For many of us, at the first sign of illness, we are quick to drink a glass of orange juice or take a Vitamin C supplement. Whether this is something our mothers encouraged or something we learned in school, it is ingrained in us that it helps with the immune system. While true, this nutrient plays a much larger role within the body and can really wreak havoc when it is lacking.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that plays a major role in several functions of the body. Because it is water-soluble, it’s extremely hard to reach toxic levels. It is often referred to as ascorbate or ascorbic acid.
How It Functions
While it’s a well-known fact that Vitamin C supports immune function, it has also several other roles. One important job this nutrient has is in the formation of the neurotransmitters Dopamine and Serotonin. Both of these promote feelings of happiness, serenity, and clear thinking, therefore, supporting the body in how it handles stress.
Another major role this nutrient has is in providing the elasticity in collagen. Collagen makes up so many components in the body including the skin, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and even eyes. Additionally, glycine, lysine, and proline all need Vitamin C to be metabolized and in turn, form collagen. Taking collagen supplements without a C supplement to bind and hold it together is useless and ineffective.
Further Key Roles of Vitamin C
Additional less-known jobs performed by this underrated nutrient include:
- Folate metabolism – it helps to drive proper methylation of folate
- Production of L-Carnitine which is needed to take fat to the mitochondria to be used for energy
- Reduction of lipoproteins that promote harmful cholesterol
- Formation of bile acid that digests fat and rids the body of toxins
- The boosting of nitric oxide levels to help blood vessels dilate properly.
Where to Find It
It’s no surprise that most Vitamin C found in the diet comes from fruit. However, many vegetables contain it as well. These include kale, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, and potatoes, especially sweet potatoes.
Fruit with a high concentration of this nutrient includes all citrus fruit, kiwi, and strawberries. While not as popular in the United States, consuming animal organ meat is also a great source of this nutrient. Growing your own produce or getting it from a farmer’s market will supply greater amounts of Vitamin C, as these are more commonly picked at peak ripeness.
Experiencing a Deficiency
Because Vitamin C is linked to several functions within the body, a lack of it in the diet can cause major issues. With a close relationship with collagen, a deficiency may cause bleeding gums, varicose veins, muscle reduction, muscle, tendon, and ligament issues, slow healing, and easy bruising. With its link to immunity and neurotransmitters, a deficiency can also cause recurring infections and depression.
Furthermore, a lack of this nutrient can lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Gallbladder problems
- Inability to burn fat for fuel properly
- Inability to metabolize adrenaline leading to hyper anxiety
- Estrogen dominance in women leading a thyroid problem
What Can Cause Deficiency?
Apart from a lack of consuming this nutrient, there are several lifestyle factors that can cause a deficiency. Two of the most prevalent include consuming large amounts of alcohol and smoking. Both of these can deplete Vitamin C stores within the body.
Because it can help with calming the body, stress can also deplete the body’s stores. Additionally, antibiotics, pain meds, and being exposed to toxins like heavy metals, petroleum, mold, and carbon monoxide forces the body to use this nutrient to get rid of these.
If a Vitamin C deficiency continues to persist, it could likely turn into even greater issues. These may include depression or schizophrenia to hypertension, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, Type two diabetes, and even cancer.
While not as common today, Scurvy is another disease linked to a lack of Vitamin C. Not only can it affect mental capabilities, but it can cause teeth to fall out, skin rashes, and internal bleeding. If not caught and treated early on, scurvy will eventually lead to death.
On the opposite end of a deficiency is toxicity. As previously mentioned, toxicity, especially with water-soluble vitamins is pretty hard to achieve. The body is quite proficient with not absorbing and ridding itself of any unnecessary amounts of nutrients.
If a person does consume too much, then it will likely result in stomach or intestine issues. This may consist of a rumbly stomach, bloating, gas, and runny or loose stool. When this happens, either decrease the amount of Vitamin C being consumed whether through food or a supplement or try splitting it up throughout the day.
Unfortunately, the amount of Vitamin C found in the food produced today is not as much as it could be. This is caused by acidic rain, soil erosion, and even pesticides. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are not picked at optimal ripeness, and therefore, don’t contain as much nutritional value as they could.
Because of this and other lifestyle factors, supplementation may be necessary. When choosing a supplement, be sure that it is not corn-derived which can cause digestion issues. Additionally, start with three grams a day and monitor how that feels. If problems occur in the stomach or with bowel movements, considering cutting back or spreading the dosage out.
Consider Your Diet
While many have a lifestyle that will necessitate the need for a Vitamin C supplement, your diet and ways in which to improve it, should always be considered. While it is much easier to swallow a pill, the body benefits from a diet filled with whole foods and clean eating.
Not only will you be providing yourself with Vitamin C, but a plethora of necessary and important vitamins and minerals to get or keep your body in prime condition. So challenge yourself to find new ways to make and eat healthy food that will energize your body and mind and change your life for the better!