VITAMIN C: The Champion
Half of all American adults take extra Vitamin C. Can 50 million people be wrong? Not in this case, anyway. Those people know that a daily dose of Vitamin C helps keep them healthy—and they also know that when they’re sick, Vitamin C can help them feel better faster. It may even help them live longer. A recent study shows that men who take Vitamin C supplements live, on average, six years longer than those who don’t.
Is Vitamin C really that magical? Well, yes. What seemed like wild claims only twenty years ago are now proven medical facts. Vitamin C really does help protect you against cancer, heart disease, cataracts, and other serious health problems. Doctors once scoffed at the health claims for Vitamin C. Now many advise their patients to take Vitamin C supplements.
Why You Need Vitamin C ?
There’s not much Vitamin C doesn’t do for you. You need it for more than 300 different purposes in your body. Just for starters, Vitamin C is needed to make collagen, the strong connective tissue that holds your skeleton together, attaches your muscles to your bones, builds strong blood vessels, and keeps your organs and skin in place. Collagen is the glue that holds your body together—and you can’t make it unless you have enough Vitamin C. (The next time someone tells you to pull yourself together, maybe you should reach for the C supplements!)
Because you need collagen to fix damage to your body, it stands to reason that Vitamin C helps heal wounds of all sorts. Broken bones, sprained joints, cuts, and other injuries all heal a lot faster if your body gets plenty of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is your body’s top antioxidant. Not only does it mop up those nasty free radicals, it helps many of your body’s other antioxidants do their work better. And without Vitamin C, you can’t use some other vitamins and minerals, like folic acid and iron, properly.
Your immune system needs a lot of Vitamin C to run at peak levels. If you don’t get enough, you’re likely to get sick more often and to stay sick longer. You also need Vitamin C to manufacture many of your body’s hormones.
Vitamin C also does things, like curing some types of male infertility and helping diabetics, that make it seem more like a miracle drug than a plain old vitamin. People with high levels of Vitamin C have lower blood pressure, which makes them less likely to have a stroke or heart attack. And although Vitamin C can’t cure heart disease or cancer, it could help keep you from getting them in the first place.
What about the common cold? Not even Vitamin C prevents or cures that. If you do catch a cold, though, Vitamin C may help you feel better sooner.
Are You Deficient ?
After several weeks with no Vitamin C in your diet, you’d start to get scurvy. At first you’d just feel a little tired and irritable, but soon you’d have sore and bleeding gums, loose teeth, fatigue, bruising, sore joints, slow wound healing, and anemia. In the days before canning and refrigeration, mild scurvy was quite common, especially in the winter when fresh fruits and veggies were scarce.
Luckily, Vitamin C is found in so many common fruits and vegetables that almost everyone in our modern society gets about 100 mg a day without even trying. You only need about 10 mg a day to prevent scurvy, but even so, the RDA is far from what most nutritionists consider the optimal amount of at least 250 mg. Even though almost everyone gets the RDA, that’s often not enough. If you fall into any of these categories, you may need more Vitamin C than you’re actually getting:
- You smoke As mentioned earlier, cigarette smoke breaks down your Vitamin C quickly. Also, you need extra Vitamin C to combat the damage smoking does to your cells. Studies show that people exposed to passive smoke—smoke other people create—also need extra Vitamin C.
- You have diabetes Vitamin C doesn’t get into your cells very well if you have diabetes
- You have allergies or asthma Fighting allergic reactions and asthma attacks uses up a lot of your Vitamin C
- You’re sick with an infectious illness such as a cold or flu Your immune system needs plenty of Vitamin C, especially when it’s in high gear fighting off an illness.
- You’ve just had surgery Vitamin C helps heal wounds and fight infection.
- You’re under a great deal of stress—physical or psychological When you’re under stress, your body’s systems go into overdrive and use up your Vitamin C extra fast.
- You’re an older adult Older people need more C’s in general, especially if they take drugs that
interfere with Vitamin C absorption. If you’re elderly and live alone or in a nursing home, you might not be eating well or getting enough fresh foods, which means you might not be getting enough C’s.
- You’re pregnant or breastfeeding You’re passing a lot of your Vitamin C on to your baby.
- You regularly take aspirin, birth-control pills, antibiotics such as tetracycline or sulfa drugs, or certain other drugs such as cortisone These drugs either block Vitamin C from being absorbed into your body or break it down too fast.
- You abuse alcohol People who abuse alcohol don’t eat properly in general. Also, alcohol may destroy Vitamin. C.
Your teeth won’t fall out if you have a mild Vitamin C deficiency, but you might have these symptoms: fatigue and tiring easily; appetite loss; muscle weakness; bruising easily; and frequent infections.
Fatigue, appetite loss, and weakness could all be caused by other things, but the clincher is bruising easily. A shortage of Vitamin C weakens the walls of your blood vessels. They break easily, causing bruises and even nosebleeds. If you think low Vitamin C is the problem, try supplementing with 500 mg a day. You should feel a lot better and stop getting bruises within a week.
Low Vitamin C can lead you into a downward spiral of bad health. The deficiency means you’re tired all the time—too tired to eat properly. So you eat poorly and get sick more often, which means that you take in even less Vitamin C and use up that lower amount to help fight the infection, which means you stay deficient and eat less and get sick more often, which means….you get the picture. Break out of the cycle with a better diet and Vitamin C supplements.
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