not be advisable to take more than the recommended daily amount of dietary supplements. Jenkins also said that when taken in moderation most vitamin and mineral supplements do no harm. Talk to your doctor about any supplements you're taking including vitamins and minerals and also about the dose you're taking. However in recent years many scientists have changed their recommendations as some studies show no evidence that the most popular supplements have real health benefits. Even if none of your separate supplements exceed the upper limit of a given nutrient the combination of several pills such as a multivitamin and an additional vitamin D capsule for example can result in higher doses than recommended. It's not difficult to consume more than 1 000 micrograms of folic acid a day (the safe maximum limit for adults) from fortified foods and supplements on a regular basis.

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