Vitamin C is probably the most known about and popular vitamin to the general public…and probably the first one you think about when feeling under the weather. For good reason too. It is also one of the safest and most effective vitamins to add to your diet. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin found in fruit and vegetables. It also goes by the name ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C has many benefits, and definitely an important one to make sure you are getting enough of whether through supplementation or diet. The most popular use of vitamin C is ‘boosting’ our immune systems, and is most peoples first go to supplement at the start of a cold or other illness. Studies have shown that it can help reduce the length of illness. It acts as an antioxidant in our bodies fighting off those pesky free radicals and boosting our immune system. Some studies have shown that high levels of vitamin C in the diet can help prevent chronic health conditions.
Our bodies need vitamin C to synthesize and help with absorption of other vitamin and minerals. It helps synthesize collagen which supports our joints and connective tissues also preventing damage to our skin. You will often see it listed in anti-ageing products for this reason. Vitamin C can help the absorption of iron in our bodies, preventing iron-deficiency anemia, (especially when taken with a meal it can increase the amount of iron absorbed). It is also needed for the production of L-carnitine.
Being deficient in this vitamin can cause our immune system to not function correctly and severe deficiency can result in scurvy. Although not a common disease these days, it still occurs in the developing world. It’s caused by low levels of vitamin C which disrupt the synthesis of collagen which as mentioned above supports the health of our joints, skin and connective tissues and can cause a whole range of symptoms such as weakness, bleeding gums, poor wound healing, dry scaly skin, fatigue to name a few.
Vitamin C deficiency can also be caused by restrictive diets (those suffering from anorexia included). Other reasons for us to become deficient are when our body doesn’t absorb nutrients correctly - so those suffering from chron's disease or ulcerative colitis need to make sure they are getting enough vitamin C.
Symptoms of a deficiency can be
- Poor immune function
- Rough or dry skin
- Shortness of breath
- Bleeding gums
- Spoon shaped finger nails
- Slow wound healing
Try getting most of your vitamin C from fruit and vegetables each day, but if you are struggling to get the required amount in which probably only 20% of us are, speak to your Doctor about introducing a vitamin C supplement. The tolerable upper limit for vitamin C is set at 2000milligrams a day for adults. But most of use don’t need to be taking that much. The vitamin C that our body doesn’t need is excreted out in our urine, so you may be wasting your money taking too much of it. Very high doses of vitamin C can cause digestive issue and make our urine more acidic, can also cause iron overload.
Remember whilst vitamin C is one of the safest vitamins to take, speak to your doctor before increasing levels of it, as you could quite easily be getting enough through your diet. Blood tests can be done to check levels.