Anti-oxidants are necessary in our body to help fight and prevent oxidation from occurring. Oxidation occurs naturally as a by-product to many metabolic functions in the body. It causes our body's organs, tissues and skin to age due to producing free-radicals. Factors such as smoking, medications, extreme physical stress and poor diet can contribute to accelerating the oxidative stress in our body and actually depletes our body's level of vitamin C. Vitamin C, as an anti-oxidant or free-radical fighter, helps to protect against illnesses linked to oxidation, including cataracts, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. Vitamin C also supports the regeneration of Vitamin E and the production of glutathione (an amino acid) – two very effective antioxidants in the body.
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, helps to maintain many healthy functions in the body, one being cardiovascular health. It helps with balancing nitric oxide levels which aid in vasodilatation. This helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that vitamin C supplementation can not only lower systolic blood pressure, but also drive up HDL (good cholesterol) while lowering LDL (bad cholesterol). It also aids in the breakdown and prevention of plaque due to its effective antioxidant properties, thus preserving our blood vessel's natural elastic formation. Dosages of 1,500 to 2,000 mg. per day have also been proven to effectively reduce blood sugar and HbA1c (pre-diabetes test) levels. Research also suggests it prevents kidney injury in diabetic rats. It is important to note though that extremely high doses of vitamin C can increase blood glucose levels and give an incorrect positive for a diabetic test.
White blood cell efficacy is increased when taking vitamin C, giving ascorbic acid an overall immunomodulatory role. These same effects also reduce the immunosuppressive activity of histamine, which produces the reactions associated with allergies and asthma. Slightly large doses (1000-2000 mg/day) of vitamin C have been found to reduce asthma and eczema symptoms significantly, while also aiding in the protection of not only airways but also epithelial tissue (skin and intestinal lining)against the effects of allergens, viral infections (such as shingles, herpes and hepatitis) and irritants (ozone, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides). Allergens, viruses and irritants, increase oxidative stress and inflammation which Vitamin C can help keep under control.
While the antioxidant properties of ascorbic acid are critical in dealing with such conditions, its newly re-examined anti-inflammatory role can also be accredited. Thus, Vitamin C functions as an anti-inflammatory, and helps the body fight inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. It has been found that vitamin C reduces osteoclots, the free radical damage which contributes to bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Vitamin C is also necessary in the production of collagen. Collagen is a protein that makes up the connective tissue found in skin, bones, cartilage, teeth, muscles and the walls of blood vessels. Collagen creates the elasticity in our skin and helps ward off wrinkles as well as supporting our joint mobility. Without vitamin C, collagen production is disrupted and many preventable conditions result.
A multitude of other conditions may be improved by vitamin C, including angina, bruises, canker sores, constipation, eyestrain, gingivitis, glaucoma, hangover, infertility, joint pain, rashes, rosacea, sore throat, sprains, sunburn, and yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and scurvy (a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency). Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron, therefore it is useful in treating iron deficiency and anemia.
Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel prize winner and arguably the greatest American chemist in the 20th century, was a huge supporter of vitamin C. He believed that supplementing with high doses of Vitamin C “cured” the common cold (as of yet, there is no proof that vitamin C can cure the common cold, though, ascorbic acid can certainly help alleviate the symptoms of a cold). He also believed that it was essential in longevity, having himself lived to the age of 93. Pauling coined the term "orthomolecular" to refer to the practice of varying the concentration of substances normally present in the body to prevent and treat disease. He wrote the books Vitamin C and the Common Cold as well as How to Live Longer and Feel Better. Pauling's work on Vitamin C in his later years generated much controversy. He began a long clinical collaboration with the British cancer surgeon Ewan Cameron in 1971 on the use of intravenous and oral vitamin C as cancer therapy for terminal patients. Cameron and Pauling wrote many technical papers and a popular book, Cancer and Vitamin C, that discussed their observations.
High doses of ascorbic acid have also been used for flushing. A “vitamin C flush, also known as taking vitamin C to bowel tolerance, promotes the healing of wounds and protects the body from bacterial infection, allergens and other pollutants. This therapy can be effective in treating chemical allergies and chemical poisoning, arsenic and radiation poisoning, influenza and sprains to name a few illnesses. Vitamin C flushing also aids in detoxification of heavy metals. The flush is done by increasing the dose of ascorbic acid to the point of diarrhea, which usually results in a purge of the majority of these toxins. It is best to take a teaspoon of a buffered vitamin C powder in juice every thirty minutes. After the bowel tolerance is reached you can adjust the dosage so it is comfortable for the bowels and continue for a few days at that dose. It is important during the flush to supplement with a multi-vitamin to replenish the body of minerals and vitamins that are lost from the loose stool.
Side effects of high doses of vitamin C have been associated with headaches, nausea, gas, and lightheadedness. Since vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a weak acid, when high doses are taken, most candida, bacteria and fungi are killed, releasing toxins into the system. This is part of the detoxification or cleansing reaction and the symptoms are temporary.
There seems to be mixed opinions on how much vitamin C is sufficient in the maintenance of good health. Since humans do not produce their own Vitamin C like most mammals, it is important to make sure we acquire it through our diet and supplementation. The officially recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, stands at 60 milligrams per day. Most scientifically determined optimal daily allowances though range from 300mg to 2000mg each day, with some older anti-cancer clinical trials experimenting with as much as 5000mg! Since Vitamin C is water-soluble it is important to take a few staggered doses throughout the day rather than one large heaping dose, as excess at one time will be excreted in urine. Vitamin C is also typically excreted upon four hours after digesting, therefore supplementing small amounts throughout the day will ensure replenishment of vitamin C lost during that time.
There are also many forms of vitamin C available. It can be buffered, meaning attached to a mineral, which reduces its acidity and creates a bio-available salt form of Vitamin C known as an ascorbate. Some individuals find this preferable if they are sensitive to acid digestively. The added benefit to taking it in a combined buffered form is that it allows for the vitamin C to be absorbed through different pathways in the body and have the added benefit of that mineral. The common buffered mineral forms are calcium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate, selenium ascorbate, manganese ascorbate, potassium ascorbate, zinc ascorbate and sodium ascorbate. To find out more about what these minerals do in the body click here.
Ascorbyl palmitate is a also a form of Vitamin C which is fat-soluble and acts as an anti-inflammatory with certain physical conditions, such as psoriasis, where topical application helps to reduce the extent of the lesions. In this form it also acts faster and uses smaller amounts to yield the same effects as ascorbic acid. Ascorbyl palmitate though is expensive to manufacture, and is not commonly used for a supplement by itself. Two supplements that I highly recommend which have a wide spectrum of different mineral and ascorbyl palmitate forms of vitamin C are: New Roots Vitamin C8 and Progressive Vitamin C.
All supplement forms of ascorbic acid are synthesized from glucose (this is the pathway by which most mammals make Vitamin C in their body). For this reason it is also beneficial to have a supplement with additional whole foods added that naturally have Vitamin C occurring in them such as acerola fruit, camu or amla fruit. Amla fruit has twenty times the amount of vitamin C than oranges and acerola has 150mg of vitamin C for every 100mg of fruit. The whole fruit also offers additional minerals, vitamins and other antioxdants. Having fruit extracts in a vitamin C supplement simply supports the synergy of co factors in the whole food that work together in your body and adds an element of nature back into the bottle. The New Roots Vitamin C8 and Progressive Vitamin C also offer this component to their product. In addition, they add proteolytic enzymes to help with inflammation, bioflavonoids such as quercetin which are beneficial for asthma and eczema, and rutin which has shown to support varicose veins and overall strengthening of veins. Both products also contain the powerful antioxidant resveratrol.
All in all, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can be used to prevent and treat many illnesses. For the many health benefits, a full spectrum vitamin C is a very important and functional supplement to include for the whole family.
This article was written by Jessica Curran. Jessica has been employed at Optimum Health for three years and has a strong passion for women and children’s health. Using natural means to treat her own health and the health of her family, she has overcome many obstacles in her life using holistic methods and looks forward to helping others overcome their obstacles. She is currently working on her Science Degree in Nutrition at the University of Alberta and plans to continue with her education into Midwifery and Naturopathic medicine.