The Surprising Benefits of Vitamin C
What comes to mind when you hear ‘Vitamin C’? What used to come to my mind first were oranges and a vitamin to take during flu season. Were your first thoughts about the same as mine? Well get ready to discover how amazing and necessary Vitamin C is to our overall wellbeing ALL year long!
I first became curious about Vitamin C when I was talking with one of the nurses I work with who said she began to give her kids high doses of vitamin C after she read a book by Dr. Linus Pauling called ‘How to Live Longer and Feel Better’. Dr. Pauling did a lot of research and treatment with high doses of vitamin C. The results of his research are awesome!
5 reasons why we need vitamin C:
1. To boost our immune system
Vitamin C is very important for our immune system, but I didn‘t fully understand why until I looked into it. Here’s what I found….Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and it boosts production of white blood cells (cells that attack bacteria and germs). When I was in nursing school, my teachers referred to white blood cells as our body’s ‘army‘. I found this article that states "several studies have shown that supplemental vitamin c increases serum levels of antibodies". (1) Antioxidants reduce damage done to our body by free radicals which damage DNA. Antioxidants stop the process of oxidized molecules producing free radicals.
Have allergies? Allergic responses are part of our immune system. Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine. Studies have shown that vitamin C reduces the amount of histamine in the blood, which will then decrease our allergic response.
2. Increase collagen production
Vitamin C is a key component for the production of collagen. Collagen is necessary for connective tissue health - cartilage, ligament, tendon, skin, bone, blood vessels. We need collagen to repair every single cell in our body. Collagen, in a nutshell, "is the most abundant protein in the human body and is the substance that holds the whole body together". (2) When we're deficient in collagen we have osteoporosis, arthritis, sagging skin, wrinkles, muscle weakness, headaches, bleeding, loose teeth/cavities.
3. Lower cholesterol and risk for heart disease
Research shows that vitamin C has a pivotal role in preventing and treating heart disease (aka chronic scurvy). Dr. Linus Pauling coined the term "chronic scurvy" for patients who had cardiovascular disease. It makes sense since some of the symptoms of scurvy are blood vessel damage and bleeding. We need vitamin C for collagen production and collagen to repair blood vessels. When we lack vitamin C and collagen, our body compensates by producing more cholesterol to patch up our weak blood vessels leading to high cholesterol and plaque build up. This study found that "supplementation with at least 500 mg/d of vitamin C, for a minimum of 4 weeks, can result in a significant decrease in serum LDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations." (3)
4. Improve brain function and hormone function
Adrenal glands make hormones that we need for our metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, and our stress response. Our adrenal glands need a sufficient amount of vitamin C to function properly.
The highest concentrations of Vitamin C are found in our adrenal glands, brain and eyes. If we're deficient in vitamin c, we have the potential for stroke, Alzheimer's, parkinsons, and more. (4)
5. Help lower your chance for cancer
Studies have shown that high doses of vitamin C slow the growth of some cancers. Cancer cells have more insulin receptors than normal cells and vitamin C gets into our cells through the insulin receptors.
Not to mention that our immune system is supposed to recognize that cancer cells are foreign and destroy them. I guess Vitamin C is like a double whammy in that sense - because it boosts our immune system and slows the growth of cancers.
Symptoms of vitamin c deficiency:
Bruising, fatigue, heart disease, high cholesterol, bleeding gums/loose teeth, nosebleeds, irritability, dry hair/split ends, dry skin.
How much vitamin C should I take?
The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of vitamin C for adults is 75-90mg per day. This amount was set by governmental agencies and is just enough to keep us from getting scurvy. Scurvy was a big deal in the 18th century in sailors, soldiers, and miners who would only eat biscuits and salted meat while on long voyages or while mining. They became so deficient in vitamin C that they first had weakness, depression, sore muscles. The next symptoms would be bleeding gums, loose teeth, wounds that wouldn’t heal. The final stage included diarrhea, respiratory and kidney problems, and death.
Vitamin C is water soluble which means it is easily excreted from our bodies. Because vitamin C is water soluble it’s not readily stored in our cells; therefore, we need to intake more than the RDA and more than once a day.
In his book ‘How to Live Longer and Feel Better‘, Dr. Pauling states that “a person weighing…154 pounds..should ingest between 1800 and 4100 mg per day under ordinary circumstances”. (p98) I know that’s a large amount compared to the meager amount we take when we have a cold, but remember that vitamin C is water soluble. It doesn’t build up in our system since we excrete it so fast and there are no side effects as long as you’re using a food based vitamin C.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, I think of oranges as the food containing a lot of vitamin C. I’m about to burst that bubble…eat raw greens for the most vitamin C. Foods highest in vitamin c: guava, red bell peppers, kale, parsley, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and kiwi.
Raw is best because vitamin C starts to break down when exposed to heat.
I use these brands because they're food based: for adults (1, 2) and these (1,2) are great for kids. The most popular vitamin C supplement is ascorbic acid, but I don’t recommend taking that. Real ascorbic acid is only a small part of all the components that make up vitamin C and most ascorbic acid supplements are synthetic. Synthetic ascorbic acid in large doses, can be harmful to health.
Peace and wellbeing -
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. This is something I find very interesting and want to share the knowledge. Please consult with your health professional for a formal diagnosis and treatment.