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Vitamin C

Optimum nutrition is the medicine of tomorrow” – Linus Pauling

Vitamin C has gotten a fair amount of press in these COVID times. It has been shown to shorten the duration of a cold, but did you know that it is important in many systems in our bodies. In fact, people with higher amounts of vitamin C circulating in their blood stream have lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other diseases.

Vitamin C is the most abundant water-soluble vitamin in the body. It is critical to many biological processes.

Unlike other animals, humans do not have an ability to synthesize vitamin C but need to consume it in our diets. Our bodies are only able to store about a month’s supply of vitamin C. In the absence of fresh fruit and vegetables, it takes about 3 months for deficiency symptoms to develop.

A deficiency of vitamin C causes scurvy which leads to symptoms of anemia, loose teeth, muscle and bone pain, bruising, bleeding gums, gingivitis, and exhaustion.  Smoking, stress, alcohol consumption and disease all increase your need for vitamin C.

Vitamin C is so much more than something to take to boost immunity. It is important in many biochemical processes in the body, but it is especially important for connective tissue integrity, as a free radical scavenger, to activate enzyme processes in our bodies, to help burn fat to make energy and it is important in our adrenal glands to help make norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that is important in our body’s ability to cope with stress.

Because it is a critical antioxidant, higher concentrations of vitamin C are likely to reduce risk and severity of certain diseases such as cataracts, atherosclerosis and stroke that are associated with free radical damage to tissues. It has also been shown to reduce risk of cardiac complications following surgery.

Portland’s own Linus Pauling was a Nobel prize chemist in the 1900s who advocated using one gram of vitamin C per day to prevent the common cold.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C and indeed the term “Limey” comes from sailors bringing limes on board ships to prevent scurvy. But cooking, canning, and processing these foods destroy the vitamin C in them. Eating fresh raw or frozen fruits and vegetables or juices yield higher amounts of it.

Vitamin C supplementation is generally very safe even in young people. Higher doses can cause diarrhea or stomach upset and some people may get canker sores from certain forms of vitamin C in high doses. Doses of 2-3 grams (2000-3000 mg) is typically a very safe amount for an adult.


By Dr. Jennifer Means, ND, LAc

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