- Everything in moderation, people. Even healthy stuff.
You can absolutely have too much of a good thing. That stand for everything — even the stuff that’s supposed to make us healthier.
A man from the U.K. recently found that out the hard way. For months, he had been struggling with serious health issues and couldn’t figure out why.
When he finally ended up in the hospital, the doctors discovered the reason. The man had been overdosing on vitamin D.
Although we all need vitamin D, the man had been taking enough supplements to surpass the recommended daily amount of the vitamin hundreds of times. He’d also been taking an enormous cocktail of other dietary supplements.
After a stay at a hospital, his condition has slowly returned to almost normal. But he may still have lifelong issues from his supplement abuse.
The man’s case was detailed in the journal BMJ Case Reports. Dr. Alamin Alkundi, a co-author of the study and an endocrinologist at William Harvey Hospital in East Kent, was one of the doctors who treated the man.
According to him, the man got the spark to start taking supplements after hearing a talk show host talk about them on the radio. The apparently impressionable man then contacted a private nutritionist.
But the nutritionist clearly didn’t know what they were doing — or just didn’t care. Nonetheless, based on their recommendations the man got an absolutely insane supplement routine.
For a month, he took more than 20 over-the-counter nutritional supplements. Perhaps the most egregious of them was the amount of vitamin D he was taking on a daily basis.
Just for a reference, the recommended daily dose of vitamin D for healthy adults is 400-800 IU (international units). The man, however, was taking 150,000 IU of the vitamin.
That’s 375 times more than what you should get.
In addition to vitamin D, the man was taking above-recommended doses of omega-3, vitamin K2, and folate, among others.
Body Shutting Down
It probably comes as no surprise that the man’s body simply couldn’t deal with the overabundance of supplements. Within a month of starting the regimen, he developed serious health problems.
The man began vomiting profusely on a regular basis and having bouts of diarrhea. He also suffered from abdominal pain, his legs began to cramp, and his ears rang constantly.
To his credit, the man realized that everything was not right. He promptly stopped taking all the supplements his nutritionist had recommended to him.
Unfortunately, his symptoms didn’t go away. After suffering for three months, the man finally sought medical help.
By the time he got to the hospital, he had lost 28 pounds of weight. He was still spewing out the contents of his guts from both ends and was experiencing a constantly dry mouth.
It’s a good thing the man went to the doctors when he did. Tests showed that his blood contained high levels of serum creatine — a waste product that healthy kidneys filter out completely.
In other words, his kidneys had begun to shut down.
In the end, the man ended up staying at the hospital for eight days. While he rested, the doctors hooked him up to an IV to rehydrate him, and he gradually recovered.
The man has now been released from the hospital. However, the doctors have encouraged him to come back for regular checkups, because it’s unclear if his kidneys will ever be the same.
Although the man was absolutely overdosing on vitamin D, doctors say he shouldn’t have gotten into such a bad condition. Shelby Yaceczko, a clinical dietitian at the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California, said that a vitamin D overdose shouldn’t become toxic in a month.
She told LiveScience that the man may have an underlying medical condition that caused him to retain high levels of vitamin D. That would’ve caused him to get sick quicker than usual.
Nonetheless, this incident highlights two troubling facts. The first is that there’s no regulation as to who can call themselves a “nutritionist.”
The title is unregulated and requires no experience, training, or expertise. Anybody could call themselves a nutritionist and start giving people dietary advice without any clue of what they’re talking about.
And that must’ve clearly been the case here. The “nutritionist” the man saw was either ignorant or neglectful — we can’t decide which is worse.
The second problem is how poorly we regular people understand dietary supplements.
“A common misconception with dietary supplements, including vitamin D, is that if [taking] some is good, then taking more is better,” said Yaceczko.
“Unfortunately, that is not the case. Although it’s important to maintain normal vitamin levels, it’s also very important to avoid taking higher doses than what is considered safe,” she added.
So if you’re thinking of taking some supplements, consult an expert first. And also make the person you talk to is actually qualified to give you recommendations.