Can Vitamin C Protect You From Illness?
Getting knocked out by an illness is no fun for anyone. Not only do you feel dreadful, but you lose productivity and fitness when taking time off from work and the gym.
But imagine if you could avoid being side-lined.
Vitamin C offers a natural and effective way to boost your immune system and defend your body against those nasty viruses. And the crazy part is that there are very few other nutrients that can provide those same health benefits. It’s Vitamin C or nothing.
Vitamin C: Where Does It Come From?
Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a superstar that plays two roles in the body: powerful antioxidant and essential nutrient.
It cannot be produced or stored in the human body and must therefore be consumed regularly via diet and supplementation.
Oranges are the most well-known dietary source of vitamin C, but they aren't the only ones! Sources for this amazing vitamin are found across a broad range of colorful and delicious plant foods.
Some of the very best food sources of Vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruit
- Green leafy vegetables (wut? It’s true!)
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell peppers
Vitamin C: Do You Need It Every Day?
Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body and any excess is excreted via the urine. Consequently, we MUST replenish our vitamin C levels daily in order to stay abreast of the situation.
Despite being found in many fruits and vegetables, most of us still fall short when it comes to consuming enough of this powerhouse nutrient. Face it. The majority of people aren't getting their five-a-day. Do you even remember what the food pyramid looks like? Do you think your neighbors do? Want to know something else? Cooking methods like steaming, boiling, and stir-frying actually result in a significant loss of vitamin C and can result in a net loss of up to 45% in some cases!
Certain groups of people naturally have a higher demand for vitamin C, which makes it harder for them to reach the daily requirements. These people include:
- Those on restrictive diets
- Athletes and those doing intense exercise
- People under acute or chronic mental and emotional stress
- Pregnant women
- The elderly
- Those with digestive problems
If you're not getting a sufficient amount of vitamin C, blood levels deplete pretty quickly, and you can end up with weakened immunity, fatigue, dry skin, slow wound healing, and even swollen gums.
In addition to consuming dietary sources, research has shown that vitamin C supplements are widely bioavailable and successfully boost blood levels of this nutrient. The best part is that they’re usually pretty cheap too! Taking a daily vitamin C supplement is amazing for your general health and immunity and don’t have to break the bank to do it.
Vitamin C: Effect on the Immune System
Vitamin C is most well-known for its powerful effect on the immune system and is wonderful for preventing respiratory infections. It's not just hype; the evidence is overwhelming!
Research shows that when we're low in vitamin C we are more susceptible to infections and have a dampened immune response. This is because we need optimal levels of vitamin C in order for our immune system to operate like the well-oiled machines they can be.
Vitamin C helps us avoid those foreign invaders in a few ways:
- It’s vital for the production and function of important white blood cells that fight infection and stop viruses and bacteria in their tracks – namely neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes.
- Its potent antioxidant capabilities reduce oxidative damage to our fighter immune cells.
- It supports the repair and healthy function of our epithelial barrier – that’s your skin! The skin is a barrier to the outside world. It's our first line of defense against foreign pathogens.
A meta-analysis looked at 29 studies on the interaction between vitamin C and common respiratory infections. Several trials confirmed that taking between 200–1000mg of vitamin C daily over the long-term reduced the number of people who succumbed to a cold. Interestingly, the risk was halved in athletes and those engaging in intense physical exercise. Vitamin C also reduced the duration and severity of infections. However, no benefit was seen when people only supplemented after they had become ill.
Further, in 2014, a study of fit men aged 18 to 35 found that taking 1000mg of vitamin C daily reduced incidence of infection by 45% during peak cold season when compared to a placebo. Plus, when someone in the vitamin C group fell ill with a cold, the duration was reduced by 59%. This making anybody else itchy to find some more vitamin C around the house?
Another review study found that regularly taking vitamin C may reduce the incidence of pneumonia by as much as 80% in at-risk populations. This is a big deal because pneumonia is a serious lower respiratory infection that can be fatal, especially in the elderly.
It's safe to say that not only will adding a vitamin C supplement to your daily routine reduce the incidence of infection, it will also reduce symptom severity and length. However, popping a handful of vitamin C capsules when you already have the sniffles? Not gonna help.
Vitamin C: How and When To Take It
You have to start getting enough Vitamin C now. Vitamin C is a must-have addition to your daily supplement regimen. It's simple to take, inexpensive to buy, and comes with essentially zero risk.
To stimulate a robust immune response, you need to take significantly higher levels than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), which was only formulated to prevent a vitamin C deficiency. You want to supplement with at least 250-500mg per day but ideally doses closer to the tolerable upper limit (UL).
According to the Institute of Medicine, the daily UL for vitamin C is:
- 400mg for children aged 1−3
- 650mg for children aged 4−8
- 1200mg for adolescents aged 9−13
- 1800mg for adolescents aged 14−18
- 2000mg for adults 19 and older
While these doses are safe, in some people levels closer to the upper limit can cause gastrointestinal side-effects like cramps and loose stools. Fortunately, the symptoms are not serious and will cease when the dose of vitamin C is lowered. If this happens to you, reduce the dose and then build back up again slowly.
As vitamin C is water-soluble, we suggest splitting your dose throughout the day to enhance absorption and prevent any unnecessary excess from being excreted from body.
It's a good idea to create a routine and take your vitamin C supplements at the same time each day to avoid skipping a dose. Many experts also recommend taking them with a meal to increase absorption and reduce any digestive symptoms that may occur when taken on an empty stomach. Ready to start dosing up? I sure am. Now let me show you one of the best ways to do it.