Linus Pauling was right: vitamin C is vital for good health and it’s up to you to make sure your body gets it. Humans, bats, guinea pigs, and some primates are the only mammals that can’t make their own vitamin C and must get it from food. In fact, it only takes a few months of not getting enough to experience deficiency symptoms. If you deprive your body of vitamin C for a long period, it can kill you, just as it did early sailors who didn’t have access to fruits and vegetables during their journeys.
Why do you need vitamin C? It’s an antioxidant vitamin that protects cells against free radical damage and helps keep inflammation in check. It also plays a key role in immune health. Plus, vitamin C helps build healthy connective tissue, including collagen, the protein that gives your skin support and keeps your joints healthy. Plus, vitamin C recycles vitamin E, another antioxidant vitamin, when donates its electrons to fight oxidative stress.
How do you know whether you’re getting enough? Here are some signs you might not be getting enough of this antioxidant vitamin.
Smokers have higher vitamin C requirements because smoking creates more oxidative damage you’re your body has to deal with. A healthy, non-smoking male and female need 90 milligrams and 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day respectively. According to the National Institutes of Health, smokers need an additional 35 milligrams daily to compensate for increased oxidative stress. Even secondhand smoke boosts the requirement for vitamin C.
You’re Under Stress
Stress also increases the body’s requirement for vitamin C. In fact, any kind of physical stress or long-term mental stress depletes vitamin C. Even exercise is a form of stress. If you do frequent high-intensity workouts, some studies suggest you need more vitamin C than a sedentary person. Plus, adding more vitamin C to your diet supports immune health. Long, vigorous workouts can suppress the immune response to viruses. For example, marathon runners are more prone to develop a cold after the big event. However, it’s wise to eat more vitamin C-rich foods if you’re under any kind of mental or physical stress. That includes procedures like surgery.
You Eat a Ketogenic or Carnivore Diet
In the past few years, diets that restrict or eliminate most fruits and vegetables have become popular, including the carnivore diet and the ketogenic diet. However, such restrictive eating increases the risk of vitamin C deficiency since meat and dairy are not sources of vitamin C. The recommendation to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily is sound advice as doing so supplies your body with around 200 milligrams of vitamin C. If you don’t eat fruits and vegetables, you may need a vitamin C supplement or a multivitamin.
Your Gums Bleed
Bleeding gums may be a sign of gingivitis or periodontal disease, but it can also come from a vitamin C deficiency. As vitamin C deficiency worsens, you may develop gum swelling and loose teeth. Other signs of vitamin C deficiency are easy bruising, slow wound healing, and fatigue. If you have any of these symptoms, get them checked out right away.
You Catch Every Virus that Makes Its Rounds
It’s not surprising that low vitamin C increases the risk of catching upper respiratory viruses since it plays a key role in immune health. Yet there’s little evidence that taking high supplemental doses of vitamin C prevents the common cold and other respiratory infections. However, there is some evidence that vitamin C supplements modestly shorten the duration of colds.
You Have Certain Medical Conditions
Some health conditions increase the risk of vitamin C deficiency, including an overactive thyroid, inflammatory conditions, and diarrhea. If you have a medical problem, ask your physician whether you need to change or take a multivitamin, vitamin C supplement, or even pursue custom skin care manufacturing. Otherwise, it’s best to get vitamin C from food.
The Bottom Line
The best way to boost your vitamin C is to eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruit is one of the best sources because you don’t cook them. Heat and exposure to light both destroy vitamin C. When you cook vegetables, depending upon the method, you can lose more than half of its vitamin C content. So, make sure you’re getting enough raw fruits and vegetables in your diet.