Vitamin C deficiency can cause a wide range of problems, including gingivitis, bleeding gums, easy bruising, nosebleeds, damaged hair, and unhealthy skin. Although rare, severe vitamin C deficiency can result in scurvy (or scorbutus), which is characterized by joint pains, poor wound healing, and generalized edema. That all just goes to show how crucial vitamin C is to your general health and wellbeing.
While you should absolutely make sure you incorporate enough vitamin C into your diet, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Let’s take a closer look at vitamin C including, what foods are rich in this antioxidant, what it does for the body, what can happen if you take too much, and how best to supplement it.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin essential to your health. Unlike most other animals, humans are unable to synthesize vitamin C within themselves, meaning that it must be obtained through diet or supplementation. Thankfully, it’s naturally present in a wide range of foods or has been added to processed foods. Foods that are naturally high in vitamin C include:
- Red peppers
- Oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits
- Brussels sprouts
What Does Vitamin C Do?
Vitamin C is involved in just about every major process within the human body. High levels of the vitamin are concentrated in cells and tissues, particularly in white blood cells, the eyes, adrenal and pituitary glands, and the brain.
Vitamin C plays a role in protein metabolism and the biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and several other neurotransmitters. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, making up about a third of all the protein in your body. The molecules that make up collagen are packed together, forming thin fibrils that create a sturdy supporting structure. This makes it an ideal protein for connective tissues, which is why it is found prominently in your skin, muscles, bones, tendons, and hair.
Because of vitamin C’s integral role in synthesizing collagen, it is necessary for general growth and repair of tissues, used in:
- Healing wounds
- Forming scar tissue
- Repairing and maintaining bones, teeth, and cartilage
Vitamin C also helps in the absorption of iron, a mineral that has a variety of functions. It is most prominent in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
Through the natural process of oxidation, your cells produce compounds known as free radicals. Over time, the buildup of free radicals can cause damage to your cells and DNA, contributing to various potential diseases and signs of aging. As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C can neutralize free radicals, protect your cells, and minimize cellular damage.
Can You Take Too Much Vitamin C?
As mentioned above, vitamin C is water-soluble, which means that excess amounts will usually get excreted through your sweat and urine instead of accumulating in your system. This is why you need to take vitamin C every day. However, people sometimes mistakenly believe that if some is good, a whole lot is better, especially when they intend to use vitamin C as a way of thwarting a cold. Doing so may unintentionally cause a secondary problem.
Consuming too many vitamin C-rich foods or high doses of common supplements can cause gastric irritation due to the “acid” in “ascorbic acid.” If your G.I. system is sensitive, you’ve probably experienced temporary discomfort or pain as the body tries to flush out the excess. Symptoms can include:
- Abdominal cramps
There is some limited evidence also shows potential concerns with a daily intake in excess of 1,000 mg. Case in point: low-dose supplementation of vitamin C in the long-term has been shown to help prevent cataracts, but studies suggest that high doses of vitamin C can actually increase the risk of cataracts. High daily doses of the vitamin can also prevent you from getting the full benefits of endurance exercises.
Too much vitamin C can also prevent certain medications from functioning properly. When combined with higher doses of Tylenol (acetaminophen), vitamin C can increase your risk of liver damage. Vitamin C can also interfere with results for cholesterol and blood sugar tests.
Furthermore, many people mistakenly think of vitamin C as a cold remedy. While ascorbic acid can potentially help support your immune system, it can only do so over a long period of taking the vitamin consistently. Suddenly flooding your body with vitamin C at the first sign of a cold generally won’t have an effect. At best, your body will excrete the excess vitamins out of your system (generally at doses above 400 mg). At worst, you may deal with an upset stomach and diarrhea, on top of your growing cold.
The Right Amount of Vitamin C
If you’re healthy, high doses of vitamin C probably won’t pose a huge issue. The total body content of vitamin C in the average human is about 2 grams, while those near scurvy only have about 300 mg. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C depends primarily on age and gender, though other factors, including pregnancy or illness, can cause fluctuations in how much daily vitamin C you should take.
Adult men age 19 or older should get about 90 mg per day, while adult women 19 or older should get about 75 mg per day. Pregnant women should get about 85 mg per day, while breastfeeding women should get up to 120 mg of vitamin C per day. Studies have found that smokers and those who are around secondhand smoke tend to have less vitamin C. If you smoke or are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke, you may want to bump up your daily vitamin C intake by about 35 mg.
Research suggests that a higher intake of vitamin C is required for optimum reduction of chronic disease risk in nonsmoking men and women. Researchers have suggested that the RDA be revised to 120 mg vitamin C per day. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, higher doses can be therapeutic and range from 200 to 1,000 mg/day.
You can generally get a large amount of vitamin C from your daily diet, both from foods naturally rich in the vitamin and foods that have been fortified, but supplements can give you the extra boost that you may need. Many supplements contain forms of vitamin C that are not well-absorbed by the body. This defeats the purpose of taking supplemental vitamin C. A better idea is to take a supplement with liposomal delivery. Each capsule of Vital C-LD® provides a therapeutic dose of 520mg. The liposomal delivery and delayed release capsule transports the vitamin C further down the G.I. tract so that (1) it will not upset the stomach and (2) the antioxidant capacity will not be expended before it can reach the small intestine. In terms of bioavailability, liposomal delivery increases it up to 1500% versus vitamin C without liposomal delivery. Vital C-LD® can be taken on an empty stomach, too. For best results, Sovereign Laboratories recommends taking Vital C-LD® with your daily dose of Colostrum-LD®.