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Published on September 5, 2020

New Delhi: Too much of everything is bad goes the adage. This holds true during the pandemic more than ever before. Driven by the fear of getting infected people are following social media recommendations oblivious of the side effects even natural products may have.

This is what Dr. Tejal Lathia, a consulting endocrinologist at the Mumbai-based Apollo and Fortis Hospitals discovered when a Type 2 diabetes mellitus patient had Vitamin D toxicity, reported The Print.

“The patient had seen messages on social media on how vitamin D may help in building immunity against Covid-19. But instead of the recommended dose of one pill a week, she consumed one a day,” Dr Lathia told ThePrint.

High vitamin D levels can spike blood and urine calcium levels which, in turn, can cause nausea, vomiting, dehydration, dizziness, confusion, and drowsiness among other changes.

Vitamin D in blood levels greater than 150 ng/ml can cause all these symptoms reflecting toxicity. My patient had a level of 348 ng/ml but luckily did not suffer any consequences,” she told The Print.

The Mumbai doctor added that almost all of her patients are taking immunity boosters in one form or another. “I have been hearing about the immunity boosting measures from all my patients,” she said. “The most-used products are homemade kadhas, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D and medicines like the homoeopathic Arsenicum album.”

There are several other such cases across the country.

What medical practitioners say?

  • The relentless social media posts, promotion by the government on immunity-boosting practices using herbs is leading consumers to adopt such unhealthy practices. In turn, quacks are also cashing in on the opportunity
  • The central government is advising the use of alternative medicine systems such as homoeopathy and Ayurveda to ward off the coronavirus
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked people to follow an advisory issued by the Ministry of Ayush (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy), which suggests a range of home remedies to boost immunity, including consumption of turmeric,  honey, ginger and some concoctions.
  • The central government has also recommended a course of the homoeopathic medicine, ‘Arsenicum album 30’.

“While using these products in moderation or recommended quantity may not cause any harm, people have started consuming these products without knowing their proper dosage, way of preparation and consumption and their interaction with their ongoing medications. The trend is dangerous,” said Dr Manoj Goel, director, pulmonology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram told The Print.

What are the side effects?

“ I have seen patients who have consumed decoctions of Fenugreek (methi seeds) and landed in trouble”. Fenugreek seeds in large doses lead to thinning of blood and “can dangerously cause bleeding events in patients with or without liver disease,” Dr Cyriac Abby Philips, a specialist in hepatology and liver transplant medicine at the Cochin Gastroenterology Group in Kerala told The Print.

“Another big issue I have faced is the high consumption of special juice diets, especially aloe vera juice which is very dangerous. It induces liver injury,” Dr Philips added.

Dr M. Shafi Kuchay, senior consultant, endocrinology and diabetes at Medanta Hospital in Delhi, tweeted that he had seen a patient who had consumed excessive amounts of turmeric to ward off Covid-19.

According to Dr Gaurav Jain, consultant, internal medicine, at the Delhi-based Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, four to five patients a day are reporting side effects after consuming “immunity boosters”.

“It is unfortunate to see people putting themselves at the other health risks in the name of consuming immunity boosters,” Dr Jain told The Print. “Overconsumption of products such as ashwagandha, kaadha (concoctions) and chyawanprash among others is leading to digestion problems and other health issues,” he added.