Taking too many vitamin D supplements? Ataxia may occur – what are the signs?

Lorraine: Dr Amir says spine could shrink if deficient in vitamin D

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You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, though you can from supplements. If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people, according to the NHS. You should not take more than 100 micrograms of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.

The Cleveland Clinic says ataxia, a neurological condition that may cause slurring of words and stumbling, is a sign of having taken too many vitamin D supplements.

Nonetheless, vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to neurological diseases and neuropsychological disorders, cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative disease.

The organisation says: “Do not take higher-than-recommended doses of vitamin D without first discussing it with your doctor.

“However, your doctor might recommend higher doses of vitamin D if he or she is checking your blood levels and adjusting your dose accordingly.”

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It adds: “Also, be cautious about getting large doses of vitamin A along with the D in some fish oils. Vitamin A can also reach toxic levels and can cause serious problems.”

The NHS says taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body which can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.

If you exceed the upper limit it can lead to feelings of nausea. Other signs you have taken too much include vomiting, muscle weakness, and loss of appetite.

The Mayo Clinic says: “Vitamin D toxicity, also called hypervitaminosis D, is a rare but potentially serious condition that occurs when you have excessive amounts of vitamin D in your body.

“Vitamin D toxicity is usually caused by large doses of vitamin D supplements — not by diet or sun exposure. That’s because your body regulates the amount of vitamin D produced by sun exposure, and even fortified foods don’t contain large amounts of vitamin D.”

The NHS says there are also symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency.

The health body says that these can include muscle aches and weakness, a waddling gait, chronic widespread pain, or bone pain in the lower back, pelvis and foot.

The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors, so the winter may be a time when vitamin D deficiency is more common.

In the summer months, the majority of the population will get enough vitamin D through exposure to sunlight and a healthy, balanced diet.

Between October and early March the NHS says we do not make enough vitamin D from sunlight, so you need to get vitamin D from your diet.

Around 20 percent of adults may have low vitamin D status, and there are several main risk factors for vitamin D deficiency.

If you or someone you care for is in a higher risk group they may need to take vitamin D supplements.

Dietary vitamin D is available in foods such as oily fish, cod liver oil, red meat, fortified cereals, fortified margarine/spreads and egg yolks.

In the UK, milk is not fortified with vitamin D, so dairy products contain only small amounts of vitamin D.

“There is currently not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D solely to prevent or treat COVID-19,” the NHS says.

In April 2020, the NHS issued a statement, based on recommendations from Public Health England (PHE), that we should all consider taking 10 mcg/day vitamin D as a supplement, to keep our bones and muscles healthy.

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