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Can You Overdose on Vitamin C?

When a person takes more than the suggested dose of vitamin C, they may experience mild digestive irritations. These can appear if the vitamin C that the body does not absorb irritates the gastrointestinal tract. Typical mild side effects of too much vitamin C include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, stomach cramps, headache, dental erosion, hemochromatosis (iron overload), and renal failure.

In this article, we have gathered valuable information on vitamin C, the side effects of increased intake of this vitamin (also known as vitamin C overdose), what are the symptoms and signs of a vitamin C deficiency, how this medical condition can be treated, and what is the suggested vitamin C intake per day.

WHAT IS VITAMIN C?

Vitamin C Mandarin LemonAscorbic acid, also known under the name vitamin C is a water-soluble essential nutrient found in some foods (fruits and vegetables) that we ingest but it can also be consumed as a supplement. In the body, it acts as a potent antioxidant, and its most important role is to help to protect cells from the harm caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy our bodies use daily.

DIARRHEA AND VITAMIN C OVERDOSE

Vitamin C tabletsIn a study by Johnston CS under the title “Biomarkers for establishing a tolerable upper intake level for vitamin C” it is acknowledged that vitamin C is very safe, although at more increased doses that goes between 2000 mg and 6000 mg per day, might cause diarrhoea. This side effect does not occur from eating foods (fruits and vegetables) that contain vitamin C, but rather from taking the vitamin in supplement form. Diarrhoea is usually followed by other mild discomforts such as stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.

HEADACHE AND VITAMIN C OVERDOSE

Headache from Vitamin CHeadache might come as a result of OD on vitamin C. Too much of vitamin C can cause unpleasant symptoms if a person takes too much of it per day. If your diet is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, you are more likely to consume the proper amount of this vitamin. In case you are taking vitamin supplements as an addition to your nutrition – you can overdose on vitamin C and experience an unwanted headache.

DENTAL EROSION AND VITAMIN C OVERDOSE
Dental erosion lemon

The loss of the surface of your teeth due to acids you drink and eat, or acids coming up from your abdomen is a medical condition known under the name dental erosion. In a study by Li H, Zou Y, Ding G. under the title “Dietary factors associated with dental erosion: a meta-analysis”, it is proven that high intake of vitamin C, in the form of chewable tablets, can cause an increased risk of dental erosion. To avoid tooth enamel damage, you may consider taking your vitamin C in the pill form. This way, you can still enjoy all the benefits of this vitamin and save your teeth.

HEMOCHROMATOSIS AND VITAMIN C OVERDOSE

Hemochromatosis is a disorder where too much iron builds up in your body. This medical condition is sometimes called iron overload. There are two types of this condition – primary hemochromatosis and secondary hemochromatosis. Since vitamin C improves iron absorption, ingesting too much of it might be a problem for people with conditions that lead to iron accumulation in the body.

Before understanding how vitamin C can lead to iron overload, it is necessary to acknowledge the vitamin C binding mechanism. This vitamin binds to non-heme iron, making it much easy for your body to absorb it. Individuals with conditions that increase the risk of iron accumulation in the body, such as hemochromatosis, should be careful with vitamin C supplements because caution may reduce the risk of iron overload in the body.

RENAL FAILURE AND VITAMIN C OVERDOSE
Renal problems with vitamin C

Renal failure is a medical condition in which the kidneys stop functioning, and are unable to remove waste or extra water from the blood or keep body chemicals in balance. This condition occurs suddenly, usually after an injury, and it can be treated and cured. In a study by Baxmann AC, De O G Mendonça C, Heilberg IP. under the title “Effect of vitamin C supplements on urinary oxalate and pH in calcium stone-forming patients” it has been acknowledged that clinical usage of intravenous vitamin C has resulted in renal oxalate nephropathy, which results in the development of reversible tubulointerstitial nephritis and possible renal failure.

VITAMIN C DEFICIENCY

Vitamin C deficiency is a lack of vitamin C in our bodies. In a study by Fabrizio Galimberti and Natasha Atanaskova Mesinkovska under the title “Skin findings associated with nutritional deficiencies” it has been suggested that the most common risk factors for vitamin C deficiency are smoking, alcoholism, anorexia, severe mental illness, and dialysis. Symptoms of extreme vitamin C deficiency can take months to develop, and before they occur body will give you hints and signs that something unusual is happening.

Some of the most typical signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency are poor immunity, unexplained weight gain, chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, weak bones, dry and damaged skin, and easy bruising. The treatment for vitamin C deficiency is to add the vitamin C that is lacking in your diet. You might consider taking vitamin C supplements that come in a form of a pill and consuming Vitamin C rich food such as fruits and vegetables more often. You can expect the first positive results after seven to fourteen days.

HOW MUCH VITAMIN C CAN YOU TAKE PER DAY?

The suggested amount of vitamin C for healthy individuals is 75 mg per day for women, and 90 mg per day for men. Recommended daily intake of vitamin C for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding goes between 100 mg and 120 mg. For adults, the tolerable upper intake level is 2000 mg of vitamin C per day. It should be acknowledged that patients with chronic liver or kidney medical conditions should limit their vitamin C intake to less than 1000 mg per day.

Allison King
Allison King
Allison holds a PhD in Biology specializing in cell and molecular biology and undergraduate degree in biochemistry with a minor in theoretical physics. She has taught at four universities in Eastern Canada and currently consults masters and doctoral students. She believes that peer-reviewed scientific research is the best source when looking for information on a given subject. Allison also lives a healthy vegetarian lifestyle and enjoys competing in various races including half marathons and triathlons.