Natural Health Solutions: Vitamin C
Also identified as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it dissolves in water. Because the human body doesn't manufacture its own vitamin C, it must be obtained through the diet. Good food sources of vitamin C are melons, citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes and winter squash. Humans need an ongoing supply of vitamin C because it is essential for many bodily functions, and any surplus leaves the body through urination.
Vitamin C is necessary for tissue growth and repair throughout the body. It may help:
- build protein that contributes to the development of skin, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons
- repair and maintain healthy teeth, cartilage and bones
- produce scar tissue and heal wounds
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, which is a nutrient that helps prevent or repair cell damage from free radicals.
Vitamin C helps produce norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter which affects mood and is vital to a healthy brain.
Vitamin C is needed for the production of carnitine, a molecule used for the conversion of fat into energy.
Vitamin C plays a part in the metabolism of cholesterol to bile acids which can affect blood cholesterol levels and the development of gallstones.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Scurvy is a sometimes fatal disease that results from a severe deficiency of Vitamin C. In the 1700s, it was discovered that scurvy could be cured simply by eating lemons or other citrus fruits. Due to the decline of blood vessels, connective tissue and bone, scurvy produces symptoms like hair and tooth loss, easy bruising, bleeding, joint pain and inflammation. Because it can be thwarted with as little as 10 mg of vitamin C per day, scurvy has largely been eliminated from developed countries.
As the body is unable to store vitamin C, side effects from excessive amounts are very rare. Daily amounts higher than 2000 mg are not recommended however, due to stomach upset that can occur.
While the best way to get nutrients is always through the diet, natural vitamin C supplements can be an easy way to ensure adequate amounts. The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for vitamin C is dependent on gender and age.
Infants 0 to 6 months: 40 mg *AI per day for males/females
Infants 7 to 12 months: 50 mg *AI per day for males/females
Children 1 to 3 years: 15 mg per day for males/females
Children 4 to 8 years: 25 mg per day for males/females
Children 9 to 13 years: 45 mg per day for males/females
Girls 14 to 18 years of age: 65 mg per day
Boys 14 to 18 years of age: 75 mg per day
Women 19 years and older: 75 mg per day
Men 19 years and older: 90 mg per day
Pregnant adult women: 85 mg per day
Breast-feeding adult women: 120 mg per day
Smokers or those exposed to regular secondhand smoke at any age are under greater oxidative stress from the toxins in cigarette smoke. This typically lowers levels of vitamin C in the blood, so daily Vitamin C amounts should be increased by an extra 35 mg for this population.
Some experts feel that older adults require more vitamin C than younger populations. Some aging Americans have been found to have vitamin C consumption which is far below the recommended daily amounts. For these individuals and for older adults at a higher risk for chronic disease, a Vitamin C intake of at least 400 mg per day is recommended.