Fighting Vitamin C Deficiency – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Somewhere in your body, there’s a star vitamin that smartly repairs your body tissues, helps produce collagen, gives your skin a dazzling glow, and generally keeps you healthy and nearly impenetrable to harmful microorganisms.
When the vitamin does not have enough reinforcements to do its work, your body is left vulnerable and almost defenseless. That’s when your skin starts to look dull, you fall ill often, and you do not feel or even look good. This star vitamin is vitamin C, and the condition where your body does not have enough vitamin C soldiers to defend it is called vitamin C deficiency.
In this article, we will go over the basics of vitamin c deficiency, what dosage to take daily, the dangers of getting too little vitamin and how to boost you immune system with Vitamin C.
Getting to Know Vitamin C
Before you can understand why and how vitamin C is so essential, you have to meet him first. Vitamin C is a very friendly vitamin. According to experts, it is one of the safest and most effective nutrients. It is an essential vitamin, which means your body can’t synthesize (produce) it on its own. You have to source it from your food. Yet, it helps you maintain your body system in such a unique way that you should not skip a day without adding some vitamin C goodness to your meals.
Whether it’s by squeezing some lemon juice over your dish or through supplementation, you should always take the required daily amount of vitamin C. If you are not sure how much to take, here is a table to help with that:
People who smoke should take 35 mg per day more than non-smokers.
When you ingest food, your body digests and turns it into energy via metabolism. After that, the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients travel throughout the body via the bloodstream to resume work. So, how is vitamin C able to do all it does for you and your body system? How does vitamin C work?
Vitamin C is a soldier vitamin for your body. After vitamin C reaches its target organ, tissue, or cell, it begins work immediately. During digestion, when our body breaks down our food, compounds called free radicals can form. Besides digestion, you can get exposed to free radicals via environmental factors, such as air pollution, ultraviolet rays, and cigarette smoke.
Sunscreen protects the body from free radicals resulting from ultraviolet rays and general air pollution. At the same time, smokers may require a higher vitamin C dose to combat the free radicals from cigarette smoke. So, why should you steer clear of free radicals? And what harm do they cause?
Free radicals enjoy causing oxidative stress that, in turn, damages your proteins, DNA, and cells, further leading to illness and early aging. Yikes!
Vitamin C sees to it that this does not happen on its watch. As your body’s pro-defense system and major antioxidant, it makes sure to keep free radicals in check. But when these free radicals outnumber our vitamin C soldiers, they may take over your body and wreak havoc!
Vitamin C and You
How about a little history lesson? Don’t worry; it will be far cooler than the ones you had in high school. Way back in 1747, scientists discovered there was a relationship humans were missing. Something was lacking in us, and they couldn’t place their finger on it. Because of this missing relationship, many people (sailors, primarily) fell ill with scurvy. Many years later, in 1932, they discovered an internal soldier, defender, and anti-disease warrior in the form of a vitamin and went “Eureka!” Since then, they have studied, experimented with, and discovered a lot about vitamin C, scientifically known as ascorbic acid.
Vitamins are generally organic compounds that help us regulate our body’s metabolism. My nickname for vitamins is VITAL-ME because they help improve and promote your overall system’s health and vitality. But, what’s unique about vitamin C? How does vitamin C help your immune system? Is there more to this vitamin? Let’s find out!
Vitamin C helps to improve your overall health. It aids in the production of collagen. Collagen helps repair your tissues, and among many other things, betters skin moisture, elasticity and smoothens wrinkles. With vitamin C, your skin becomes more elastic and glowy. The “C” must stand for Charming. You are less likely to fall ill or contract diseases because vitamin C helps boost your immune system, C for Custodian. Are you looking for the elixir of life? Vitamin C is here for you. It helps your nervous system in the production of neurotransmitters. Without neurotransmitters, your neurons won’t relay instructions to or from your brain. The result? Death! C for Catholicon (elixir).
You might think your body will store up some vitamin C, especially if you take excess. However, that is not the case. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, and our bodies mainly store fat-soluble vitamins. So, when you take to the high C’s, your body takes what it needs and excretes the rest in urine. Our bodies may keep small reserves of water-soluble vitamins, but to prevent deficiency, you still have to take the required daily amount.
You should also know that vitamin C is not for a select group of people; everyone needs some C in their lives. As mentioned earlier, this amount differs for each unique group of people, ages, genders, and those with exceptional cases, like smokers and pregnant women, or medical conditions, like the novel coronavirus. Your best bet is to visit your doctor, so you know how much C your body needs regularly.
Calm at C
You know how calming the cool sea breeze is. You can sit and stare at it all day or throw it a glance; there’s too much work to do than stare at some water, anyway. But, you have to agree it does give you some sense of peace.
Ascorbic acid is the sea in a vitamin. It calms your nerves and helps you keep your sanity! How? According to an animal study, scientists found that vitamin C can lower blood pressure in individuals with or without hypertension. This is another reason you always seek your doctor’s advice on how much vitamin C you can take. You would not want to drastically lower your blood pressure with a high vitamin C dose if you are normo- or hypotensive.
Have you ever heard of dementia? This condition affects mostly the elderly and abates their thinking and memory capacity. The culprit? Oxidative stress and inflammation near the brain. As strong as the antioxidant vitamin C is, it can reduce oxidative stress and improve thinking. So, while you’re prepping for that big exam or test, take enough C’s so you can bag those A’s!
Vitamin C Deficiency Causes and Dangers
Now you’ve read how beneficial vitamin C is to your health, I’m sure you can imagine how much havoc your system will be in without your Custodian in sight. 7.1% of the US population and 73.9% of north India’s suffer from vitamin C deficiency. Here’s why:
Thousands of people, particularly in developing or underdeveloped countries, have no idea vitamin C exists, much less vitamin C deficiency. So, they have no clue how to incorporate it in their diets and might not have access to necessary supplements. Another sub-factor is the way people jump after food fads with little or no knowledge.
These fads hardly contain the required amount for each nutrient and focus on losing weight unreasonably fast without any thought towards how well your body can take such a huge change. Also, people who jump on the food fad train hardly consult with their doctors first. They jump right in after hearing a “testimony” or “review.”
Pretty obvious, right? Well, to an extent, this goes beyond adding some citrus fruits or other sources of vitamin C to your diet. For starters, newborn babies who only feed on plant-based beverages, like almond milk, or cow’s milk as opposed to breastfeeding or infant formulas during their first year, are likely to be deficient in vitamin C. Breast milk and infant formulas remain undefeated because they have all the essential nutrients babies need to develop and stay healthy.
Most people see eating out a lot as a sign of class and affluence, but their bodies see it as a deficiency danger sign. Most of these fast-food companies hardly take time to prepare their meals. Well, it is called fast-food for a reason. Frequently eating out leaves your system vulnerable and weak because you are deficient in essential nutrients, especially vitamin C. Here’s the case of a man who loved eating out and taking little or no vegetables and fruits. Scurvy can really damage the body.
Sweet Tooth Syndrome
People, especially teenagers and youths, see eating vegetables and fruits as a chore. They prefer stuffing their faces with a lot of sugars, chocolates, and other sweets. As the popular saying goes: prevention is better than cure. So, enjoy that broccoli, drink up that orange juice with a smile, and watch vitamin C sail through your bloodstream, and rectifying health challenges in its wake!
Exposure to Free Radicals
People who smoke, walk around without sunscreen, and perform other practices that get them in the face of free radicals are setting themselves up for a bitter case of vitamin C deficiency. That’s why they usually need a higher dose of vitamin C to help tackle free radicals and put them in their place.
Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms
To help you know what you’re up against, you need to be familiar with the signs of vitamin C deficiency. After a few weeks to some months of low vitamin C levels, adults experience:
Remember, vitamin C is a calm sea in vitamin form. So, a lack of it can cause you to feel irritated, agitated, and on edge over what you usually do not react negatively to. Vitamin C deficiency can dampen your mood to the point of deep sadness or depression. Studies show that patients with psychotic conditions, like anxiety and depression, can lower it with vitamin C’s right dose.
Lassitude is a feeling of mental or physical tiredness, weariness, and fatigue. It gets worse when you expose your body to heat or stress. It feels like you’re carrying a heavyweight around, and no matter how well you sleep, you still wake up feeling run down and do not want to get up from bed.
This is a bit milder than lassitude. Vitamin C deficiency causes weakness, specifically in the muscles (scientifically known as myalgia). You usually find it difficult or tiring to do what you typically do.
Pain during movement
Vitamin C acts as a cushion for muscle wear and tear, so the muscles are left defenseless and weak when it’s absent. As the child tries to move, he/she can experience pain and discomfort from the muscles, vitamin C heals faster and cushions from excess damage.
Children/infants with vitamin C deficiency grow and develop at slower rates than the average rate for their age. A lack can impede their growth and potentially affect their mental, physical, and other development areas.
After a few months of vitamin C deficiency, scurvy can set in. A few symptoms of scurvy are:
Dry, Scaly Skin and Coiled hair
Vitamin C helps in the absorption of plant-based iron, allows your body to produce collagen and other protein-rich materials that help your skin and hair look healthy and vibrant. So, a deficiency leaves your hair dry and makes it coil till it breaks at the surface of your skin. For your skin, it loses moisture, appears scaly, and hardly stays hydrated.
Damaged Teeth and Gums
Scurvy causes your gums to be brittle (fragile), swollen, spongy, and purple. During severe vitamin C deficiency, they bleed easily. After a while, the teeth join in on the collateral damage. They become loose and even pull out from the gum! Remember that vitamin C helps in the production of collagen that helps support our tissues? Well, it doesn’t just stop there. Vitamin C also supports your dental health by maintaining the alveolar bone, gingiva, cementum, and others that support and sustain your teeth. So, it’s no wonder that when this vitamin is in low amounts, your dental system can start to fall apart, literally.
C Estate: Sources of Vitamin C
If you’re looking to hoard as much C as you can have, Kakadu plum is your best bet yet. It has over 100 times more vitamin C than oranges do. It is a natural source with the greatest concentration of vitamin C and is of Australian origin. Other foods high in vitamin C include:
- Brussel sprouts
- Chili peppers
- Tangerine or Tangelo
- Black currants
- American Persimmons
- Apple juice
- Tomato paste, and more!
Find your favorites, stock up on them, and C yourself cultivate a healthier lifestyle.
Sailing High C’s
The table you saw earlier clearly states the RDA of vitamin C for different individuals. Here’s a table to help define the daily upper limit (the highest safe quantity) of vitamin C for each group of individuals according to life stages:
So, what happens when you take much more than the upper limit? What happens when you sail those turbulent high C’s? Here are a few consequences:
- Abdominal cramps
So, before you chug all that excess C, count the cost and stick to the required daily allowance. Taking high doses will not immediately take care of your deficiency and give you a dazzling vitamin C immune system; remember, Control is key.
Our final thoughts
Vitamin C’s importance cannot be overemphasized. Hopefully, now you can look at the vegetables and fruits in your kitchen with more love. Also, when you need some free radical out of the way or your immune system needs a little boost, know you have a friend who has you Covered and your concerns Cornered (is ever ready to serve you).
University of Port-Harcourt Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (M.B.B.S.), Medicine 2019-2025 (expected)