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Vitamin C Toxicity - Symptoms, Uses, Side Effects and Precautions

Published on Mar 16, 2022 and last reviewed on Nov 25, 2022   -  3 min read

Abstract

Intake of vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin, is necessary for the body functions. However, higher doses of vitamin C can be fatal. Learn more about vitamin C toxicity.

What Is Vitamin C Toxicity?

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. Vitamin C plays a pivotal role in many body functions such as;

1.Helps in the absorption of iron.

2.Helps in the formation of amino acids, hormones, and collagen.

3.It supports wound healing.

4.It is essential for bone and blood vessel health.

5.It is an antioxidant.

6.It supports the immune system.

Due to all these functions of vitamin C, dietary intake of vitamin C is essential as the body does not produce or store vitamin C. The primary sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, potatoes, and tomatoes. For adults, 75 to 90 mg is the daily recommended dose. The maximum limit is 2000 mg per day. If the intake of vitamin C exceeds the maximum limit, it can be fatal. It can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. Such a condition is known as vitamin C toxicity.

What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin C Toxicity?

When the intake of vitamin C exceeds the maximum limit that is 2000 mg/day, it can cause,

  1. Diarrhea

  2. Nausea and vomiting.

  3. Abdominal cramps.

  4. Insomnia.

  5. Headache.

  6. Fatigue.

  7. Heartburns.

  8. Fever.

  9. It can cause kidney stones, seizures, bone fractures, bleeding through the nose, muscle pain, and weakness in severe toxicity cases.

  10. In some cases, vitamin C is taken in higher doses; for example, for reversing cancer progression, the recommended dosage is 10 g/day in such cases. Such doses can acidify urine, leading to the formation of kidney stones. It may affect our body's antioxidant–prooxidant balance, leading to oxidative stress that can cause cell and tissue damage.

In patients with blood disorders like thalassemia, it can cause iron overload (too much iron in the body).Vitc

The recommended dosage of vitamin C varies among different age groups.

Dosage of Vitamin C

In pregnancy and lactation, the recommended dosage is more. During pregnancy, the recommended dosage is 80 to 85 mg/day and during lactation recommended dosage is 115 to 120 mg/day.

For the infants, the requirement should be met through diet, and individuals who smoke may require 35 mg more of vitamin C than non-smokers daily.

What Are the Severe Side Effects of Vitamin C Toxicity?

Some of the severe side effects of vitamin C toxicity include kidney stones, bone spurs (bony projections that develop along the bone edges), and nutrient imbalance. Excessive vitamin C can also affect the action of the drug Niacin-Simvastatin.

  • Kidney Stones – When there is an excess of vitamin C, it may result in the formation of oxalates and uric acid in the urine leading to kidney stones.

  • Bone Spurs – According to studies the excess vitamin C can be a cause for bone spurs. But when the levels of vitamin C are low, studies say that it can also cause rheumatoid arthritis. So there should be an appropriate supplementation of vitamin C.

  • Nutrient Imbalances – When there is excess vitamin C in the body, it can interfere with the absorption and levels of other nutrients. Excess vitamin C can enhance iron absorption, which is very dangerous in individuals suffering from blood disorders like hemochromatosis. It may also reduce vitamin B-12 absorption.

  • Action on Niacin-Simvastatin– Taking excess vitamin C may affect the body’s ability to produce high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in patients taking the Niacin-Simvastatin combination.

When to See a Doctor?

If you observe any symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, or any other symptoms mentioned above after taking vitamin C supplementations, consult a doctor immediately.

What to Do in Case of Vitamin C Toxicity?

In case of vitamin C toxicity, immediately stop the consumption of vitamin C supplements. Drink lots of water so that excess amounts of vitamin C can be flushed out. Consult your physician immediately if you are on any other medications like Niacin or chemotherapy. For the symptoms like vomiting and nausea, over-the-counter drugs can be taken.

Conclusion:

Vitamin C is essential for the proper functioning of our body. But when taken in excess, it may cause adverse symptoms. In a healthy individual, vitamin C toxicity can be easily managed. There is no chance that you will die from vitamin C toxicity if you are healthy. However, if you are on any other medications, it is always best to seek medical help in case of vitamin C toxicity.

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Last reviewed at:
25 Nov 2022  -  3 min read

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