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Vitamin D Can Help Boost Immunity — But How Much Is Too Much?

Here's how to protect yourself without overdoing it.


We’re all doing our best to boost our immunity as we head into cold and flu season, especially with the pandemic still happening. Recent news that vitamin D is especially helpful for keeping our immunity strong and protecting our lungs has many of us stocking up on extra supplements — but how much is too much vitamin D?

Although vitamin D toxicity, or hypervitaminosis D, is rare, it’s still important to note the recommended limits as you dole out your daily doses. The last thing you want is to cancel out your attempts at staying healthy, or accidentally make matters worse.

According to the Mayo Clinic, an overload of vitamin D can lead to a buildup of calcium in our blood, which can then lead to bone pain and kidney problems. Taking large amounts of supplements is the most common cause of vitamin D toxicity, rather than spending too much time soaking up the sun’s rays or eating a ton of fortified foods. Those natural sources are easier for our body to regulate.

Can you take too much vitamin D?

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lists the ideal daily amount of Vitamin D for adults as 600 IU with an upper limit as 4,000 IU. That’s probably less than some recommendations you’ve seen based on the current pandemic. Recent studies have shown that patients lacking in the nutrient were more at risk for complications from a COVID-19 infection, while those with ample amounts were better able to fight off respiratory issues caused by the virus.

This has lead some doctors to advise higher doses. Derrick M. DeSilva Jr., MD, suggests taking 5,000 IU a day, but it’s not uncommon to see recommendations for two or three times as much (or more). The Mayo Clinic warns that cases of individuals taking more than 60,000 IU a day have been shown to cause toxicity, so we should definitely be especially careful about getting close to that number.

But everyone is different, of course. Healthline points out that on average, 41 percent of American adults are deficient in vitamin D. Those with darker skin are even more vulnerable with 63 percent of Hispanic and 82 percent of Black people having lower vitamin D levels. That’s why it’s so important to talk with your doctor before deciding on the best dosage for your specific need. A blood test will easily determine if you need to add extra IUs.

If you’re worried you’ve overdone it, HHS lists symptoms of potential toxicity as nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness, and weight loss. It can also cause confusion, disorientation, and problems with heart rhythm. Contact your doctor immediately if you think you are experiencing any of those issues due to your intake.

And remember that the safest way to give your body the boost it needs is adding vitamin D-rich foods like rainbow trout, mushrooms, free-range eggs, and fortified items like milk and dairy products. You can find a tasty range of options on the HHS website.

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