“Take your vitamins” is a mantra we’ve heard or said a million times. “They’re good for you.” While, yes, they can be helpful, not all good things are created equal. There are downfalls or potential risks of taking over-the-counter vitamins. Overdosing of vitamins is a real concern, as some studies suggest that when taken in excess, vitamins that contain antioxidants can be incredibly harmful.

It seems that everything we eat or drink claims to have added vitamins and minerals. Many people buy them for those perceived added benefits, but if you don’t need the extra vitamins and minerals, they can become problematic and potentially contribute to some health problems. These added supplements are only helpful for people with poor diets or those who don’t get the recommended daily doses of vitamins and minerals.

What are some of the harmful effects of too many vitamins and minerals?

Too much vitamin C or zinc can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. Hair loss can be directly attributed to consuming too much selenium. It also causes gastrointestinal upset, fatigue, and, possibly, mild nerve damage.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t consume foods or beverages containing added nutrients but doing so in combination with daily supplements can lead to potential issues. It’s quite difficult to consume too much of most nutrients and vitamins from foods or drinks alone. It’s the “added” supplements that can wreak havoc of your system.

The term hypervitaminosis A is more commonly known as vitamin A toxicity, meaning too much vitamin A is stored in the system. Symptoms include vision changes, bone pain, skin color changes, and rashes. If left untreated, it can lead to liver damage and increased pressure on the brain.

Hypervitaminosis D is rare but can be potentially fatal.

If you consume too much vitamin D, it creates a buildup of calcium in your blood. This buildup can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination. Symptoms may progress to bone pain and kidney problems such as the formation of calcium stones. If left untreated, any of these conditions can be fatal.

Healthy foods containing vitamin D.

It occurs when you consume mega-doses of vitamin D supplements. Anyone taking vitamin D supplements, either prescribed by a physician or on their own, should have their blood monitored to ensure they don’t go over the recommended dietary allowance for adults. Large doses may be prescribed but only for people with certain conditions and with close monitoring by a medical professional. Your body naturally regulates the amount of vitamin D produced by sun exposure and fortified foods don’t contain large amounts of vitamin D, so those sources do not cause a threat.

Before you begin taking any supplements, you should consult with your doctor and/or a nutritionist to ensure you don’t go over your recommended daily allowance and to avoid any potential problems or contraindications with medications you may already take.

By Carolina Portes