You may have heard of Vitamin C helping fight illness, but did you know it is essential for our bodies to be able to function at all? It is required for so many different processes in our body that a deficiency in this vitamin can cause wide-ranging and sometimes serious health problems.
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is what’s classed as an essential vitamin for our body. It is needed for our immune system, bones, and skin to be fully functioning and healthy and also to help absorb iron in our gut. It is required for any growth and repair of tissues in our body as well as being what’s known as an anti-oxidant which means it fights inflammation in our body. Vitamin C stimulates collagen to be made in our body which is one of the components needed to maintain strong bones, have firm elastic skin, and have healthy hair.
Unfortunately, our body cannot make vitamin c or store it so we do need to make sure that we get all that we need from our diet daily. Vitamin C is mainly found in fruit and vegetables with leafy green vegetables, citrus fruit, and potatoes being examples of those containing higher amounts of vitamin C. Adults need at least 40mg of vitamin C a day. To put that in perspective, one medium orange has around 70mg of vitamin C and one cup of broccoli has 80mg, so this is attainable for most people through diet alone. Vitamin C supplementation may play a role in treating vitamin C deficiency, for people who do not get fruit and vegetables in their diet and for people who have bowel disorders meaning they may not absorb vitamin C as well. Having a very large amount of vitamin C (1000mg or over) does not provide any additional benefit and can cause side effects. This is because your body cannot store any excess vitamin C so any more than you need will just be lost from your body when you pee.
Vitamin C deficiency is also known as scurvy. This condition was first noted all the way back in the 1700s in sailors who had little to no access to fresh food. Initial symptoms are tiredness, weakness, and bruising easily progressing to gum problems, tooth loss, and poor healing. Ultimately, if left untreated scurvy can be fatal. Treatment is simple and effective with either supplementation or dietary intake of vitamin C.
Evidence seems to suggest that when you are not vitamin C deficient, taking extra vitamin C doesn’t help with preventing colds but it can help shorten the length you have a cold and the severity if you increase your intake at the first signs of a common cold before the worst or the symptoms have set in.