Vitamin C: The Story Behind One Of My Favourite Vitamins

what's the deal with Oct 05, 2016

Vitamin C has therapeutic value in a laundry list of health conditions ranging from acne to cancer, to diabetes to asthma. It goes far beyond simple cold/flu prevention and treatment. In fact it is one of a few select supplements I personally make part of my day-to-day routine. Here's why...
Vitamin C is used in the human body in several key metabolic pathways. It is especially important in wound healing, collagen synthesis, and as an anti-oxidant that prevents cellular damage in all types of body cells. Without it, we suffer a disease syndrome called scurvy.

You may not realize this, but most plants and animals are able to synthesize their own vitamin C. Humans, some kinds of primates, and guinea pigs this ability some 60 million years ago. For humans it is considered an "essential nutrient", meaning we must get in in our diet, we've no other choice.

The amount required in our diet for optimal functioning has been the matter of dispute for some time...

Back in the 70's Dr. Linus Pauling wrote a book called Vitamin C and the Common Cold. It was and still is a best seller. The book argues first that vitamin C is needed by the human body in doses significantly higher than what was being recommended as the RDA and second that during the case of an acute viral infection, we required even more again!

There has been ongoing controversy and argument since that time about optimal intake for optimal function versus minimal intake required for disease free function.

So what's the magic dose? Well... it seems a healthy person can only make use of between 1000-2000mg per day before reaching a “saturation point” in the blood stream. (i.e. eating more will not increase blood levels further). That said, the whole game changes when you are sick, however, and the optimal dose during an active infection is still being investigated. Some sources say 5 to 10 times the day-to-day dose is required for optimal functioning.

The good news is, vitamin C is very safe, even at the high doses. In fact, it is one of the most widely used food preservatives because of this reason. It goes by the name ascorbic acid on food labels.

The only side effect to note is that it can cause gas, loose stools, and in sensitive folks diarrhea. Most frequently in the clinic, my patients report it only softens your stool a little, making it a little more like the consistency of toothpaste.

The only caution to be aware of is for those of us prone to kidney stone formation – it seems to increase the likelihood of forming an initial stone or a subsequent stone. These patients can mitigate risk of a stone by taking vitamin B6 together with the vitamin C... but if stones run in your family, please see your medical or naturopathic doctor for specific advice.

Anyhow... on to what we can use it for!

Here are some of the conditions Vitamin C has well-known therapeutic indications for:

  • Adrenal Fatigue / Chronic Burnout: The adrenal cortex has the highest concentration of vitamin C in the human body. It is an important co-factor in the synthesis of cortisol (our stress coping hormone). Dosing it seems to help normalize cortisol output in stressed individuals. It's been found helpful in reducing stress-related spikes in blood pressure and the subjective response to acute stress. So... you cope better.
  • Skin Conditions: Vitamin C is important for collagen production, offers anti-oxidant protection of cell structures, and has histamine lowering effects in the bloodstream. All of these properties make it great for a wide array of skin conditions which are often inflammatory in nature – acne rosacea and minor wound healing for example. There's some great research around using it topically on the affected area as well.
  • Cancer: When dosed orally it can help reduce cancer induced scurvy in advanced and terminal cases and can help restore the immune response by improving their cell-mediated and molecular defense systems. When used as an intravenous treatment, it seems to have effects similar to a cytotoxic chemotherapy in some types of cancer. The value, dosage, and administration of this is under study.
  • Asthma: Another therapeutic indication for vitamin C thanks to it's anti-histamine effects. Dosing it in asthma patients seems to reduce their usage of corticosteroid inhalers and the incidence of exercise induced airway narrowing.
  • Diabetes: Thanks to it's anti-oxidant properties it helps prevent protein glycosylation (i.e. Lowers hemoglobin A1C's).

The list goes on and on, but I'd much rather not make this article any longer for you to read. If you think you could benefit from vitamin C supplements I encourage you to speak with your medical or naturopathic doctor for your individual dosing and instructions.


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