The Amazing Power of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the most supplemented vitamins, especially when you’re feeling run down and about to catch a cold or flu. Turns out, this vitamin does a whole lot more for our body and in many cases should be considered as a staple supplement in our daily routine.
Why you need to consume it
Your body cannot make vitamin C, it needs to come from the diet. Eating plenty of whole food fruit and vegetable sources daily, particularly raw, will help you get enough. It is estimated that people require anywhere from 600-1200mg of this nutrient daily. Even if you eat vitamin C rich foods on a daily basis, the poor soil quality we have today produces crops with less nutrient value than in the past. If you’re chronically stressed, chances are you’re using up more than you can take in via food, so supplementing may be necessary.
What Vitamin C does for the body
Develops and maintains connective tissues and has a dominant role in bone formation. Vitamin C helps wounds heal faster, works to form collagen in the body and promotes healthy gums. Metabolically, it activates folic acid, helps convert cholesterol to bile acids and aids in the creation of serotonin (the “happy” hormone). Vitamin C has powerful antioxidant properties and can strengthen the immune system by increasing production of white blood cells (neutrophils, lymphocytes) which fight viral, bacterial and fungal invaders.
Conditions that may require supplementation
Tiny glands, called your adrenals, sit on top of the kidneys and are responsible for some major hormones in your body such as cortisol, cortisone, testosterone, estrogen, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Constant exposure to stress of any kind sets off a hormonal cascade that they contribute to. Over time this chronic stress wears them out and they no longer produce hormones efficiently. As the adrenals prioritize cortisol production and use vitamin and mineral stores to manufacture it. Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin, is one of the first to be used up in this process, leaving you feeling run down and depleted.
Immune system support
Vitamin C supplementation is ideal for stressful, inflammatory situations. This includes recovering from illnesses like a cold, viral infection, use of medications and antibiotics. Smoking, alcohol abuse and drug use (even pharmaceuticals, OTC medications) increases the need for supplementation because of the oxidative stress these activities place on the body.
Suffering from chronic constipation is no fun. The bloating and general icky feeling from not having regular bowel movements affect mood and appetite. One way to get natural relief is by taking vitamin C to bowel tolerance. Everyone’s tolerance amount is different, depending on if they’re sick, stressed out, or already supplement vitamin C. Do this by mixing about 1/2 tsp pure vitamin C powder into water and drink quickly. Wait about 60 minutes and if you don’t feel an urge to go, do it again. Repeat until you’re able to make a bowel movement. Once you get loose stools, you’ll know you had enough vitamin C. The next time you supplement, take about half of that maximum dosage.
People who fail to include enough fresh fruits and vegetables may not be getting enough daily. This is especially true for people on very low carb diets and those with inadequate access to food.
Foods rich in Vitamin C
Remember when grandma said to eat your fruits and vegetables? Of course she was right! That’s the best way to get adequate vitamin C into your diet, it’s not found naturally in large enough amounts in animal products. Many immediately think of oranges as a good vitamin C source, but other citrus fruits, cherries, tomatoes and strawberries are good sources as well. Low-carbers and those with blood sugar issues appreciate that vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, green and red peppers, dark leafy greens, asparagus all have good amounts. Since it’s found in the watery parts of vegetables, avoid always cooking them as you’ll lose the vitamin C.
How to get enough vitamin C
In addition to eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily, making sure you eat raw veggies as well as cooked. A starting amount for supplementation would be at least 200mg of vitamin C.
Check your current supplement(s) and see how much vitamin C it contains before you decide to up your dosage. Taking a multivitamin? Chances are it has just the bare minimum you need.
Recommended RDA vs. optimal nutrition recommended amounts
According to the National Institutes for Health, the Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin C is around 90mg for men and 75mg for women from food and supplementation combined. Again, this is the BASE level you’d need to add if you have a perfect diet from whole-food sources and zero stressors on your body. Not many fit this description.
In cases of extreme deficiency, vitamin therapy may be used. The tolerable upper intake is 2,000mg/day for ages 19+ and is under advisement of a trained professional. Higher levels are for short term treatments for a specific period of time only.
Everyone is different in the amount they need. If you’re looking to find out more about what your body requires, contact your nutritionist or schedule a consult here and we’ll chat about how nutritional therapy can work for you!
Chambial, S., Dwivedi S., Kant Shukla, K., Placheril J., & Sharma P. (2013, September 1). Vitamin C in Diseases Prevention and Cure: An Overview [webpage]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3783921/.
Haas, E. MD, Levin, B. PhD, RD. (2006). Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. New York: Ten Speed Press.
Kitchen Table Medicine. (2008, February 20). Bowel Tolerance and Vitamin C Supplementation. [website]. Retrieved from http://www.kitchentablemedicine.com/2008/02/20/bowel-tolerance-and-vitamin-c-supplementation/.
National Institutes for Health. (2018, September 18). Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals [web article]. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/.