Vitamins are essential compounds that we don’t make ourselves. Consequently, we must get them from our food, or failing that, from supplements. In most cases, people can’t get too much of any vitamin from the food they eat. That isn’t necessarily true of supplements, however. What happens when you get a vitamin overdose?
Vitamin Overdose with Pyridoxine:
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?
What Are the Consequences of a Vitamin Overdose?
A. Stopping your vitamin B6 makes sense. Although a deficiency of this crucial vitamin can cause problems with nerves, a vitamin overdose is 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 (Scott et al, Electromyography and Clinical Neurophysiology, Jun-Jul, 2008). A more recent case study describes numbness, burning pain, tingling and weakness in hands and feet (Bacharach et al, Journal of Clinical Neuromuscular Disease, Sep. 2017).
It seems that part of the problem is that the inactive form pyridoxine, often found in supplements, inhibits and displaces the active form of the vitamin (Vrolijk et al, Toxicology in Vitro, Oct. 2017). According to the scientists,
“Supplementation with high doses of pyridoxine leads to decreased vitamin B6 function.”
How Much B6 Could Result in a Vitamin Overdose?
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.
Other Remedies for Migraine Headaches:
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.
You may also be interested in the remedies and supplements we describe in our Guide to Headaches and Migraines.