Why I Love Vitamin C
Updated: Apr 23
Vitamin C is all of the rage these days.... especially since we are in the middle of a pandemic. I was not surprised when I couldn't find a bottle of vitamin C anywhere when COVID-19 struck. And forget about ordering it online.... it will take at least a month!
So, I know all of you have heard about vitamin C and how it supports the immune system. While I will touch on that, the purpose of this post is to shed some light on what else vitamin C is doing behind the scenes.
Please note that this post is not in any way stating that vitamin C cures COVID-19.
What can Vitamin C do for one's health?
1. Boost Immune Function
2. Reduce risk for and improve Metabolic Conditions, such as type 2 diabetes
3. Support Liver and Detoxification
4. Improve Reproductive Health
5. Support Gut Health
6. Improve Collagen Synthesis and Skin Health
Lets dive into the details....
1. Immune Function:
Vitamin C modulates and inhibits the NF-kB signaling. NF-kB is a pro-inflammatory signaling compound that supports the expression of pro-inflammatory genes including cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules. While NF-kB is needed in acute situations, our modern lifestyle often causes this pathway to be chronically triggered. Think of exposure to everyday pollutants, chemicals, pesticides, metals, molds, etc. In fact, the NF-kB pathway is what many new anti-inflammatory drugs target for numerous diseases. While we need NF-kB to some extend, we don't need it cranked up on a consistent basis. The modulation of NF-kB may especially help those with autoimmune conditions.
When talking about glucose and insulin, picture a lock and a key. When glucose enters the blood stream, insulin should be released in order to let said glucose into the cells. When this system falls out of sync, chronically high glucose levels can cause insulin to also chronically rise. This means that our tissues and cells are becoming resistant to insulin. Vitamin C can increase skeletal muscle uptake of glucose, making the shift from blood stream to cell a little more fluid. Vitamin C also modifies insulin responsiveness at the cellular level, making the lock-and-key work more efficiently.
The liver is always detoxifying... that is what it is designed to do. I don't believe that we need to do anything to 'detox' in place of the liver, but rather supporting the detoxification process with nutrients is really all we need to do. Our body makes a master antioxidant called glutathione, which neutralizes a toxin's damaging effects on the body. A 6 week double blind, placebo controlled study had participants take 500mg L-ascorbate (vitamin c) per day x 2-3 weeks and then 2000mg per day for weeks 4 and 5. This was shown to increase glutathione production by 50%. Additionally, it is important to note that vitamin C is antagonistic to toxic heavy metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead. There was a study done in which antioxidants vitamin C 1g/day and Vitamin E 400IU/day were supplemented by industrial workers exposed to lead for 1 year. Those supplemented had a reduced amount of oxidative damage compared to the workers who did not supplement.
4. Reproductive Health:
The follicular fluid nourishing follicles and eventually eggs within the ovaries has a much higher concentration of vitamin C than blood does. Remember how I said that glutathione is a master antioxidant in the body, and how vitamin C boosts glutathione production? Well the higher amount of glutathione, the better the production of progesterone might be. In a study of women taking 750mg of vitamin C during the luteal phase, progesterone increased from an average of 7.51 to 13.27. Pregnancy rate increased by 53%.
Likewise for men, vitamin C is found in high concentrations within the semen. This may help to reduce oxidative stress and DNA damage within sperm.
5. Support Gut Health:
Vitamin C is super important for collagen synthesis. It helps to repair tissues, even in the gastrointestinal tract. This nutrient can be very helpful for those with mucosal damage and even intestinal permability aka "leaky gut".
6. Skin Health:
As stated above, vitamin C supports collagen synthesis. Normal skin tissue also contains high amounts of vitamin C. While vitamin C is needed for collagen production, it also serves as an antioxidant to combat against UV damage.
Now before you go down 2000mg of vitamin C right now, you should know that our body can only absorb an ingested 400-500mg at a time before we pee the rest out. Best policy is to try to eat foods that naturally contain vitamin C. Supplementation may be indicating for some individuals.
Some Foods High in Vitamin C
*Note that vitamin C content diminishes with cooking. It is best to consume vitamin C containing foods raw. If cooking is preferred, steaming is the best option.
There is also a lot of new research coming out that suggests that vitamin C (particularly high dose vitamin C infusions) can help prevent cancer AND may be helpful in a cancer treatment protocol. More to come in the new few posts!
Henmi H, Endo T, Kitajima Y, Manase K, Hata H, Kudo R. Effects of ascorbic acid supplementation on serum progesterone levels in patients with a luteal phase defect. Fertil Steril. 2003 Aug;80(2):459-61. )
Johnston CS, Meyer CG, Srilakshmi JC. Vitamin C elevates red blood cell glutathione in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 1993 Jul;58(1):103-5.
Pullar, JM., Carr AC., & Vissers MCM. Nutrients.2017 Aug 12;9(8). PMID:28805671.
Rendón-Ramírez AL, Maldonado-Vega M, Quintanar-Escorza MA, Hernández G, Arévalo-Rivas BI, Zentella-Dehesa A, Calderón-Salinas JV. Effect of vitamin E and C supplementation on oxidative damage and total antioxidant capacity in lead-exposed workers. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2014 Jan;37(1):45-54. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2013.10.016. Epub 2013 Nov 13.