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From snot to hot, why we should get Vitamin C!

We’ve all heard that when we’re sick we should take some vitamin C right? From grandma’s famous home remedies to televised ads about vitamin C supplements when we get the sniffles. But, why should we take vitamin C? Let’s take a look.

Vitamin C as its commonly called, is also known as Ascorbic Acid. It’s a vital nutrient for us to get into our diets, as we don’t make it very well, and a lack of vitamin C has some fairly severe health consequences. When we have adequate levels of ascorbic acids in our bodies, our immune system functions at more optimal levels because vitamin C is a powerful Antioxidant.

As stresses take their turn attacking our bodies, like heat, cold, injury, emotional and psychological stress, etc, electrons get released as “free radicals.” Now it may sound cool, and “rad,” but free radicals can cause lots of damage to tissues in the body. So, antioxidants gobble up those loose electrons and prevent them from wreaking havoc on our systems. Thanks to this potent antioxidant effect, vitamin C has been suggested to help prevent some forms of cancer.

Vitamin C also aids immune function by accumulating in various types of white blood cells, such as neutrophils, and helps them do their various jobs which ultimately end up killing microbes. Those neutrophils also need vitamin C to perform something called apoptosis. As the name implies, the cells can “pop” when they’ve finished their jobs, which makes for much easier clean up after infections.

Not only is vitamin C great for our immune systems, but its needed for our bodies to make collagen. Collagen helps our skin act as a good barrier to nasty pathogens and microbes, and gives it that nice healthy softness.

So, where can we get vitamin C? Lots of foods contain ascorbic acid, such as: Red sweet pepper, green sweet peppers, oranges and orange juice, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, broccoli, tomato juice, lemons, limes, and many more. Yet another reason for a well balanced diet right? We can also get vitamin C from supplements, like the vitamins we saw grandma taking as kids, or from the commercial brands like “Emergen-C.”

Generally speaking, around 90mg of vitamin C per day is a good base line amount to get as an adult. Of course kids don’t need as much, and people who smoke need about 35mg per day more than non-smokers. Fortunately, its what we call “water soluble” which means if you get too much, you’ll pee out what you don’t need. Ask your local health professional about proper dosage for your specific age and condition.

So, what happens if we don’t get enough vitamin C? Argh, ye be a scurvy sea dog, that’s what! Lack of ascorbic acid on long voyages was later found to be the cause of scurvy. Scurvy causes a laundry list of issues, but some of the main ones are: bleeding gums, tiredness, and poor skin that is dry and breaks easily. So, eat yer oranges you land lubbers! As we mentioned earlier, a lack of vitamin C can also lead to lowered immune function and more infections, as well as problems with heart function as the lack can interfere with connective tissues and their jobs.

There is a lot more that we could discuss when it comes to vitamin C, but the main take home message here would be, “get some vitamin C into your diet!”

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