Vitamin C protects against bleeding gums, makes your bones strong, helps keep you from getting sick, protects against the normal wear and tear on our tissues, helps us deal with alcohol, cigarette smoke, and toxins in our environment, and may even help support our ability to experience the emotional impact of physical intimacy. That last one is a little speculative, but it does make sense, because vitamin C is needed to make oxytocin, the so-called love hormone!
Tune in for everything you need to know about how to manage your vitamin C status!
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Bleeding gums, bruising when you shouldn’t, getting sick more often than you think you should, even feeling fatigued. All these things can mean you need more vitamin C. So, this is how to manage your vitamin C status and make sure you’re getting enough.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com. And this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
And in this episode, we’re going to talk about how to manage your vitamin C status.
So, the classical vitamin C deficiency syndrome is scurvy. And in this disease, the most widespread visible signs that you get are things like bleeding gums or otherwise bleeding underneath the surface of the skin, especially in the oral cavity, so seeing a lot of red underneath the lining of your of your mouth.
The skin may appear to bruise, but the difference between that and an actual bruise is that in vitamin C deficiency, scurvy, it could bruise when there’s no physical trauma that you would expect to have to cause that bruise. So if the bruises just come out of nowhere, that could be an indication of scurvy.
You also get defects in the hair. They’re kind of hard to spot if you normally have kinky or curly hair, but basically your hairs can lose their natural shape and start getting super kinky, like they are shaped like a corkscrew. Fatigue and shortness of breath can also be signs of scurvy.
Now, outside of classical scurvy, what might vitamin C do? Well, as many of you already know, it’s long been thought that not getting enough vitamin C could contribute to getting the common cold and that taking vitamin C might protect against the common cold. There’s a lot of research out there with very mixed results, but I would regard getting sick more often than you think you should as a possible sign that you need more vitamin C. And low bone mineral density, osteopenia, osteoporosis are other signs that you might not be getting enough vitamin C.
In fact, vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means that it just generally protects your tissues against wear and tear that occurs naturally with age and gets worse when you’re exposed to things like cigarette smoke, and alcohol, and environmental toxins. And so all of the degenerative diseases like cancer, and heart disease, and insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, all these things have a component of oxidative stress that wear and tear on our tissues, and so all of them might conceivably be improved by making sure you have adequate amounts of vitamin C.
We could also theorize that based on how vitamin C impacts our hormones, not having enough vitamin C might contribute to lethargy, lack of focus, and even compromise the sense of affection and bonding that we get in response to physical intimacy because vitamin C is needed to produce oxytocin, the so-called love hormone. On the other side of the coin, there really is no vitamin C toxicity syndrome.
High doses of vitamin C ranging from 4 grams per day to maybe even 10 grams per day, depending on your own bowel tolerance, may cause diarrhea, but if you just take out the vitamin C, the diarrhea goes away, so it’s not really dangerous to consume vitamin C at those doses. There are certain vulnerable populations who should be very careful with vitamin C. That includes people with hemochromatosis, where vitamin C could—which is iron overload—vitamin C can exaggerate the iron overload and worsen that condition.
People with—about 8% of the world has glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency that’s an enzyme deficiency that can cause a particular type of anemia, and vitamin C supplementation can aggravate that type of anemia. And then in people who are at high risk of oxalate-based kidney stones, vitamin C supplementation may be able to worsen the risk of kidney stones. But on the whole in the general population, supplementation with vitamin C, even over and above what you need, seems to be very safe.
So why might you not be getting enough vitamin C? Well, if you look at the diet, the overwhelming sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits and vegetables, so a diet that’s high in these foods, especially a lot of raw and gently cooked versions of these foods, is likely to provide enough vitamin C.
For people who do not have access to plant foods, for example, if you look at our Native American ancestors from the Arctic region, where plant foods were very limited, they got their vitamin C from adrenal glands and smaller amounts from liver. So consuming organ meats on a carnivore diet would be an excellent way to protect against vitamin C deficiency.
Some people claim that you need to consume enough carbohydrate to properly absorb and utilize vitamin C, and other people claim that consuming carbohydrate impairs your ability to absorb and utilize vitamin C. I don’t think the evidence is clear on this either way, and I don’t currently regard carbohydrate intake as a major determinant of getting enough vitamin C.
High levels of physical activity, illness, and exposure to toxins, including ethanol, the type of alcohol that you drink to get drunk, and cigarette smoke all increase the need for vitamin C, and so you probably want to supplement your diet if you are highly physically active, get sick often, or drink and smoke a lot. And conversely, if you want to eat a relatively low-vitamin C diet and not be subject to deficiency, then the cleaner your lifestyle is in these respects, the less likely you are to run into problems from consuming lower amounts of vitamin C.
To test your vitamin C status, the best test is fasting plasma vitamin C, or fasting plasma ascorbate or ascorbic acid, it might be called. These are all the same test. It’s important that it be fasting, and it’s important that you avoid vitamin C supplementation the evening before the test because when you take vitamin C, your vitamin C levels spike before they decline down to a stable level.
So if you want to recognize a deficiency, and if you want to watch your progress fixing a deficiency, you want to see the fasting un supplemented level in the morning after an evening with no supplementation, and you want to watch that go from low and rise to high as you’re fixing the deficiency.
If you get a organic acids test, such as Great Plains, you might see urinary vitamin C on that test. If that’s low, maybe it’s an indicator of low vitamin C status, but I would always follow up the urinary measurement with a plasma measurement, and you don’t need to get the urinary measurement. If you’re not getting the organic acids test, just get the plasma vitamin C to measure your vitamin C status.
If the problem is poor diet or excessive exposure to toxins, it’s best to fix either of those before moving on to supplementation, but supplementation is certainly an adequate way to deal with difficulties getting enough in the diet or just higher needs. Because remember, physical activity increases the need for vitamin C, and it may be the case that if you exercise a lot and you find yourself getting sick more often, maybe you’re overtraining and you should reduce the amount of exercise, but you also may need a little bit extra supplementation just to match your lifestyle. Overall, 200 milligrams of vitamin C per day is enough for most people. If you find yourself getting sick frequently and it responds well to higher amounts, you could go up to 2 grams per day. But when you’re dealing with high doses, remember that this can cause copper deficiency, so if you supplement with vitamin C and you develop copper deficiency, you need to either cut back on the C, get more copper in your diet, or see if you can separate your copper and your vitamin C.
In other words, if you have liver or other really high-copper foods in your diet, and you have vitamin C supplements, try to get the liver in one meal and get the vitamin C at a different meal so that you can avoid the negative interactions between copper and vitamin C.