It used to be a common, daily affliction. And it was all but eradicated by the 1940s. However, it is still around today, and we can fight it. The “it” is vitamin C deficiency. Epidemics of the deficiency were rampant between the 13th century and the 19th century.
Once the cause of the effects was identified around 1937, it was quickly and easily handled. Dietary supplementation of vitamin C all but eliminated the outbreaks. However, today we have new cause for alarms. There are more ways than ever to suffer a vitamin deficiency.
This article will examine the warning signs, toxicity and effects of vitamin C deficiency. We will then cover how to treat it, how much vitamin C you should be taking and where you can find it.
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Vitamin C Deficiency by Definition
Vitamin C deficiency has a more common (and shorter name) when the deficiency causes physical symptoms it is known as scurvy. Yes, the disease you associate with pirates and sailors prior to the discovery of America.
Scurvy is all too real, though and we still battle it today. While the modern world knows what causes scurvy, some are still afflicted, and others seemingly do it voluntarily, even if they don’t realize it.
Vitamin C is crucial to our overall health. It is responsible for the bone development, including the dentin which makes up our teeth.
Additionally, it is also imperative for boosting our immune system and helping our bodies heal from injury.
Furthermore, it is also a powerful antioxidant that helps keep us healthy and recover quickly from illness.
Vitamin C is also being studied for its effects on the body and reducing swelling and inflammation, fighting cancer and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Not getting enough vitamin C can cause scurvy and the physical symptoms that go with it. Getting too much, though, can also have an ill-effect by producing a vitamin C toxicity.
How Much Vitamin C is Required?
According to the National Institute of Health, men between the ages of 18 and 90 should have a daily intake of 90mg of vitamin C. Women in the same age range should intake 75mg daily.
There are other factors, though, that may cause this number to increase or decrease based on individual circumstances.
Smokers, for example, don’t absorb vitamin C as well as non-smokers and need to add up to 30 mg more per day to achieve the recommended daily amount.
Women who are pregnant or nursing, persons with gastrointestinal disorders or those recovering from burns or surgery will also need to increase their daily intake.
It is also advised to get your vitamin C from natural, dietary sources such as fruits and vegetables. You can get Vitamin C supplements. However, this can cause vitamin C toxicity.
Warning Signs Of Vitamin C Deficiency
A lot of the standard warning signs of a vitamin C deficiency can easily be attributed to other things. This can be dangerous though, as proper identification of the deficiency will aid in the treatment and shorten the recovery time.
Scurvy has some serious symptoms. You should be on alert if you suffer any of the symptoms. If you suspect you may have a vitamin C deficiency, you should talk to your doctor immediately.
One of the first signs of a vitamin C deficiency is weakened capillaries. Capillaries are small blood vessels close to the skin. You can tell if yours are weaker because you will bruise extremely easy.
Bruising when you fall, run into something or otherwise cause blunt trauma to your skin is normal. However, you should be on the lookout for unexplained bruising. Bruises that seem to spread can also be a sign of weak capillaries.
Just because you can’t explain a bruise or have a rather large one doesn’t mean you have a vitamin C deficiency, though. If you notice more and more bruising, however, it may be worth looking into further.
Scurvy Starts as Low Vitamin C Levels
The first signs of scurvy are sore gums, bleeding of the mouth and teeth that lose their dentin and fall out.
Scurvy is when vitamin C deficiency becomes severe or prolonged. Bleeding gums and gingivitis can be a sign of vitamin C deficiency and allow the shortage to continue can lead to scurvy.
When scurvy comes to surface bleeding, oozing gums and tooth loss are common. If you have bleeding ulcers in the mouth or swollen gums, you may have a vitamin C deficiency. You should consult an orthodontist or see a doctor.
Dry Skin or Rash
Another sign of scurvy is dry skin, red, itchy patches or rashes. This is because of a lack of collagen. Vitamin C depletes collage levels and aside from the tissue in the mouth, the skin is the first affected by this lack of vitamin C.
If you have small hard bumps around your face or on the thighs and upper arms it could be a condition called keratosis pilaris.
You can remedy it by simply upping the amount of vitamin C you ingest from natural sources like fruits or juices.
However, if you do have these symptoms, you should have your rashes and dry skin checked by a dermatologist or a medical professional. They will be able to determine the root cause of the conditions and if it is a low level of vitamin C, a vitamin regimen may be administered.
Vitamin C is essential for our body’s immune system to function properly. The immune system responds to illness, virus, bacteria and other forms of foreign invaders to help us heal, or kick the illness.
When there isn’t enough vitamin C, our immune system begins to fail or becomes compromised. When this happens, we can’t fight off illness, disease, or virus infections. Taking the correct amounts of vitamin C can keep the immune system working properly.
While the links to the flu and common cold and the intake of vitamin C are still being debated, it is never a bad thing when the immune system is involved, to take the recommended daily allowances of vitamin C.
There are several, if not dozens of symptoms that can be an indication of a vitamin C deficiency. There are also many different treatments that can help the symptoms.
However, if the underlying cause is a shortage of vitamin C, there is only one solution: take more vitamin C.
In today’s modern era, scurvy isn’t as popular or widespread.
However, with the influx of fad diets and war zones, there are people still susceptible. Underdeveloped countries, war refugees and those that don’t get access to proper, regular nutrition are at risk of a vitamin C deficiency.
Taking more vitamin C is the one course of action you can have control over.
If you are suffering the symptoms, you can use supplements to help get your vitamin C levels back up. However, you should take caution when using supplements and how much you are taking.
When possible, you should get your vitamin C from natural sources from the list above. Fruits, vegetables, and juices will help without giving you the proper amounts without the risks of vitamin C toxicity from too many supplements.
Finally, because humans can’t synthesize vitamin C internally. It is crucial we ingest the essential vitamin in accordance with the National Institute of Health’s recommended daily allowances.
By doing so, you will help your immune system and keep scurvy at bay.
Sources of Vitamin C
What foods hold the vitamin C that can add to our daily intake? Most fruits and vegetables have vitamin C in them. You can get vitamin C by eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes:
- Citruses such as lemon and limes
- Red Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
You can also drink the juices of the fruits for vitamin C as well. Vegetable juices will also carry the Vitamin C required to reach your daily allowance.
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Vitamin C Toxicity
It is thought that because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin then you can’t technically overdose on it. This is true for natural ingestion from foods. However, supplemental vitamin C can cause some side effects if too much vitamin C is taken.
If you ingest more than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C naturally, the body will flush it out through our urine. However, supplements of the vitamin tend to stick around longer. This toxicity can lead to undesirable side effects such as:
- Migraine headaches
- Indigestion or upset stomach
It was also found through a study that taking vitamin C supplements that resulted in a daily overdose can lead to kidney stones.
The best method of getting your daily allowance of vitamin C is through food like fruits and vegetables or even juices.