Laura's Corner

How Do You Know You’re Deficient in Vitamin C?

by in Health Tips June 1, 2022

Shared from the blog of W. Gifford-Jones, MD

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient found in citrus fruits and as a dietary supplement. Now, a reader asks, “How do I know if I have a deficiency of vitamin C?” It’s a good question, as studies show that 14 percent of North Americans aren’t getting even the meagre recommended daily dose. Many more aren’t getting the high doses needed to decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, and chronic inflammation.

What are symptoms of vitamin C deficiency?

Bleeding Gums, Tooth Loss, and Easy Bruising

Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen, the glue that holds cells together. If there’s too little C, weakened blood vessels bleed when brushing teeth. The tragedy is teeth are lost not just by tooth decay. Many teeth are lost due to weakened gums from lack of collagen. Easy bruising is also the result of weakened blood vessels that rupture under the skin. Bruises may cover a large area or appear as small purple dots under the skin.

Slow Healing Wounds

Low vitamin C decreases the rate of collagen production and slows wound healing. Consult with the surgeon on increasing vitamin C intake before an operation. This allows time to build up adequate blood levels of C. It’s also prudent to continue vitamin C following surgery to help in wound healing. On rare occasions, a severe lack of C could cause a wound to open, increasing the risk of infection. Few doctors realize that following a stressful operation, vitamin C blood levels can plummet! Taking vitamin C after surgery also helps prevent constipation, an annoying problem which causes more stress on the incision.

More Colds and Infections

Vitamin C in the blood energizes the immune system. Should infection strike, immune cells need as much as 100 times more vitamin C than normal. This allows immune cells to pump C into cells to fight infection. But it’s impossible if they do not have a reservoir of Vitamin C at all times. Moreover, extra supply of C can be lifesaving. For instance, it can reduce the incidence of pneumonia by 80 percent. This is important as the death rate from this infection in elderly people is 16 percent, even with the use of antibiotics.

Painful Swollen Joints

Joints contain large amounts of collagen-rich connective tissue. If there’s a vitamin C deficiency, a limp may develop. In addition, weakened arteries may start to bleed, causing additional swelling and pain in the joint.

Dry, Rough, Bumpy, Wrinkled Skin

Healthy skin contains large amounts of vitamin C, particularly in the epidermis, the outer layer. Insufficient vitamin C means less collagen to hold skin cells together and earlier wrinkles. Moreover, vitamin C protects against oxidative damage, the result of exposure to sun and pollutants such as cigarette smoke. Low vitamin C intake can also cause a condition called keratosis pilaris. Bumpy “chicken skin” forms on the back of the upper arms, thighs, or buttocks. This is due to a buildup of keratin in the bumps.

Unexplained Weight Gain and Other Factors

Vitamin C may help to protect against obesity by regulating the release of fat from fat cells. Low C is also needed for skeletal growth in children and increased risk of bone fracture and osteoporosis in adults. And never forget C deficiency results from a poor diet, smoking, and alcoholism.

How To Get Extra C

Supplementing with 500 mg (milligram) of C daily is helpful. But 1,000 mg three times a day with meals should guarantee that cells are never short of this vital vitamin.