Why I Believe That I Have Vitamin A Poisoning
Note, October 27th, 2023: This is an article that I originally published on my vitaminapoisoning.com website (now deleted). Since founding the article, I found out that I am also copper toxic. Many of the vitamin A toxicity symptoms are the same as those caused by copper toxicity. So, currently I can’t say whether the below listed symptoms were caused by vitamin A or by copper or maybe a combination of those two.
The main reason why I believe that I have poisoned myself with vitamin A is because of how quickly some of my symptoms responded to a diet deprived of vitamin A.
When I learned about vitamin A poisoning (November 18th, 2021), I had suffered from two of those symptoms (unbearable chills at night and swelling in ankles) for over a year on a daily basis. After drastically reducing my vitamin A intake, the swelling was dramatically lessened within 24 to 48 hours and the chills were completely gone.
In addition, the onset of typical vitamin A toxicity symptoms coincided with my inclusion of vitamin A rich foods like liver, kidneys, eggs, butter, and mackerel.
Another reason why I believe that I am vitamin A poisoned, is that my serum retinol levels went up many months into a near-zero vitamin A diet, indicating a purge of excess retinol from my liver.
Here are the main reasons broken down in detail:
1. Symptoms match those of vitamin A toxicity
Here is a list of symptoms I experienced throughout my life to one degree or another, but which all escalated from around 2020 to November 2021:
Brain / cognitive / emotional / neurological:
- no motivation to do anything
- difficulty thinking
- feeling aggressive
- seizure-like sensations in my head (worse after I started taking vitamin B1)
- memory loss
- headaches outside of my period (very unusual)
- anxiety, especially in the morning upon waking up
- sleeping difficulties
- brain fog
- double vision
- blurry vision
Skin, hair, nails:
- coarse hair and thinning hair
- slowed down hair growth (I bleach my hair regularly at the roots, so this was very easy to track)
- sandpaper-like skin on my face
- red spots and areas, erythema-like on my forehead (this is still ongoing)
- dry, saggy skin all over my body
- brittle nails
- flaky skin and weird skin eruptions on my scalp and neck (seborrhoea?)
- age spots over my liver
- petechiae (small, cherry-red eruptions) all over my skin
- anal fissures and extreme anal itching, especially at night in bed
- hyperpigmentation around my mouth
- swelling in my ankles from water retention
- dehydration (dry skin, I stopped sweating)
- spider veins came back (that I had previously successfully treated with ozone injections)
- gingivitis (inflamed gums)
- abdominal pain
- bloating after food, no matter what I ate, even just meat
- bad breath
- pale stool color on and off
- severe constipation
- sometimes watery diarrhea
- weight loss (I had lost around 12 kg / 25 lbs)
- ascites (water retention in my abdomen, confirmed via ultrasound and CT scan)
- lack of appetite
- crushing fatigue
- amenorrhea (I lost my period for around one month)
- joint pain
- muscle pain
- shortness of breath
- heart palpitations
- the sensation of being poisoned
- muscle aches, the sensation of having acid in my muscles
- muscle loss (I had developed a hole in my upper right hip)
- extreme chills, especially in the evening
- bone pain (would come in short bursts in wrists, feet, and lower arm)
- electrical type shocks in my right shoulder, especially after a fatty meal
- dry mouth (clay brick sensation in the morning)
- increased thirst (I drank around a gallon / 4 liters per day)
- leg cramps (calves)
I may have forgotten a few other symptoms, so this list may not be complete. Most issues appeared gradually and varied in intensity, although some seemed to progressively only get worse.
How do I know they match symptoms of vitamin A toxicity? Because most of them can be found on this page.
Home made liver pate I made in October 2020, posted on Instagram.
2. Onset of symptoms matches with timing of high vitamin A intake
The onset of symptoms matches with the time when I started eating high-vitamin A foods like liver, kidneys, butter, eggs, and mackerel.
Based on my Instagram account, I tried kidneys for the first time at the end of 2019. I assume that’s also when I started eating liver. My amazon account shows that at the beginning of 2020, I bought a food processor so I could make my own liver paté. I think that I started eating liver more frequently around that time.
I didn’t keep a food journal, so I am writing this based on what I remember (which is very incomplete and imperfect): I had days where I would eat 300 grams (around 1 pound) of chicken livers, with 5 or 6 eggs, topped of with 1/3 or 1/4 of a brick of butter (around 80 to 100 gr) in one meal. There must have been weeks when I consumed this amount several times a week.
When I type this into a macro tracker like eatthismuch.com, it comes up to over 40,000 IU of vitamin A per day.
(Eatthismuch is better than cronometer since it gives the total vitamin A including carotenes in IU, whereas cronometer does not seem to include carotenes and shows total vitamin A amounts in mcg)
On other days, I would make an omelet with liver paté. It tasted delicious. I have always loved the taste of liver.
I would also eat smoked mackerel or smoked salmon. I remember, sometimes after eating salmon I would get nauseous, but it would pass relatively soon and not worry me much. I explained it away with the high fat content of the fish.
Sometimes I would eat liver several times a week. Then I would have weeks without it. Then maybe again once a month. There was no regularity to it.
So, when people ask me how much liver I was eating, it must have changed a lot in that time. I didn’t have a set schedule for when I was eating liver and when not. I would eat it whenever I felt like it, which was likely quite frequently since the thought of liver paté has always excited me.
The first symptoms were very subtle. I noticed something was slightly off, but couldn’t define what it was. I didn’t quite feel like myself but couldn’t tell how exactly. The first things were a sort of mental lethargy. Things I had planned for the day didn’t get done. But there was no pain, no emergencies, nothing of extreme intensity.
By mid-2020, the lethargy was getting more and more pronounced, I was sliding into a clear zombie-like state. I just couldn’t get anything done, for some unexplained reason. Like something was holding me back, but I didn’t know what.
With time, the lethargy turned into fatigue. Then, I developed bleeding gums, weakness, and shortness of breath.
At that point, I was still following the carnivore diet but had developed joint pain in my left elbow and right hip. This really perplexed me since those were the first symptoms that had resolved within a few days on the carnivore diet back in March 2018. How could the same diet first reverse and then cause the same symptoms? It didn’t make any sense to me.
Of course, what I didn’t understand was that 2018 and 2020 I was NOT on the same diet anymore. Yes, I was still 100% carnivore, but the type of animal protein I was eating had changed drastically.
In 2018 I was eating muscle meat only, beef and lamb. I was cooking everything in water and was not using any fat. I was on a very low vitamin A diet, without knowing it.
In 2020 I was eating liver, butter, eggs, and mackerel – and was literally gorging on vitamin A, again without knowing it.
In 2020 I also developed pronounced water retention in my legs, something that also stunned me profoundly.
I was eating nothing but meat protein and yet my legs looked like that of an 80-year-old woman. Why? How could this be? I thought that eating nothing but meat was highly anti-inflammatory, and yet I had developed severe symptoms of physical degeneration.
Sometimes I would wake up with puffy eyes, something that I thought I had also eliminated with the carnivore diet.
Those were all clear signs of bodily deterioration, something I thought could be either halted or drastically slowed down by eating nothing but animal protein. But in my case, it seemed to have exponentially accelerated aging. I was observing all this but had no explanation for what was going on.
The left picture was taken at the beginning of November 2021, a few weeks before I went on a low vitamin A diet. The right picture was taken at the beginning of December 2021, roughly two weeks after I eliminated most vitamin A sources. The results were seen much sooner though, within a few days of me implementing the dietary changes.
3. Reversed or drastically reduced symptoms within less than 48 hours after going low vitamin A
The thing that convinced me that I was suffering from vitamin A overload was the fact that two symptoms which up to that point had been more or less unrelenting had either gone away or had been drastically reduced within 48 hours after a switch to a low vitamin A diet:
- unbearable chills at night
- water retention in my legs
I don’t remember anymore when the chills originally began, but I know that they were with me throughout 2021. When I mean chills, I mean feeling so cold, that I would wear 3 layers of clothing (among those a heavy cotton bathrobe), socks, and two covers at night to be able to fall asleep. With all that going on, I would STILL suffer shivers.
Within 48 hours of me going low vitamin A, this symptom went away completely (it later resurfaced for a short while when I was veering off the diet just a little bit, just to again go away by going back on near-zero vit A).
Feeling cold can be a sign of low thyroid function. Interestingly, my thyroid numbers were always in the normal range (although they fluctuated wildly within that “normal” range).
Water retention was another thing that was with me since around 2020.
It did respond positively to drinking ozonated water. I was able to reduce the ankle swelling by something like 90% for a few weeks in 2021 by drinking ozone water every day. But it seemed that I needed to drink more and more of the ozone water to see ever-diminishing results. Which of course makes sense, since during that time I was still eating foods high in vitamin A like egg yolks, liver, or butter. So the ozone water (which I suspect has liver-healing properties) was fighting an uphill battle. After I stopped drinking it, the swelling returned within less than two weeks.
Overall (the ozone water phase aside), between 2020 and 2021, the appearance of my ankles was getting progressively worse. First, the swelling was mostly in the evening, later it was during the whole day. Sometimes, I would even wake up with swollen, big ankles.
Within 48 hours of eliminating foods like egg yolks, butter, and butternut squash (which I was eating by the end of 2021), the swelling went down by 90%. Within another 5 days, my foot had improved by a total of 95%.
Those two things: the near-immediate resolution of the chills and the reduction of the swelling were what convinced me that I had found the cause of my problems, which was vitamin A.
What did I eat during the first days on a low vitamin A diet?
At that time, I kept a daily list of everything I was eating, drinking or taking as a supplement down to single digit gram amounts.
Based on my logs in eatthismuch.com, during the week from November 11th until November 16th, 2021, my daily vitamin A intake ranged from 24,000 to 48,000 IU.
At that point, the main vitamin A contributors were butternut squash, egg yolks, and butter (although I also had tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, onions, apples, and other foods which weren’t as important in vitamin A terms.)
November 19th, 2021, was the first day that I fully committed to the low vitamin A diet.
On that day, I ate chicken wings, onions, cauliflower, sauerkraut, grapes, apples, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. It amounted to a total intake of around 803 IU of vitamin A that day.
The next day I had a similar food composition with a total vitamin A intake of around 570 IU.
On the third day, I had lamb, sauerkraut, rice noodles, apples, and onions which amounted to around 99 IU of vitamin A.
From the fourth day on I went nearly 0 IU of vitamin A by eating mostly lamb, beef and rice.
I kept to that for three or four weeks until around mid-December 2021, after which I cut out the rice and went muscle meat carnivore only, eating mostly beef and lamb.
From March 2022 on, I introduced black beans to the muscle meat and have stuck with that until now (with some rare experiments in the form of rice, peanuts, apple cider vinegar, or one brazil nut per day).
4. Spikes in serum retinol months into a near-zero vitamin A diet
The results of my serum retinol tests several months into a near-zero vitamin A diet was the ultimate laboratory confirmation that I was indeed poisoned.
Interesting to note is that the values never went out of the normal range given by the laboratory. They did go above the normal range given in the livertox database.
It seems also, there are no generally accepted values of what is considered normal for serum retinol.
The first laboratory I used in Germany cites the normal range as being 30 to 60 mcg/dl.
A laboratory I used in a different country cited values of 30 to 70 mcg/dl.
Livertox says 37 to 45 mcg/dl is normal for an 18-year-old person, or 30 to 50 mcg/dl if you are 63 years old.
The University of California says it’s 15 to 60 mcg/dl.
So, depending on where you are and which laboratory you use, you could be regarded as being deficient by one laboratory, but in the perfect range in another. You could also be above normal by one but be considered normal by another.
There doesn’t seem to be any clear, and generally accepted reference ranges when it comes to serum retinol.
A study has shown that vitamin A poisoned individuals can have normal or BELOW normal serum retinol levels.
I never used the reference ranges of the laboratory to come to a conclusion about my vitamin A status. I mainly used the tests to track my progress and see whether there were fluctuations in my serum retinol.
Those fluctuations can indicate a dump of vitamin A from the liver and so can be informative to know where one is on the vitamin A detox journey.
My serum retinol levels were in the 40’s one month into the low vitamin A diet, and then spiked to 54 mcg/dl and 51 mcg/dl by mid-2022. At that time I had been on a near-zero vitamin A diet for over 7 months.
I took this as a confirmation that my liver was letting go of excess vitamin A reserves. The spike could not have been explained through increased vitamin A intake, since I never swerved away from my near-zero vitamin A diet in that time period.
Why would my liver let go of excess vitamin A? Because in the past I must have overloaded it with the “vitamin”, so it was now releasing that surplus.
A similar thing happened again in January 2023 when my serum retinol went above 79 mcg/dl. At that time it went even beyond the laboratory reference range. That was 14 months after being on a super low vitamin A diet, so again that spike could not have been explained through increased vitamin A intake. Clearly, my liver has been letting go of retinol stored in the liver.
How to explain this January dump? I don’t know, I am in the course of finding this out. There are different possible rationales for it:
- my experimentation with zinc (I was taking between 5 to 75mg of zinc per day for several days)
- regular suntanning sessions I had started a few weeks prior
- regular walks (they possibly stimulate bile release and so also vitamin A release)
- ozone treatments which I had done a few times before the test
I am conducting experiments to figure out what it was. My money is on the zinc, but we will see.
The above chart shows the results of my serum retinol test during a time when I was eating close to zero vitamin A. Around 7 months into the vitamin A deficient diet, my serum retinol spiked to 54 mcg/dl, which is above the normal range according to the livertox database. It has again recently spiked in January 2023 to 79 mcg/dl, which brings it above even the laboratory reference range. During the whole time I was following a diet consisting of beef muscle meat, black beans, and rice, occasionally. So, my vitamin A intake was essentially close to 0 IU.
5. Mysterious past health issues fit the vitamin A / toxic bile theory
Yet, another reason why I am convinced that I have been suffering from vitamin A poisoning are all the different weird things that have happened throughout my life. For the longest time, they were a mystery to me, but they can be perfectly explained by vitamin A toxicity and the toxic bile theory.
The below list serves as a kind of reminder for me. I may use it to expound on them later, possibly in separate posts:
- 2014, me feeling like my mind was racing uncontrollably, which was stopped immediately after a blood draw (phlebotomy is apparently a valid treatment for vitamin A toxicity)
- March 2018, I experienced a health crisis after a period of regularly eating carrots.
- September 2013, started eating sweet potatoes and shortly afterwards developed a severe adverse reaction to ozone saunas (I speculate that ozone therapy causes a vitamin A purge); then nausea after continued consumption of sweet potatoes
- March 2013, reaction to magnesium citrate and the resulting crash (I assume the magnesium caused an extreme bile dump and so also cholestasis)
- Normal vitamin C levels in July 2018 after several months of eating nothing but beef and lamb (no organs), then low vitamin C levels in July 2021 after introducing liver, eggs, and butter with typical scurvy symptoms, then low vitamin C levels in 2022 after eating muscle meat and black beans, but no scurvy symptoms, then near normal vitamin A levels in January 2023 after no change in diet, still no scurvy symptoms. My experience seems to support Grant’s theory that scurvy is simply vitamin A poisoning
- March 2018, the sensation of going psychotic after eating oatmeal (similar to what Mikhaila Peterson experienced after eating a single leaf of lettuce for the first time in a few weeks after being on the carnivore diet)
- Psoriasis outbreak at the beginning of 2019 after I started eating dairy. Resolution of psoriasis within two weeks of eliminating dairy.
- Why my neck and symptoms of cervical instability worsened after I started eating dairy, then improved after I cut it out.
- Why sunbathing would make me sick (sun destroys vitamin A, likely causes bile purge due to heat)
- The sensation of mental stupor during a gardening seminar in Los Angeles with blinding, diffuse light.
The above points may not make any sense to the reader, but they do to me. And as mentioned, I may return to them at some point to investigate and explain how they all fit into the vitamin A context.
Update: 6. Fibroscan results show fatty liver
Today, I went to have a Fibroscan ultrasound test done. A Fibroscan is a type of liver elastography that can detect fatty liver, fibrosis, or cirrhosis.
The scan did confirm fatty liver infiltration of around 47%. Luckily, I don’t have any significant levels of fibrosis.
According to the results I am at steatosis (fatty liver) grade 2, meaning between 34% and 66% of my liver has fat deposits. My average score of 272 amounts to around 47%.
I take those results as a corraboration of vitamin A poisoning.
The pathological accumulation of fat in liver cells is used as confirmation of hypervitaminosis A during microscopic examinations of liver tissue during liver biopsies.
In my case, this is the only plausible explanation, since
- I don’t drink alcohol and never was a regular drinker in my life. The last drink I had were a few glasses of wine around 7 years ago. In total, I was drunk maybe three times in my entire life, the last time probably 20 years ago. Alcohol was always making me sick and I never enjoyed being either drunk, tipsy, high, or have my consciousness altered in any other way.
- I am not overweight, currently at around 72 kg [159 lbs] at a height of 1,77 m [5′ 10″], which results in a Body Mass Index of 23, meaning normal. I have never been overweight in my life.
- I haven’t had sugar in nearly 14 years since I went paleo in 2009.
- I haven’t indulged in high carb or high fructose diets during the past roughly 14 years. There was a time when I would eat some date-sweetened nut bars, but that was also around 7 years ago. I did eat some apples in 2021.
- I never had any indication of insulin resistance. My fasting blood sugar has always been well in the normal range, I don’t think I have ever seen it above 100 mg/dl.
So, none of the conventionally recognized nor alternatively hypothesized causes of fatty liver disease apply to me.
Given the above detailed consumption of high vitamin A foods, the matching symptoms, I think that vitamin A poisoning is the only plausible explanation in my case for the occurrence of fatty liver.
The 10 Fibroscan images from which the average fatty liver infiltration was calculated. The average result, 272, indicates grade 2 staetosis (fatty liver), but some results went above 290, so into the highest grade 3.
How fatty liver is classified based on Fibroscan results. I am in S2, with certain regions of my liver being S3. Source.