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Vitamin imbalance

Category: Illness or disabilities



Introduction and description


Vitamins are naturally occurring chemicals found in plants and in animals, that are an essential nutrient for an organism.  By convention the term vitamin does not include other essential nutrients, such as

  • Minerals - eg potassium, selenium, calcium etc
  • Essential fatty acids and
  • Essential amino acids.

An organic chemical compound (or related set of compounds) is called a vitamin when the organism cannot synthesize the compound in sufficient quantities itself, and it must be obtained through the diet.  The term vitamin is conditional upon the particular organism. For example, ascorbic acid (one form of vitamin C) is a vitamin for humans, but not for most other animals.  

Thirteen vitamins are universally recognized at present, we have an entry for each one describing sources in food and the detailed effects of deficiency or overdose .  This section, however, deals with some more general issues.

Imbalance describes either a deficiency or an overdose.  The correct term for a deficiency of vitamins is Hypovitaminosis.  The term used for an overdose is Hypervitaminosis


Vitamins are classified as either

  • Water-soluble – there are 9 water-soluble vitamins – the 8 B vitamins and vitamin C. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve easily in water and, in general, are readily excreted from the body, to the degree that urinary output is a strong predictor of vitamin consumption.  It is thus largely impossible to overdose on water soluble vitamins unless one is very dehydrated, but it is possible - especially if one is a constant obsessive water and tea drinker - to be deficient in the water soluble vitamins
  • Fat-soluble – there are 4 fat-soluble vitamins - A, D, E, and K.  Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of lipids (fats). Because they are more likely to accumulate in the body, they are more likely to lead to hypervitaminosis than are water-soluble vitamins.   Overdosing on fat soluble vitamins is thus all too easy and dangerous.  But this is only true if the intestinal flora has not been compromised.  Antibiotics and a number of other pharmaceuticals severely compromise intestinal flora as such it is possible for a person to be deficient in fat soluble vitamins if they are taking pharmaceuticals, particularly those unwise enough to take ‘lipid lowering medication’ - statins.  Cystic fibrosis patients, for example, may suffer for this reason.  People on low fat diets may also be at risk.

The body is a system, as such although vitamins are often classified by their biological role, the complex processes that take place within the body mean that it is almost impossible to describe all the effects any one vitamin has.  Furthermore, imbalance in one vitamin may cause a knock on effect causing an imbalance in another vitamin or mineral, for example:

A patient hospitalized with hypercalcemia …. was studied …. The clinical presentation marked by profound weight loss, a psychiatric disturbance, total body alopecia, erosive dermatitis, and liver disease, was compatible with hypervitaminosis A. The diagnosis of vitamin A toxicity was established ...  PMID:  6211095

In very generic terms a deficiency will mean that the body’s processes do not function, whereas an overdose will act as a poison. 

This latter fact needs to be better understood, as there appears to be some very simplistic belief in some people’s minds that vitamins are good for you, thus more and more vitamins is even better.  This is totally incorrect.  Overdosing on vitamins poisons you.

In 47 low-bias trials with 180,938 participants, the antioxidant supplements significantly increased mortality …. In low-bias risk trials, after exclusion of selenium trials, beta carotene … vitamin A …and vitamin E…, singly or combined, significantly increased mortality. Vitamin C and selenium had no significant effect on mortality.  PMID:  17327526

 Bruno Wolpoth

Symptoms and Causes - Hypervitaminosis

As mentioned above the symptoms and causes of Hypervitaminosis in detail for each type of vitamin can be found by following the links above, there are however a number of generic causes that are worth understanding.

Vitamin supplements

Yui Ishibashi, sculptor, Japan

One very clear cause in cases of hypervitaminosis is vitamin supplements and over the counter food and dietary supplements .  It would appear from the Adverse Drug Reports submitted to the FDA and SEDA in the USA and summarised by eHealthme, that supplements being manufactured from petrochemicals in particular are somehow not the same as those found naturally in plants and animals.  Vitamin supplements are crude mimics of the vitamins found in plants and animals and no account seems to be taken of the possible symbiotic or complementary effects other chemicals in the plant or animal may be having in their overall efficacy.

It is too easy to overdose, and the effects especially on the fetus appear to be catastrophic.  Premature labour, spontaneous abortion and death appear to be common side effects.  Vitamin A supplements in particular appear to be associated with genetic defects and mutations in the fetus.

Treatment with excessive amounts of Vitamin A during maternity induces fetal malformations. …. Fetuses …. showed malformations, such as cleft palate, origodactyly, brachydactyly and ectromeria. Most notably, cleft palate occurred dose dependently. …. The number of dead and absorbed fetuses also increased dose dependently with the treatments. ….. The present study indicates a possibility that hypervitaminosis A-induced fetal malformation and death might be caused by gene mutations.  PMID:  16054864

It is to be noted that the same problems occur in animals....

Vitamin A toxicosis and vitamin E deficiency was diagnosed in a commercial rabbit-breeding colony and was associated with reproductive abnormalities, abortions, and poor survivability of kits in the breeding colony. Paresis and muscular dystrophy were noted in juvenile rabbits. PMID:  15264766

On Jan, 24, 2018 57,661 people who take Vitamins supplements are studied.

Most common side effects over time [eHealthme]:

Some of the side effects in these lists were traced back to maternal and thus foetal exposure during pregnancy

< 1 month:



abdominal pain


acute respiratory distress syndrome


renal disorder



1 - 6 months:


premature labour

vaginal haemorrhage

abortion spontaneous



premature delivery


premature baby


6 - 12 months:

premature baby

urinary tract infection

premature labour

low birth weight baby

respiratory tract infection

atrial septal defect

jaundice neonatal

ventricular septal defect


1 - 2 years:


ventricular septal defect



otitis media chronic

premature baby

pulmonary embolism

abdominal pain


2 - 5 years:

acute myeloid leukaemia

uterine perforation

cerebral ischaemia



pain in extremity

pulmonary embolism




5 - 10 years:

abortion spontaneous

multiple myeloma

myocardial infarction

pulmonary embolism

back pain

biopsy bone marrow abnormal

cardiogenic shock

completed suicide

multi-organ failure


10+ years:

vitamin d deficiency



deep vein thrombosis

weight increased

varicose vein

weight decreased


chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


not specified:

drug ineffective


weight decreased


weight increased



pain in extremity




Yui Ishibashi, sculptor, Japan

Many of these products are not just multi-vitamin, but multi-mineral as well meaning that the person could easily be overdosing on a wide range of both minerals and vitamins.

Dietary supplements often contain vitamins, but may also include other ingredients, such as herbs, and botanicals.  There is evidence that the interactions between all these chemicals along with perhaps the pharmaceuticals that have been prescribed are producing intolerable side-effects.  There are also supplements on the market that appear to boast that they contain 10 times the RDA [Recommended Daily Allowance].  In simplistic terms this is like saying you should only drink one glass of gin a day, but in this tablet we can give you the equivalent of a whole bottle.

In the side effects tables published by eHealthme, there is a notable repetition of the symptom of nausea and vomiting as well as skin problems – allergic reactions – all of which indicate the person is being poisoned.

Most common side effects by gender :




drug ineffective

weight increased

weight decreased


pain in extremity





weight decreased

drug ineffective




weight increased





 In 2014, overdose exposure to all formulations of vitamins and multi-vitamin/mineral formulations was reported by 68,058 individuals to the American Association of Poison Control Centers with 73% of these exposures in children under the age of five.

It is unclear why supplements are not classified as medicines/pharmaceuticals, as they are not ‘foods’ they are chemicals, no different to any other pharmaceuticals.  And one only needs a vitamin, if one is deficient in that vitamin. 


Yui Ishibashi, sculptor, Japan

A great range of pharmaceuticals are associated with causing hypervitaminosis.  Using the Adverse Drug Reports submitted by doctors to the FDA and SEDA in the USA, at least several hundred are implicated.  This LINK takes you to a list of those implicated.  If the link is broken a search on the same site for hypervitaminosis under 'conditions' will bring up the page needed and you must then scroll down to find the section ‘drugs that cause’.

Adding supplements to foods and water


Nowadays, everything from bottled water to orange juice seems to have souped-up levels of vitamins and minerals in it. That may sound like a way to help cover your nutritional bases, especially if your diet is less than stellar. But routinely getting an overload of vitamins and minerals can hurt you.

Too much vitamin C or zinc could cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Too much selenium could lead to hair loss, gastrointestinal upset, fatigue, and mild nerve damage.

While most people aren't getting megadoses, if you eat a fortified cereal at breakfast, grab an energy bar between meals, have enriched pasta for dinner, and take a daily supplement, you could easily be over the recommended daily intake of a host of nutrients.

Crash and other ridiculous diets

Crash diets and diets that revolve around only certain foodstuffs will cause imbalance, but there are also some somewhat sinister diets being promoted, where cause and effect are perhaps not so obvious. 

For reasons which completely elude us, there are branches of the alternative medicine community that recommend overdosing on certain vitamins and minerals to ‘help’ autistic children.  We repeat that vitamins are chemicals and overdosing helps no one.  The results are often tragic:

A three-year-old boy, presenting important behavioural disorders, was hospitalized because of a deterioration of his general state of health associated with vomiting, cephalgias, fever and cutaneous abnormalities. A 168 mg/L hypercalcemia was found. The only etiology is a deviant consumption of vitamin A within the framework of an "autistic diet": 100000 UI/d during three months, and then 150000 UI/d the three following months. … …. Our observation illustrates the danger of certain diets suggested for autistic children.  PMID:  18162381

The same problems can affect animals fed inappropriate diets.  In the following case study there is no suggestion that supplements were used, it is the diet that is at fault

We report the first case of hepatic stellate cell lipidosis and hepatic fibrosis in a domestic cat that had been fed a diet based on raw beef liver. …. Necropsy showed a slightly enlarged and light yellow to bronze liver. Microscopic and ultrastructural analyses of liver tissues revealed diffuse and severe liver fibrosis associated with hepatic stellate cell hyperplasia and hypertrophy. … The necropsy findings of chronic liver disease coupled with osteopathology supported the diagnosis of hypervitaminosis A.  PMID:  24563496

Symptom based medicine

Medicine these days is based on treating the symptoms and not identifying the causes.  Long-term treatment of hypoparathyroidism, for example, is still with vitamin D analogs and calcium supplementation, even though it has a cause which can be addressed.  Furthermore the effects of this treatment are known to cause kidney damage, but it still continues......

Pitfalls in the management of hypoparathyroidism are illustrated by the case of a patient who developed hypervitaminosis D while receiving doses of calciferol and of calcium in amounts commonly recommended for treatment. …… The dose of vitamin D was halved to 50,000 units per day and the dose of calcium was lowered to 0.26 g. daily. She failed to remain under medical supervision for the next four years and presented with hypercalcemia and evidence of renal impairment. PMID:  14146852

This was written in 1964.

Symptoms and causes - Hypovitaminosis

Yui Ishibashi, sculptor, Japan

 As mentioned above the causes in detail for each type of vitamin can be found by following the links above, there are however a number of generic causes that are worth understanding.

Pharmaceuticals particularly antibiotics

For the most part, vitamins are obtained from food, but a few are obtained by other means. For example, microorganisms in the intestine— commonly known as "gut flora"— produce vitamin K and biotin [Vitamin B7].  Thus disturbing the gut flora can cause vitamin imbalance

The Causes of Intestinal Dysbiosis:  A Review – Dr Stephen Myers et al

Antibiotic use is the most common and significant cause of major alterations in normal GIT microbiota.  The potential for an antimicrobial agent to influence gut microflora is related to its spectrum of activity, pharmacokinetics, dosage and length of administration.  Regarding the spectrum of activity, an antimicrobial agent active against both gram positive and negative organisms will have a greater impact on intestinal flora.

But antibiotics are not the only pharmaceuticals that cause hypovitaminosis.  There are 4 fat-soluble vitamins - A, D, E, and K.  Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of lipids (fats). As such any lipid lowering pharmaceuticals will cause vitamin deficiency:

Statins and other lipid lowering drugs have been repeatedly described to decrease blood levels of minor fat soluble components such as vitamin E (as alpha-tocopherol). …. recent biochemical and molecular evidence on homeostatic and molecular responses to vitamin E deficiency in skeletal muscle cells may suggest the hypothesis presented in this paper of a role as risk factor in the development of statin-associated myopathy..  PMID:  19896775

Statin-associated myopathy is currently being called ‘rheumatism’ by the medical profession and treated with both immunosuppressants and opioid analgesics, as such this area is an extremely serious one.

Vitamin E is not the only vitamin affected by the use of statins.  As we saw, only a few foods contain vitamin D and the major natural source of the vitamin is synthesis of cholesterol through a chemical reaction that is dependent on sun exposure.  In other words those on statins and other lipid lowering drugs will be deficient in Vitamins E and D [at least].

Yui Ishibashi, sculptor, Japan

Lack of Sunshine and outdoor activity

As we saw above, one form of vitamin D is synthesized in the skin with the help of the natural ultraviolet wavelength of sunlight.  Thus being indoors all day with no access to sunlight causes Vitamin D deficiency with the symptoms of Rickets, Osteomalacia and Osteoporosis as well as other bone diseases.

Low fat diets

There are 4 fat-soluble vitamins - A, D, E, and K.  Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of lipids (fats).  Any low fat diet is thus likely to lead to deficiency in these essential vitamins.

Parasites and other pathogens

A number of studies have shown that the cause of much vitamin deficiency is parasites.  Thus one will never be able to cure hypovitaminosis unless one addresses the parasite problem.  All the expensive solutions involving genetically modified vitamin enriched seeds, entirely ignore the cause of nutrient deficiency; ignore the fact that the water in many areas is not fit to drink and the food is infested with parasites.  It is a shameful reflection upon researchers in this area, as the solution need not be costly and is sorely needed....

To evaluate the long-term effects of a horticultural and nutrition education intervention in rural Tanzania. A quasi-experimental post-test design was used.The research was carried out in 10 villages in Singida region, Tanzania. Mothers and their children aged 6-71 months (n = 236) from an experimental (Ilongero) and control (Ihanja) area were interviewed regarding knowledge and practices related to vitamin A nutrition. RESULTS: Food-based vitamin A programmes can make sustainable improvements in knowledge and dietary practices but these may not necessarily be reflected in increases in serum retinol. Programme implementation and evaluation should take confounders into consideration as, in this case, helminth infestation.  PMID:  11135797

Another example showing that it is lack of proper sanitation and access to clean water that is the problem....

A cross-sectional population-based study, involving 1,211 children of both sexes, aged between six and 59 months old, was carried out in the urban zone of 9 cities in the state of Paraiba, Northeastern Brazil. …. Socioeconomic, demographic and sanitation conditions, as well as vitamin A supplement intake, were also evaluated. The prevalence of vitamin A deficiency was 21.8% ….. vitamin A deficiency was found to be linked with subclinical infection and lack of indoor plumbing. PMID:  24037351

Yui Ishibashi, sculptor, Japan

Poor Farming practices

Poor farming practices in general are leading to worldwide problems in health.  The attempts to gain more yields from already depleted soils, leads to weak crops which are prone to attack by insects and pests. 

The farmer then sprays the crops [incidentally wiping out all the financial gains he may have gained from overplanting] rendering the crops toxic.  The result is a crop which is covered with the toxic chemicals he sprayed, and nutritionally almost worthless, as depleted soils produce nutritionally useless plants.

If the crops are sold directly to food producers or consumers, then we too will be nutritionally deprived.  We may be eating but there is no nutritional value in what we are eating.  If the farmer then sells his crop as livestock feed, the livestock will be nutritionally deprived and it is becoming an increasing problem in many farms using cheap feedstuffs that their cattle or other animals – chickens, pigs and to a lesser extent sheep – do not thrive.  They are as sick as we are.

Vitamin A is essential for normal growth, development, reproduction, cell proliferation, cell differentiation, immune function and vision. Hypovitaminosis A can lead to a series of pathological damage in animals. …..From February to March in 2011, 2-and 3-month old beef calves presented with decreased eyesight, apparent blindness and persistent diarrhoea occurred in a cattle farm of Hubei province, China. Based on history inspection and clinical observation, we made a tentative diagnosis of hypovitaminosis A. The disease was confirmed ….by determination of the concentrations of vitamin A in …. feed samples. PMID:  23151297

It is noteworthy that the cattle in this study were very ill with Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection and mucosal barrier damage in their intestines [rather indicating the farmer had used antibiotics, which would have simply made it worse].

Genetically modified food

Extremely poor farming practise, depleted soils and over-cropping produces plants that can be nutritionally worthless.  Add to this the practice of removing bran from grains and one has a recipe for nutritional deprivation in most countries. 

Genetic modification has not been helpful in this respect.  It may [and here the word is may] increase crop yields, but what comes out still has to go in, as such a first year increase in yield will simply deplete the soil faster and ensure the second and third years produce progressively more nutritionally worthless produce.

There are plans in the bio-engineering arena to genetically modify seed to contain the vitamins lacking in people’s diet because of poor farming practise and genetically modified seed.  We are thus starting to see the same approach being used on plants that the pharmaceutical industry used via symptom based medicine and pharmaceuticals.  It does not look good. 

Doctors or perhaps one should say Iatrogenic disease is now the third biggest cause of death in the USA.  Are farmers coupled with the biotech industry going to follow suite and be the third biggest or maybe the first biggest cause of famine?  We wait with trepidation.


Get yourself properly tested to see if you are vitamin deficient or overloaded before you do anything.  Find the cause.  Treat the cause.


References and further reading

  • Yui Ishibashi, sculptor, Japan
    Am J Med Sci. 1982 May-Jun;283(3):161-4.  Vitamin A toxicity and hypercalcemia.  Ragavan VV, Smith JE, Bilezikian JP.
  • Ann Acad Med Stetin. 2014;60(1):60-4.  The risk of abuse of vitamin supplements.  Marosz A, Chlubek D.
  • Arch Pediatr. 2008 Jan;15(1):29-32. Epub 2007 Dec 26.  [Hypercalcemia revealing iatrogenic hypervitaminosis A in a child with autistic troubles]. [Article in French]  Kimmoun A1, Leheup B, Feillet F, Dubois F, Morali A.   Service de médecine infantile III et génétique clinique, centre hospitalier universitaire de Nancy, hôpital d'enfants, allée du Morvan, 54511 Vandoeuvre, France.
  • BMC Vet Res. 2012 Nov 14;8:222. doi: 10.1186/1746-6148-8-222.  Hypovitaminosis A coupled to secondary bacterial infection in beef cattle.  He X1, Li Y, Li M, Jia G, Dong H, Zhang Y, He C, Wang C, Deng L, Yang Y.
  • Can Med Assoc J. 1964 May 2;90:1049-54.  Prolonged Vitamin D Intoxication In A Patient With Hypoparathyroidism.  Spaulding Wb, Yendt Er.
  • Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. 27(2):146–151, MAR 2011  DOI: 10.1097/MOG.0b013e32834172c0  PMID: 21157328  Issn Print: 0267-1379  Publication Date: 2011/03/01  Vitamins as drugs: the importance of pharmacokinetics in oral dosing - David H Alpers
  • Contemp Top Lab Anim Sci. 2004 Jul;43(4):26-30.  Vitamin A toxicity and vitamin E deficiency in a rabbit colony.  St Claire MB1, Kennett MJ, Besch-Williford CL.
  • J Feline Med Surg. 2014 Mar;16(3):243-8. doi: 10.1177/1098612X13516121.  Hypervitaminosis A-induced hepatic fibrosis in a cat.  Guerra JM1, Daniel AG, Aloia TP, de Siqueira A, Fukushima AR, Simões DM, Reche-Júior A, Cogliati B.
  • J Med Case Rep. 2014 Feb 26;8:74. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-8-74.  Iatrogenic hypervitaminosis D as an unusual cause of persistent vomiting: a case report.  Bansal RK, Tyagi P, Sharma P, Singla V, Arora V, Bansal N, Kumar A, Arora A1.
  • JAMA. 2007 Feb 28;297(8):842-57.  Mortality in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: systematic review and meta-analysis.  Bjelakovic G1, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C.
  • JAMA. 2007 Feb 28;297(8):842-57.  Mortality in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: systematic review and meta-analysis.  Bjelakovic G1, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C.
  • Med Lett Drugs Ther. 1984 Aug 3;26(667):73-4.  Toxic effects of vitamin overdosage.[No authors listed]  PMID:  6749054
  • [Mental disorders caused by hypervitaminosis D]. Dolmierski R.  Neurol Neurochir Psychiatr Pol. 1965 Nov-Dec;15(6):859-62. Polish.  PMID: 5864780
  • Pseudotumor cerebri, psychosis, and hypervitaminosis A.  Restak RM.  J Nerv Ment Dis. 1972 Jul;155(1):72-5.  PMID:  4260849
  • Yui Ishibashi, sculptor, Japan
    [Acute symptomatic psychosis in vitamin A intoxication (author's transl)].  Haupt R.  Nervenarzt. 1977 Feb;48(2):91-5. German.  PMID:  840348
  • Proc Nutr Soc. 2014 Nov;73(4):498-508. doi: 10.1017/S002966511400069X. Epub 2014 Jul 28.
  • Agricultural biodiversity, social-ecological systems and sustainable diets.  Allen T1, Prosperi P2, Cogill B3, Flichman G2.
  • Public Health Nutr. 2000 Dec;3(4):425-31.  Five-year follow-up of a food-based vitamin A intervention in Tanzania.  Kidala D1, Greiner T, Gebre-Medhin M.
  • Rev Saude Publica. 2013 Apr;47(2):248-56. doi: 10.1590/S0034-8910.2013047002906.  Vitamin A deficiency and associated factors in children in urban areas.  [Article in English, Portuguese]  Queiroz Dd1, Paiva Ade A, Pedraza DF, Cunha MA, Esteves GH, Luna JG, Diniz Ada S.
  • [Vitamin D poisoning in infants. Preventing an overdose due to multiple forms and formats of liquid Vitamin D].  Sabourin G. Perspect Infirm. 2011 Nov-Dec;8(6):55. French  PMID:  22097428
  • Vitamin D supplements poison dozens of Danish children.  Stafford N. BMJ. 2016 Aug 16;354:i4534. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i4534.  PMID: 27530440

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