Vitamin E is the name of a group of eight fat-soluble vitamins known as tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Doctors may prescribe high doses of vitamin E for people who have digestive conditions that make it very difficult for them to absorb vitamin E, or to help treat tardive dyskinesia, a movement disorder.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, meaning it helps prevent damage to cells and their DNA by neutralizing harmful molecules called free radicals.
Vitamin E Deficiency
Vitamin E deficiencies are extremely rare in humans, however, premature babies with very low birth weights (less than 1.5 grams) and people who have certain digestive problems are most likely to be at risk for a deficiency.
Signs and symptoms of vitamin E deficiency include numbness or tingling in the toes, feet, and hands; conditions affecting the retina of the eye; weakened immune system; and inability to control bodily movements.
Vitamin E-Rich Foods
Foods like nuts, seeds, and vegetable-based oils are some of the most common sources of vitamin E.
Wheat germ oil is one of the most potent food sources.
Sunflower seeds and peanuts, and the oils and butters made from these plants, provide large amounts of vitamin E.
Broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, kiwi, and mangoes are also rich in vitamin E.
Vitamin E for Skin, Hair, and Scars
Vitamin E – whether taken by mouth or applied to skin or hair – may have cosmetic benefits.
There are some claims that it may help heal small burns and diminish scars, except those caused by acne.
It might also soften skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, according to some anecdotal claims.
Vitamin E Warnings
You should not take vitamin E if you’re allergic to it or any ingredient in the supplement.
If you have an iron or vitamin K deficiency or a blood clotting disorder due to low levels of Factor II (hypoprothrombinemia), ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to take vitamin E.
Pregnancy and Vitamin E
Vitamin E is considered safe to use during pregnancy when taken as a dietary supplement at the doses recommended for your age and condition.
Vitamin E in high doses, however, may pose risks to an unborn baby.
You and your doctor should discuss whether the benefit of doses of vitamin E is worth the potential risk.
Doctors generally consider vitamin E safe to take while breastfeeding your baby.
Tell your doctor is your are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or breastfeeding before taking a vitamin E supplement.
Vitamin E Side Effects
Common Side Effects of Vitamin E
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue or weakness
- Blurry vision
- Problems with ovaries in females or testes in males
- Serious Side Effects of Vitamin E
The most common serious side effect is bleeding.
In babies, vitamin E may cause a potentially life-threatening defect in the intestines called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
Vitamin E Interactions
Tell your doctor and pharmacist all the medications you’re taking.
This includes prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins and other dietary supplements (nutritional shakes, protein powders, etc.), herbal remedies, and illegal and recreational drugs.
If you’re taking mineral oil, do not take vitamin E.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist about vitamin E if you’re taking any of these drugs:
- Bile acid sequestrants, such as cholestyramine (Prevalite), colestipol (Colestid), or colesevelam (Welchol)
- Iron replacement drugs like ferric carboxymaltose (Injectafer), ferrous gluconate, ferrous sulfate, or ferumoxytol (Feraheme)
- Weight-loss drugs, such as orlistat (Alli, Xenical)
- Tipranavir (Aptivus)
- Warfarin (Coumadin or Jantoven)
Also, remember that vitamin E can thin the blood, so be mindful if you’re taking other supplements that may have a similar effect, such as fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids, ginseng, gingko biloba, garlic, or St. John’s wort.
Vitamin E and Alcohol
Both vitamin E and alcohol increase the risk of bleeding, so avoid alcohol while taking vitamin E.
Vitamin E and Grapefruit Juice
Scientists do not know whether or not the liver processes vitamin E the same way it does grapefruit juice.
Avoid grapefruit or the juice while taking vitamin E.
Vitamin E Dosage
You can buy vitamin E capsules over-the-counter in doses of 100 international units (IU), 200 IU, 400 IU, 600 IU, and 1000 IU.
You can also find vitamin E oils in varying doses to apply to your skin and hair.
Your doctor will determine how much vitamin E you need to treat an illness or a deficiency.
You can read guidelines for how much vitamin E to take for your age, gender, and condition.
The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for men and women over 18 years old is 1,000 milligrams (mg) a day.
Vitamin E Overdose
If you think you have taken too much vitamin E, contact an emergency room at 911 or your local poison control center (800-222-1222) right away.
Missed Dose of Vitamin E
If you miss a dose of Vitamin E, try to take it as soon as you remember.
If it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the regular time.
Don’t double your dose.