Vitamins are tiny, organic substances necessary for life. But like anything else, you can get too much of a good thing. Read and heed the safety guidelines below, from vitamin and supplement experts.
- ACIDOPHILLUS. Take with food. If you have any serious gastrointestinal problems that require medical attention, check with your doctor before taking. Amounts exceeding 10 billion viable L. acidophilus organisms daily may cause mild gastrointestinal distress.
- AMINO ACIDS. Don’t take amino acids without a doctor’s guidance. The use of individual amino acids in large doses is considered experimental, and the long-term effects on health are unknown. Phenylalanine supplements can raise high blood pressure to dangerous levels, especially in people taking MAO inhibitors as antidepressants. Do not take phenylalanine if you have phenylketonuria.
- CALCIUM. Doses above 2,500 mg must be taken under medical supervision.
- FIBER. Do not take if you have trouble swallowing. Talk to your doctor before taking, especially if you have diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, or any other serious gastrointestinal disorder or if you are taking any medications. May cause bloating or constipation. Do not take with food; always drink at least 8 oz of water for each tablespoon of fiber that you take.
- LECITHIN. Large doses of lecithin may cause upset stomach, sweating, salivation, and loss of appetite.
- MAGNESIUM. People with heart or kidney problems should check with their physicians before taking supplemental magnesium as it may cause diarrhea.
- MANGANESE. Talk with your physician before taking supplements above 10 mg per day.
- MELATONIN. Take no more than 1 mg daily. Causes drowsiness; take only at bedtime and never before driving. Do not use if you have an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, or a personal or family history of a hormone-dependent cancer such as breast, testicular, prostate or endometrial cancer. Consult your doctor before using if you’re on a prescription medication; rarely, interactions may occur. Do not take if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, and do not give it to children. May cause headaches, morning dizziness, daytime sleepiness, depression, and upset stomach. As a sleep aid, take ½ hour before bedtime.
- NIACIN. Doses above 35 mg must be taken under medical supervision. Excess niacin can cause flushing, itching, and other symptoms.
- OMEGA-3 AND -6 FATTY ACIDS. Increases bleeding time, possibly resulting in nosebleeds and easy bruising, and may cause upset stomach. Do not take if you have a bleeding disorder or uncontrolled high blood pressure, if you take anticoagulants or use aspirin regularly, or if you are allergic to any kind of fish. Take fish oil, not fish-liver oil, which is high in vitamins A and D – toxic in high amounts. People with diabetes should not take fish oil since it has a high fat content.
- PHOSPHORUS. Talk with your doctor before taking more than 3,000 mg per day.
- POTASSIUM. Talk with your doctor before supplementing.
- SELENIUM. Doses above 200 mcg must be taken under medical supervision.
- THIAMIN. No known toxicity from oral doses; few, if any, undesirable side effects.
- VITAMIN A. Doses above 10,000 IU must be taken under medical supervision. Because of the risk of birth defects, pregnant women should avoid vitamin A in doses of 5,000 IU or more.
- VITAMIN B6. Doses above 100 mg must be taken under medical supervision. Excess vitamin B6 can cause sensory neuropathy with pain, numbness, and weakness in the limbs.
- VITAMIN C. Excess vitamin C may cause diarrhea in some people.
- VITAMIN D. Doses above 2,000 IU must be taken under medical supervision.
- VITAMIN E. If you are considering taking amounts above 400 IU, discuss this with your physician first. One study using low-dose supplements showed increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
- VITAMIN K. Talk with your doctor before supplementing.
- ZINC. Doses above 30 mg must be taken under medical supervision.
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