Vitamins are essential to good health, but you can get too much of a good thing. Many vitamins seem harmless in large doses, but they interact with medications or cause toxic side effects if you aren't careful. Some vitamins can cause swelling or edema, a fancy word for fluid retention. Sometimes these symptoms are a sign of getting too much of a particular vitamin supplement; sometimes the symptoms are a signal of deficiency. Before taking any supplements, consult with your doctor to make sure they are right for you.
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Vitamin A, along with vitamins D, E and K, is one of the fat-soluble vitamins. You store the vitamin in fatty tissue, so it's easy to get an overload -- unlike water-soluble vitamins that are excreted every day. This vitamin, prevalent in orange vegetables, liver and spinach, is essential to bolstering immunity, keeping healthy vision, supporting reproductive systems and getting cells to communicate.
It's almost impossible to overload on vitamin A from food, but supplements can cause a toxicity if consumed above 2,800 to 3,000 micrograms per day. Along with symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and even coma and death, excessive vitamin A may cause swelling and fluid retention on the brain, known as cerebral edema or pseudotumor cerebri. The result can be headaches, fatigue and loss of appetite.
Too Little B-1
A deficiency in vitamin B-1, or thiamine, can lead to tissue swelling. Other symptoms of thiamine deficiency include weakness, rapid heart rate, lack of appetite, fatigue and burning feet. Ensure you get enough of this B vitamin essential to the growth and function of cells by eating plenty of fortified grains, sunflower seeds, lettuce, mushrooms and beans.
Those at greatest risk of experiencing swelling and other symptoms as a result of deficiency include those with diabetes, the elderly, people with compromised immunity -- such as HIV/AIDS -- or those who've undergone bariatric surgery. Consume about 1.2 milligrams per day to meet the recommended dietary allowance.
Deficiencies of Vitamin C
Too little vitamin C can also cause tissue swelling, along with gum and tooth degradation, dry hair and eyes, anemia and poor wound healing. The fatal condition known as scurvy can develop in extreme cases of deficiency. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, strawberries and cantaloupe, is critical in the development of collagen -- a building block of most tissue. It also serves as an antioxidant, protecting you from free radicals present in pollution and chemicals that can harm your cells; free radicals also naturally form as you age.
Consuming less than 10 milligrams per day for many weeks can lead to severe deficiency and scurvy, but this is extremely rare in modern times. Swelling as a result of vitamin C deficiency is often most apparent in the gums.
Puffiness, swelling and edema are more likely to be caused by something other than vitamin intake. Sitting or standing for extended periods of time, some medications, menstruation and pregnancy, varicose veins, allergies, disease of the liver or kidneys, blood pressure extremes and exposure to extreme environmental situations -- such as heat or high altitude -- are possible causes. If the swelling or water retention bothers you, consult with a health care provider to identify possible causes. Also, instead of consuming large amounts of supplemental vitamins, strive to eat a balanced diet where your nutrient intake comes from food -- which also offers valuable fiber and other natural substances that can benefit your health.