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A Complete Guide to Vitamin C

Contents

  1. What is Vitamin C?
  2. Why is Vitamin C important?
  3. What causes Vitamin C deficiency?
  4. What does a lack of Vitamin C cause?
  5. How much Vitamin C do we need?
  6. Where is Vitamin C found?
  7. How to make sure we get enough Vitamin C

Vitamin C benefits the body in multiple ways, from promoting a strong immune system to supporting healthy skin and bones.

Many foods contain Vitamin C, but due to the effects of modern day living, we are finding ourselves not getting the amount we need to meet our individual needs.

Environmental toxins and air pollution that we are exposed to in the home and outdoors, life’s increased demands that leave us in a constant state of stress, and chronic diseases are just some of the factors that increase our body’s demand for Vitamin C. The food we eat is also not of the same quality it used to be, meaning that our nutrient requirements are always increasing, and this includes the need for Vitamin C.

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, or L-ascorbic acid, is an essential water-soluble nutrient that is naturally found in some foods. It's essential because, unlike most plants and animals, humans cannot produce it. As it's water-soluble, the body cannot store it either, so we need to get a constant supply through our diets.

Why is Vitamin C important for the body?

Vitamin C is widely recognised as a powerful antioxidant and for its role in supporting the immune system. But it's also involved in many other processes and pathways in the body and affects a number of organ systems. Some of its main roles include: 

Vitamin C and Antioxidants

Vitamin C is commonly known as an antioxidant. This means it is able to mop up the free radicals that can cause oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. High levels of oxidative stress can be found in multiple organs, including the heart, pancreas, kidney, brain and lung, and if not kept in check, can cause damage to these and other tissues throughout your entire body.

Free radicals are chemicals in your body that have been oxidised, which means they've lost an electron. This makes them unstable and highly reactive, oxidising (‘rusting’) everything they come in contact with. This causes oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the amount of reactive species and your body's ability to detoxify them with antioxidants.

Free radicals are created by processes like the metabolism of oxygen and food, exercise and exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants like cigarette smoke, chemicals, air pollution, radiation, etc.

Antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, donate some of their electrons to free radicals without turning into a free radical themselves. This neutralises free radicals, acting a natural ‘off’ switch, and reduces the amount of oxidative stress in your body. In other words, they come in to help ‘clean up the mess’ that has been left behind from your natural bodily processes of metabolism, energy production and detoxification.

Vitamin C’s antioxidant power also protects all of your cell structures from oxidative damage and gives your whole body a natural line of defence. If these free radicals build up in high amounts, it can damage cells, causing ageing, inflammation and in some cases, chronic disease.

Vitamin C and the Immune System

Vitamin C also plays an important role in immunity. It's needed for the production and modulation of your immune cells, which help your body respond quickly and efficiently to infection. 

Vitamin C also enhances protective barrier function in:

  • Skin: Vitamin C accumulates in the cells in the top layer of your skin (keratinocytes), preventing environmental oxidative damage.
  • Lungs: Vitamin C stimulates the repair of the cells lining the surface of your lungs by building tight cellular junctions.

Consuming extra Vitamin C may be beneficial for those who do a lot of intense physical exercise, as this causes the immune system to raise inflammation levels for repairing and building muscles.

Vitamin C and Collagen Production

Vitamin C is required for the formation of collagen in your body. Collagen is the glue that ‘holds our bodies together’ and contributes to the maintenance of healthy blood vessels, skin, bones, cartilage, gums and teeth of which collagen is a vital structural component.

Vitamin C and Energy 

Vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of L-carnitine, which supports energy metabolism and helps to reduce fatigue and tiredness. It's also a vital nutrient for your adrenal glands, which are responsible for regulating your body’s stress response.

In cases of chronic stress, the adrenal hormones can become imbalanced, leading to increased fatigue. Vitamin C can help reduce the overall burden and energy demands of stress on the body.

Vitamin C and the Nervous System

Vitamin C is essential for the normal functioning of your nervous system. This is because it plays a role in the production of norepinephrine, your ‘fight or flight’ neurotransmitter. It also helps with the production of dopamine and serotonin, which are well-known and important neurotransmitters that affect your mood.

Another benefit of Vitamin C's antioxidant activities is that it protects your brain cells from oxidative stress too. 

Vitamin C and Iron Absorption

Vitamin C helps to increase the absorption of iron from plant sources.

Vitamin C and Heart Health

Vitamin C has been shown to improve blood flow, which can reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular conditions.

What causes Vitamin C Deficiency?

In the modern world, we are faced with many factors that leave us much more prone to having low Vitamin C levels. These include:

  • Poor diet: Alcohol, refined sugar, caffeine, processed foods, etc. This can cause high urinary excretion of Vitamin C or raised production of free radicals, which increases your need for antioxidants.
  • Toxins: Environmental pollutants, cosmetics, domestic products, smoking, etc. These all cause high levels of oxidative stress in the body and an increased need for antioxidants.
  • Chronic illness: (i.e. diabetes, autoimmune conditions) Chronic illnesses, like diabetes and autoimmune conditions, produce high levels of free radicals and lower the body’s immune defences.
  • Stress: Vitamin C is needed to produce stress hormones, so the higher levels of stress we have, the higher our need for Vitamin C.
  • Acute illness: (i.e. cold, flu) Infections, like colds and flus, lower the body’s defences and increase demands for Vitamin C.
  • Medications: Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Nutrient decline in foods due to soil depletion, intensive farming and long food storage
  • Iron deficiency

What does a lack of Vitamin C cause? 

As a water-soluble vitamin, Vitamin C does not stay in the body very long. In most cases, it's excreted within 24 hours. This means that it is absolutely necessary to get your Vitamin C from external dietary sources or supplementation on a daily basis.

Signs and symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency develop after a few weeks to months of Vitamin C depletion. Severe deficiency in Vitamin C, although very rare these days, can lead to the development of a condition known as scurvy, which is related to defects in the connective tissues and collagen production. 

Vitamin C Depletion

In early stages of vitamin C deficiency, usually seen within a few weeks to one month of inadequate intake, non-specific symptoms include physical and mental fatigue, weakness, lethargy, irritability, weight loss, recurrent infections, poor wound healing, and mild muscle and joint aches and pains.

Vitamin C Deficiency

Symptoms of scurvy develop within 8 to 12 weeks of inadequate intake. Signs and symptoms can include chronic inflammation and weak blood vessels (due to decreased collagen production). Weak blood vessels can lead to easy bruising, excessive bleeding, swollen and bleeding gums, loose teeth, coiled hair, and broken facial capillaries (spider veins). Other signs and symptoms include anaemia, muscle and joint pain, bone pain, mood changes, and depression.

How much Vitamin C do we need?

The recommended daily Vitamin C intake varies depending on a person's age, sex, stage of life, individuals lifestyle and state of health. For example, if you're fighting an illness or infection, your requirement for Vitamin C increases dramatically as you need to produce enough immune cells to fight it. And immune cell production is Vitamin C dependent.

Likewise, if you're constantly exposed to environmental pollution or toxins, you need large amounts of Vitamin C’s antioxidant activity to sweep up the free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in your body. 

Where is Vitamin C found?

Vitamin C is present to some degree in most fruits and vegetables, as long as they're fresh and raw. However, some types of fresh produce have more Vitamin C than others. Contrary to popular belief, many fruits and vegetables contain more Vitamin C than oranges and other citrus fruits.

Foods that contain Vitamin C include: citrus fruit, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, kale, broccoli, chilli, parsley, and red pepper. 

These foods are best eaten raw and soon after preparation as cooking and exposure to oxygen can reduce their Vitamin C content by about 25%.

How to make sure you get enough Vitamin C:

Although it is possible to get the recommended amount of Vitamin C from foods, our modern lifestyles can make it difficult to consume the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables we need to prevent deficiency, fight tiredness and fatigue and support energy levels.

If you are very physically active, under high amounts of stress or even just exposed to outside air pollution on a daily basis, your body’s needs for Vitamin C increases. So, you would need to consume a very large amount of fruits and vegetables to keep your blood levels within a steady range.

One of the easiest ways to ensure you are getting enough Vitamin C to support all of your body's Vitamin-C dependent systems is through supplementation. Zooki's Liposomal Vitamin C is a highly bioavailable and easy way to make sure you're getting your daily needs and topping up on what may be lost.

What is Liposomal Vitamin C?

Liposomal Vitamin C is created by encapsulating the Vitamin C molecule inside a phospholipid bi-layer, which has the same makeup as human cells. This allows it to merge with our cells and deliver the Vitamin C directly into them, whilst speeding up the rate that the cells absorb it. This outer layer also protects the Vitamin C from damage that might occur during the digestion process.

Learn more about Vitamin C Zooki here.

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