Vitamin D, an essential vitamin helps maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in the body. There are five forms of vitamin D - D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5. But only two forms, D2, which is obtained from plant products and D3, which is obtained from early morning exposure to sunlight and from certain food products, are used in human nutritional supplements. Let us discuss the importance and sources of this vital vitamin, at the same time concentrating on the negative effects of excess of this vitamin in the body.
Importance of Vitamin D
This vitamin helps in the proper growth and development of bones. It helps in the absorption of calcium and as well as regulates the proper functioning of the nervous system. Higher intake helps lower the risk of cancers such as prostate cancer, breast cancer and cancer of the colon. Supplements can also be taken by pregnant women as it aids in the proper development and bone growth of the fetus.
Vitamin D is mainly absorbed from early morning sunlight and then metabolized in the body. Other sources are dairy products like cheese, butter, fortified milk and milk cream. It is also found in fish, oysters and fish oils like cod liver oil. Doctors around the globe recommend the inclusion of foods that are rich sources of this vitamin so that you can reap maximum benefits in terms of overall health.
Side Effects of Too Much Vitamin D
Consumption of the right amount is beneficial to the body but exceeding the dosage can have some unwanted effects on the overall health of an individual. The recommended amount for a child above one year of age is 2000 IU (International Unit, used for vitamins). It should not exceed 10,000 IU. An indiscriminate consumption of these supplements can lead to hyper-calcemia, otherwise known as hypervitaminosis D which is an increase in the amount of calcium in your blood. Bone loss is one of the symptoms of an overdose.
Effect on Kidneys
Kidney stones and calcification of the soft tissues can be caused due to an excess of this essential vitamin in the body. There can be calcium deposits in the body, particularly affecting the kidney. Excess vitamin D can cause kidney stones which may further lead to renal or kidney failure. It may also be one of the reasons for excessive urine production.
Effect on the Heart and Cardiovascular System
Higher levels of calcium in the blood stream can cause heart rhythm abnormalities and heart murmurs. Too much vitamin D can make the intestines absorb too much calcium. This may lead to high levels of calcium in the blood. Rising levels of calcium in blood can lead to calcium deposits in the heart and lungs. Calcium deposits can block the entire cardiovascular system and the arteries which may lead to high blood pressure and cardiac arrest. Calcium deposits on lungs can reduce their ability to function properly.
Effect during Pregnancy
Consuming Vitamin D, above the recommended dose, during pregnancy may increase the level of calcium in the blood stream which may lead to mental disability and physical disabilities like malformation of the bone structure in the fetus. Excessive intake can also cause some congenital birth defects.
Effect on Lactating Mothers
Lactating or nursing mothers must also avoid over consumption of vitamin D as it may suppress the functioning of the parathyroid gland in the newborn which may lead to seizures, hypocalcemia, and tetany.
Apart from the above-mentioned effects, an excess of this essential vitamin can also have a few other effects on the overall health of an individual. The side effects include nausea induced vomiting, low appetite, indiscriminate weight loss, moderate to intense headaches, muscle weakness, excessive thirst etc.
Vitamin D is an essential ingredient of a balanced diet, but excess of this sunshine vitamin can be bad for your health. So take care that you have it in the right amounts and always consult your physician before taking any vitamin supplements. Take care!