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What Happens to Your Body When You Take Too Many Supplements

When it comes to health and safety, not all supplements are created equal.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

If you have an active, healthy lifestyle, are supplements really needed—and is it possible to take too many? "From time to time, I encounter a patient who has a laundry list of vitamins they're taking," says Renee Miranda, MD. "The main question I have for them is do they really need to take them? Sometimes people take vitamins out of habit and they aren't even aware if they're helping." Here is what happens to your body when you take too many supplements. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Fat-Soluble Vitamins Can Be Dangerous

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You absolutely can have too much of a good thing, experts say. "There are some supplements that can cause harm, so you have to be aware of what you're taking," says Dr. Miranda. "There are water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins have less tendency to cause harm because we can flush them out of the system with water, while fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed slowly and stored longer. Unless you're working out all the time and using those fat stores, there's more of a chance to build up toxic levels."

2

Be Aware of Unregulated Supplements

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Unregulated supplements are unfortunately common, as they are not subject to the same FDA regulations as drugs and prescription medication. "It's recommended to always talk with your doctor before taking any sort of supplement," explains internal medicine specialist Ronan Factora, MD. "Unregulated supplements can pose a serious risk if taken with other medicine, in excessive amounts or taken for an unconfirmed medical problem."

3

Say No To Gummy Vitamins

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Not only are gummy vitamins not as effective as some traditional vitamins, they can contain up to 8 grams of sugar per serving. "Gummy vitamins actually have fewer vitamins and minerals than regular vitamins," says primary care specialist Neha Vyas, MD, who warns that gummies are less shelf-stable and lose their potency. "Even if the label says it has a certain amount of vitamins, in reality you're probably not getting what's on the label… There's a lot of sugar in them, as you can imagine. You're pretty much taking a sugar pill."

4

Watch Out for Vitamin K and B6

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"Vitamin K, which is found in leafy greens, plays a role in your body's blood clotting process. People who are on blood thinners need to have stable vitamin K levels. A sudden increase in vitamin K through diet or a supplement can decrease the effectiveness of blood thinners," warns Dr Miranda. "We also need to keep an eye on vitamin B6. Too much vitamin B6 may cause neurological symptoms, like tingling in the feet and numbness."

5

Supplements Can Interfere With Prescription Medication

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"Garlic, ginger or ginkgo extracts could potentially interact with blood thinners and increase the risk of bleeding," says Dr. Factora. "And St. John's Wort is commonly taken for depression, but it can interact with other antidepressants being taken at the same time. Speaking with your doctor can help determine potential interactions. Often, asking the pharmacist about any specific concerns you have about a new supplement is worthwhile, too. It's always better to be safe than sorry."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more