What you didn’t know about Vitamin C

It was great reminder and almost a shock to realise humans do not produce our own Vitamin C. So, is this actually a problem? Have we forgotten the numerous benefits of Vitamin C and the vital roles it plays in our body? Could this be a missing link for some conditions?

You may be familiar growing up and told to eat oranges when you were suffering from a viral illness? Yes, it was all about Vitamin C, a powerful anti-oxidant and an immune booster. However, are there any other benefits?

Before we go down that path, here’s a quick reminder on what anti-oxidants are. These are molecules that fight free radicals in our body. And what about free radicals? These are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging. So, you are right, not great for the body to be always under the attack of excess free radicals. This is where we talk about oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is caused when there’s an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. This means there’s an accumulation of free radicals in the body.

So, where do free radicals come from? Free radicals can be formed either naturally in the body through

  • Normal metabolic processes
  • Stress
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • or from external factors such as X-rays, cigarette smoking, air pollutants, pesticides. industrial chemicals and electromagnetic fields (EMF)Yes, that’s right, EMF from mobile phones and wireless technology.

I often say to patients that in today’s world we seem to be bathing ourselves in oxidative stress without realising it. Is our body craving time out? Could this be contributing to fatigue, poor sleep and anxiety?

It’s not all that bad.

The immune system takes advantage of free radicals’ cell-damaging qualities and uses them to destroy pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Additionally, free radicals are crucial for cell growth and death, stress responses, and metabolism. The goal is not to completely eliminate free radicals but to ensure they don’t accumulate.

This is where we come back to ensuring a good intake of anti-oxidants like Vitamin C.

So, what is Vitamin C?

It’s a water-soluble essential vitamin and it’s found in many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and spinach.

The recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men.

Benefits of Vitamin C

1. Vitamin C and Oxidative Stress

Well, oxidative stress is actually linked to many different diseases including;

  • inflammatory conditions (oxidative stress has been linked to all inflammatory diseases, including arthritis and gout)
  • cancer
  • cardiovascular disease
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • aging

2. Vitamin C and the Stress Response.

Did you know your adrenal glands which sit on top of your kidneys that secrete your stress hormones, have a high concentration of vitamin C?

You need Vitamin C to produce cortisol.

This means your adrenals are using up vitamin C at a more rapid rate, and need extra replenishment, during and after periods of high stress.

Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to help lower cortisol levels, especially after intense stress.

3. Healthy hair, skin and nails

Vitamin C helps the body to produce collagen which contributes to healthy hair growth. Vitamin C deficiency can cause dry, brittle hair. It can also lead to iron deficiency anaemia, and this often results in hair shedding.

4. Wound healing

5. Anxiety and Depression

Vitamin C is need to help produce neurotransmitters that affect mood, such as dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine. One study showed how high vitamin C status is associated with elevated mood.

6. Iron absorption

7. Immune health

8. Fat breakdown

Vitamin C is required for synthesis of carnitine, the molecule responsible for shuttling fatty acids across the mitochondrial membrane to be oxidized for energy. In one study, individuals with adequate vitamin C status oxidize 30% more fat during a moderate exercise bout than individuals with low vitamin C status. Thus, vitamin C depleted individuals may be more resistant to fat mass loss.

This is a quick summary to remind us to have an adequate intake of Vitamin C in our diet. The essential vitamin that the human body doesn’t produce!

I am a functional medicine family doctor, podcaster, educator and blogger. I love sharing tips on how to be and stay well. 

DOWNLOAD Free E-book on the Ultimate Beginners Guide for Integrative Medicine HERE.

Disclaimer: This is general advice only. Please see your healthcare professional if you are suffering from stress, anxiety or have any health issues.

By Dr Shami Barathan