Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid, ascorbate, or E300. Vitamin C deficiency weakens the body’s defenses. However, vitamin C deficiency has other consequences, which can be more serious but can be easily avoided in healthy people. Because with a fresh and varied diet, a deficiency of this vitamin is very rare. Read more about the symptoms, causes and treatment of vitamin C deficiency.
Definition of vitamin C
Vitamin C deficiency is probably the best-known vitamin deficiency. And vitamin C is certainly one of the best-known vitamins. Very few people have ever used a vitamin C supplement for colds or to prevent infection.
Vitamin C is one of the water-soluble vitamins. In the body, it performs a whole series of very varied tasks. These include:
- The preservation and strengthening of the body’s own defenses, that is, the immune system
- Structure of connective tissue and bones.
- Promote the absorption of iron and the use of folic acid, among other very important for blood formation.
- Function of hormonal metabolism.
- Protection of cells by antioxidant action (action against free radicals that damage cells).
The recommended vitamin C requirement
Vitamin C cannot be produced by the body itself. That is why it must be received with food. In healthy adult humans, the daily requirement for vitamin C is around 100 mg per day. The following daily intake is recommended:
- Babies and children up to 4 years: 20 mg.
- Children up to 7 years: 30 mg.
- Children up to 10 years: 45 mg.
- Children up to 13 years: 65 mg.
- Adolescents up to 15 years: 85 mg.
- Adolescents up to 19 years: 105 mg.
- Adults: 110 mg (men), 95 mg (women)
- Pregnant from the 4th month: 105 mg.
- During lactation: 125 mg
What are the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency?
Like most deficiency diseases or vitamin deficiencies, vitamin C deficiency is initially quite normal. Fatigue, tiredness, loss of performance, increased irritability, muscle weakness, joint pain, and body aches (especially in the calves) can be the first symptoms of vitamin C deficiency.
Lack of vitamin C most often affects smokers who live in constant stress and who do not care about a proper diet.
Serious signs appear after a few weeks of pronounced deficiency. If it remains for a long time it shows the consequences of a disease that sailors especially feared for centuries.
Scurvy – Result of Vitamin C Deficiency
Scurvy is a disease that sailors often suffered when traveling for many months, as the supply of vitamin C often could not be guaranteed for long.
The main signs of deficiency include fatigue, bleeding gums, and difficulty wound healing. The effects of vitamin C deficiency can be very serious, so it is important to provide adequate amounts of food or take supplements.
After about 4 to 8 weeks of deficiency, the typical symptoms of scurvy appear, which may be some of the following:
- Bleeding and swelling of the gums up to the loss of teeth.
- Pale gray skin.
- Increased susceptibility to infections.
- Decrease in physical efficiency.
- Wound healing disorders.
- Hemorrhages and dermatitis.
- Bone pain and bleeding.
- High fever.
- Severe diarrhea.
- Balance disorders such as severe dizziness.
- Heart failure.
Other less frequent symptoms
Especially in infants and young children, vitamin C deficiency can cause bone growth disorders. Another consequence is a slowly evolving form of anemia, Moller-Barlow disease. Colloquially, it is sometimes referred to as infantile scurvy, and its medical term is Osteopathia haemorrhagica infantum.
At first, children are tired and fatigued, have no appetite, and lose weight. The gums bleed even at the slightest touch, bruises form for no apparent reason. Paleness and limited performance are the result of anemia.
Affected children are very sensitive to pain and squirm at the slightest touch. If vitamin C deficiency is not balanced soon, the bones stop growing and the skeleton changes.
Causes of vitamin C deficiency and scurvy
The main cause of vitamin C deficiency is limited diets in which fresh food is not consumed. Another important cause is an increased need for this vitamin, since it occurs in the following circumstances:
- Heavy physical work.
- Antibiotic treatment, chemotherapy and radiation.
- Infectious diseases.
- Competitive sports.
- Alcohol abuse.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Dialysis for kidney dysfunction.
The use of hormonal contraceptives, certain antibiotics, laxatives, or acetylsalicylic acid can increase the requirement for vitamin C.
How can it be treated?
The best remedy for vitamin C deficiency is targeted prevention. And you will get it easily through a fresh and varied diet. But even with a one-sided diet with fast food or industrial food, a sufficient supply of vitamin C for healthy people is generally guaranteed.
Vitamin C from fresh foods works best
Basically, fresh food is the best and most effective supplier of vitamin C. This is mainly because ascorbic acid, for example, in fruits or vegetables, is part of a healthy cocktail of vitamins in the respective fruits.
The human body has adapted over thousands of years to use vitamins in this combination. Nutrition and the development of metabolic processes went hand in hand in our development and therefore fresh food is the best supplier of vitamins and minerals.
These foods contain a lot of vitamin C:
- Fruits (especially rose hips, currants, citrus fruits, pineapple, kiwis, grapefruit, orange, mango, papaya, watermelon, raspberries, blueberries).
- Vegetables are the main sources of vitamin C, among these foods we will find: (Brussels sprouts, potatoes, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, red or green peppers, spinach, pumpkin, turnip).
Cooking and long storage times destroy a significant part of the vitamin C. This is why the “hot lemon” so often used in colds often provides very little vitamin C. For the drink Natural cold works well, only fresh lemons should be used. And don’t heat the water higher than 65 degrees.
Vitamin C supplements
Healthy people, who eat fresh and varied foods, can do without vitamin C supplements and dietary supplements. This also applies to all those who rely on the “a lot helps a little” principle: excess vitamin C is excreted from the body through the kidneys with urine.
However, too much vitamin C can be harmful because kidney stones can form. If the stones move or if a stone gets stuck in the discharge urinary tract, it causes colic and sometimes severe pain in the abdomen, back, or testicles and lips.
Fever and bloody urine should be reason to go immediately to a doctor. In the event of a drastic reduction in the amount of urine or complete urinary retention (cannot urinate), call the emergency department immediately. Other symptoms of excess vitamin C are flatulence, diarrhea and nausea.
Vitamin C supplements and dietary supplements, for example, can be helpful for people who do not get enough vitamin C in their diet due to gastrointestinal diseases, which can lead to scurvy.
Even with competitive sports, heavy physical work, and stressful living conditions such as chemotherapy or after cancer, additional administration of vitamin C in the form of medications may be necessary.