Do Certain Vitamins Cause Diarrhea?

doctor with male patient
Doctor speaking with patient in office. (Image: AlexRaths/iStock/Getty Images)

You have diarrhea when you pass loose, watery stools more than three times a day. You may also experience nausea, cramping, bloating and bowel urgency. Diarrhea is generally not harmful, but it can become serious. Therefore, if you experience blood in your stools, a fever, a strong pain in your abdomen or diarrhea for more than three days, contact your doctor. Taking high doses of certain vitamins can cause side effects, including diarrhea. Hence, consult your doctor before adding vitamin supplements to your diet.

Vitamin C

A water-soluble vitamin, vitamin C helps your wounds heal faster and helps your body produce collagen, a protein used to make tendons, ligaments, skin and blood vessels. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C for men over the age of 18 is 90 milligrams and for women in the same age group is 75 milligrams per day. Vitamin C is safe because your body eliminates any excess. However, taking high doses -- more than 2,000 milligrams per day -- can lead to side effects such as diarrhea, stomach upset or gas. If you experience diarrhea, lower the amount of vitamin C you are taking each day.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D works together with calcium to help build strong and healthy bones. Adults aged 19 to 50 years need 600 international units of vitamin D per day. Taking too much vitamin D can cause diarrhea. Scientists don’t all agree on how much vitamin D is too much, but the National Institutes of Health has set the maximum upper tolerable limit at 4,000 IU for anyone over the age of 9. Eating foods rich in vitamin D will not increase your vitamin D levels too high, notes UMMC. Also, you cannot get too much vitamin D by exposing yourself to the sun. However, if you take high doses of vitamin D supplements, you can overdose. Consult your doctor to determine the proper dosage.

Vitamin B-12

Also known as cobalamin, vitamin B-12 supports nerve cell health and helps produce DNA and RNA, your body’s genetic material. It works together with vitamin B-9 to help manufacture red blood cells and to help iron work properly in your body. Adults age 19 and over need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 daily. A deficiency of vitamin B-12 is rare if you are young and healthy but isn't uncommon if you are elderly and have a poor diet. Low levels of vitamin B-12 can cause a range of symptoms, including diarrhea.

Vitamin E

As an antioxidant, vitamin E protects your cells against the damage caused by free radicals, which are byproducts of normal cellular function and are actively involved in chemical reactions taking place inside your cells. Some of these chemical reactions can even be harmful to you. The recommended dietary intake of vitamin E for adults older than 18 years is 22.4 IU. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set an upper tolerable intake level for vitamin E supplementation at 1,000 milligrams, or 1,500 IU a day. You may develop diarrhea if you take very high doses of vitamin E, reports the Merck Manual Home Health Handbook.

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