Q. Twenty years ago I started taking high doses of B vitamins to help prevent migraines. It worked, but about eight years ago I began having twitching all over, but mostly in my lower legs.
I was tested for MS and ALS. Fortunately, I do not have either. However, the muscle twitching is worse in my calves now, and according to my neurologist, I have lost some sensation in them. I have also lost some sense of balance, as well as dexterity in my hands.
He can’t find a diagnosis, so I’ve begun to suspect excess vitamin B6. I have stopped taking all B vitamins and plan to give my body a break from them to see if that helps. Is this dangerous?

A. Stopping your vitamin B6 makes sense. Although a deficiency of this crucial vitamin can cause problems with nerves, mega-doses are also dangerous. For decades, doctors have reported symptoms similar to yours in patients who took high doses of vitamin B6. In one case series, the patients reported numbness, burning or tingling, balance difficulties and weakness (Electromyography and Clinical Neurophysiology, Jun-Jul, 2008).
We generally advise people not to exceed 50 mg a day of vitamin B6, although that is lower than the amount reported to do harm. One reader got into trouble by taking brewers’ yeast for years. It is rich in vitamin B6.
It may take time to recover from vitamin B6 toxicity. There is not a lot of research on this phenomenon so you will have to monitor your nerve function closely with a neurologist.
When it comes to treating headaches and migraines, you and other victims may wish to consider some less risky remedies. We offer many in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, which has information about herbal tea with ginger, dietary measures such as cutting down on carbohydrates or avoiding gluten, or consuming a hot spicy food such as gumbo or hot-and-sour soup.

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  1. Alison
    Reply

    I was diagnosed with B6 toxicity May 2015 with symptoms occurring in summer 2014. My level was 548 almost 600 times over the normal level. It took over 9 months and rigorous testing to finally get a diagnosis because it’s quite rare I was told. . I was only taking a B complex vit and digestive enzymes that had a small amount of b6 in it. I was a very healthy female that worked out everyday till this happened. I still suffer from severe fatigue ,neuropathy issues,mental fog and muscle weakness, working out and any stress makes me have flare-ups. The muscle weakness has also interfered with my breathing .The neurologist at Mayo Clinic told me b6 toxicity was “very nasty ” and could take up to two years for my body to recover and I may not fully recover. I’m going to a wellness doctor that used to work at Jacksonville Mayo Clinic because it is a nutritional issue and have been put on vitamin therapy. The toxicity caused severe gastritis that depleted my body of other vitamins like thiamine, magnesium and certain amino acid which is helping. I was surprised to learn that my primary doctor has never heard if this!

  2. D Ann
    Pennsylvania
    Reply

    In October of 2014, I experienced “stockings and gloves” tingling in my hands and feet (and sometimes in my face). I visited my family doctor who did some blood work (including B12, but not B6). All came back in normal ranges, and she assured me there were no issues. I returned in March of 2015 after the symptoms had progressed to “internal trembling” throughout my body — arms, legs, face, lips, chest (imagine having a strong vibration inside your body that turns on frequently and randomly). It was at times very intense and very discomforting. She carried out no additional blood work, but prescribed generic Lexapro (having clearly decided that I was just a neurotic aging woman). I ultimately declined the Lexapro. A visit to a neurologist was unhelpful. My chiropractor recommended a local physiatrist (a physician specializing in the interaction between muscle, nerves and bone). She got it in one — first round of blood work showed my B6 level to be 6 times the maximum “normal”.

    I don’t eat processed foods, but had (in 2014) changed multi-vitamins to a 50+ version which had very high levels of B6. I eliminated the multi-vitamin — four months later, the symptoms have subsided, and my B6 levels are back to normal.

    While B6 in foods is water soluble, I have learned that the B6 is most supplements is not. This was a very intense and somewhat scary experience — made more so by the lack of assistance (or knowledge) on the part of the first physicians that I consulted. I am grateful to the physician who listened carefully, formed a set of hypotheses and set out to test them.

    • Sara
      Germany
      Reply

      I’ve had the exact same symptoms as you first did for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve just noticed that the amounts of B6, B12 and D3 in my supplements are completely out of whack. I’m on a vitamin B complex and the amount of B6 is 50mg, which is the absolute limit as far as I’m informed. I’m gonna try going off all three of them and see if it helps.

      As in your case my GP didn’t measure my B6 levels last time I got checked. It’s really scary that they might be adding toxic amounts to the complexes and multivitamins with the GPs not even checking your levels unless specifically asked for it – normally I do my research, but with complexes I just tend to assume that it’s all well within safe levels.

  3. Beth
    Reply

    B6 is toxic in lower doses and with food. There is a B6 toxicity FB support group. Search FB for B6 Toxicity.

  4. Jane
    Reply

    Any ideas on how to get rid of the extra vitamin b6? Will the nerves repair themselves?

  5. tiggersmama
    Reply

    i
    also hav numbness in my feet i dont know if its related to my hypothyroidism or what so i started taking vit b6 but i cut the 100mg pill in half so we will see what happens will let you know

  6. Jess
    Reply

    I’m in my mid 30s. Female. I have been having tingling, burning sensation and pin and needles all over my body since two months. It is driving me crazy. It is hard to live like this. I had a bug in my stomach and was cleared few months ago. I’m not sure if my current symptoms are related to this bug, but I have gotten blood tests and seen a neurologist.
    My b12 was fine and the neurologist did not think it was related to neorology. I found that respond very interesting! After reading about B6 toxicity symptoms, I suggested my doc to check that out. I have not received the blood results yet but why can’t doctors check b6 while they are checking b12 in the first place? I find it very stupid. Does anyone going through what I am going through (with my symptoms)? Thanks much..

    • Concerned Mom
      California
      Reply

      I hope you’re feeling better.
      My daughter has toxic B6 levels, and the doctor just found a Dientamoeba fragilis parasite. She has many symptoms, the worst is fatigue, lightheadedness and pain in her legs. Does any of that sound similar to your story?
      I’m wondering if that is the same “bug” you mentioned? We suspect she contracted this parasite when she was in Haiti.

      • Shawn
        Guelph, Ontario
        Reply

        I apparently have toxic b6 levels, just found out today. I have neuropathy, weakness, severe fatigue, AND LEG PAIN. This is nuts…. How did your doctor test for that parasite (or parasites?) what is being done to treat?

  7. Robert
    Reply

    I have experienced burning sensations in my feet from time to time – most evident in the winter time… A few weeks ago (early September) the burning started up again… What was different??? Finally tracked it to taking too much B6. The B6 supplements from the Walmart Pharmacy are 100 or 200 mg tablets… I had been using a pill splitter to cut the 100mg tabs in half. The pill splitter broke and so I started taking 100 mg per day… This is when the burning started up. (After a couple of weeks of increased dosage.)
    On-line is where I see that doses of 100mg & greater have been linked to such symptoms… I stopped the B6 supplement four days ago and within 48 hours the burning sensation was virtually gone… I wonder why they even sell 200mg tablets? (I see that would be 10 THOUSAND percent of the RDA.)

  8. TDB
    Reply

    I think this information is VERY helpful. As I don’t think I can remember all the problems and the people’s comments, I tried to print this page out but it did not print out — only the borders. WHY is that? We need to know the information about Vitamin B overdose.

  9. mtb
    Reply

    Someone wrote in about a burning sensation in the feet. My late husband complained about that for sometime. His doctor told him it was neuropathy from his diabetes. But after reading in your column that low B12 can cause the burning sensation, I took him to another doctor to have his B12 checked. (His doctor would not do it.) Sure enough, his B12 was in the 230 range and when the doctor gave him a B12 injection once a month, the burning sensations went away. The very low B12 reading can also cause psychiatric symptoms.

  10. JKC
    Reply

    One problem is that although in natural sources, Vitamin B6 is water soluble, the type used in most supplements is not. Consequently, it can build up faster than the body can get rid of it. People read B vitamins are water soluble, so they think there’s no harm. Of course, too much of anything is not good.

  11. DS
    Reply

    I have been taking a B complex vitamin for twenty years, at least, to prevent migraines. I get 5 mg of B6 but that has been enough to end migraines. The product label says 5 mg is 250% of the “Daily Value.” I used to leave the pills at home when I traveled, but the headaches would come back. It doesn’t seem to take much B6 to prevent headaches, and I have not noticed any side effects.

  12. John B.
    Reply

    It would be helpful to know the dosage of Vitamin B6 over how long a period of time that is suspected of causing this effect.

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