Nutrition, Health & Wellness

The Many Health Benefits of Vitamin C: Immunity, Skin, Digestion, and More!

It’s no secret that there are many health benefits of vitamin C. In fact, it’s long been recognized as an important nutrient for bone formation, connective tissue development, wound healing, and even healthy gum maintenance. [1] But that’s not all. Vitamin C has also been used to help treat a myriad of illnesses.

So, what is it about this vitamin that makes it so powerful? And how else can it benefit your health? Let’s take a closer look at the top health benefits of vitamin C and what makes it such a great natural therapy for so many conditions and health concerns.

 

All About Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin (meaning it’s not stored in large amounts and is instead excreted through urine) that’s been heralded as a valuable natural therapy since its initial isolation in 1923. Interestingly, vitamin C is required for more than 300 metabolic functions within your body. That said, it’s categorized as an essential nutrient, meaning your body can’t produce it but still needs it daily from a dietary source.

As I mentioned above, historically, it’s been used to help treat many illnesses. In fact, before the use of antibiotics, many doctors used vitamin C to help heal those who were sick with bacterial or viral infections. Interestingly, in the 1940s, a doctor by the name of Frederick Klenner published 28 scientific papers in which he shared his methodologies for healingchicken pox, tetanus, mumps, measles, and polio—all through the use of vitamin C therapy. [2, 3]

So, what makes vitamin C so effective?

First, it’s a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from harmful free radicals (unstable atoms that are known to damage cells, which results in disease development and aging). By acting as an electron donor, vitamin C actually helps to neutralize free radicals. As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps to protect your body from other pollutants and toxins as well. Pretty interesting, right?

Stress, Adrenal Fatigue, and Vitamin C

We’ve previously discussed how important B vitamins are for stress management, but did you know that vitamin C is as well? In fact, the most common symptom of low vitamin C levels is actually fatigue! [4] Given that feelings of overwhelm and fatigue are two of the most common symptoms of adrenal fatigue, this makes vitamin C a very important nutrient for those under chronic stress.

Simply put, your adrenal glands need vitamin C to function properly. And studies have actually shown that people with high levels of vitamin C don’t show many of the typical mental and physical signs of stress. They usually report feeling less stressed and even bounce back from stressful situations faster than people with low levels of vitamin C! [5]

Now that you know how it works in your body and why it’s important for your stress management, let’s take a look at some of the top health benefits of vitamin C.

The Top 6 Health Benefits of Vitamin C

Here are just a few of the many health benefits of vitamin C. You may be surprised by a couple of them!

1. Supports the immune system

One of the first health benefits of vitamin C is probably its most well-known: its ability to support your immune system. If you’re like the average American, you likely spent your childhood hearing about how drinking orange juice would give you a stronger immune system due to its high amounts of vitamin C. But exactly how does this nutrient boost your immune system?

Research has shown that vitamin C assists your body’s immune defense by supporting numerous cellular functions within your immune system. It also aids in protecting your body against pathogens and promotes the removal of free radicals from your skin, therefore strengthening the barriers in your skin. As a result, it offers potential in protecting your body against environmental oxidative stress. [6]

So, just how effective is it? Well, a 2013 meta-analysis reviewed 30 trials involving 11,350 participants. The researchers found that the most active participants (such as marathon runners, skiers, and soldiers) reduced their risk of getting a cold by 50 percent when they took 200 mg of vitamin C daily. [7]

Furthermore, taking that amount of vitamin C each day also reduced cold symptom duration in adults by 8 percent and in children by 14 percent.

While vitamin C should be consumed every day, this study provides enough proof of vitamin C’s efficacy against viral infections to warrant taking a dose of at least 200 mg per day beginning at the onset of cold or flu symptoms.

2. Helps prevent and fight anemia

Perhaps one of the lesser known health benefits of vitamin C is the fact that it helps your body absorb iron. In fact, it’s essential for that process to occur! So, in people with iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin C is actually a very important and essential nutrient.

In fact, researchers have found that consuming as little as 100 mg of vitamin C each day can help boost iron absorption by almost 70 percent. [8] Additionally, a 2013 study of more than 500 factory workers revealed that supplementing with iron, folic acid, and vitamin C increased their hemoglobin. Furthermore, the prevalence of anemia had reduced by almost half! [9]

3. Supports collagen formation, muscles, and tendons

Collagen is vital for maintaining the structure of many parts of your body, including your bones, muscles, tendons, skin, and more. In fact, it makes up almost 80 percent of the protein found in your skin! [10] Without proper collagen, you’ll begin to experience joint discomfort, signs of aging, stiff muscles and tendons, and more.

Interestingly, vitamin C has been shown to be a very important factor in the synthesis of collagen. Not only is it a powerful antioxidant, but it’s also responsible for helping to maintain activity in the enzymes that are part of collagen synthesis. [11]

According to a study published in 2015, the topical application of vitamin C was “highly efficient as a rejuvenation therapy” and significantly induced collagen synthesis in women of all ages, but especially in those under age 50. [12]

4. Contains antihistamine properties

Histamine is a chemical released by your body in response to encountering an allergen. That’s why you often hear of people taking antihistamines to lessen their symptoms during allergy season. But what you may not know is that vitamin C is also a great nutrient to depend on during that time of year.

One of the many health benefits of vitamin C is that it contains antihistamine properties, making it a great supplement to include during allergy season. In fact, according to one study, participants who took 2 g of vitamin C each day experienced decreased levels of histamine by 38 percent in their blood. [13]

Additionally, a 2018 study revealed that vitamin C therapy significantly decreased allergy symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disorders, depression, and lack of mental concentration. [14]

5. Acts as a natural laxative

If you’re having trouble with constipation, you may want to consider supplementing with some vitamin C.

Because vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient, when you consume more if it, it can cause a larger amount of water to enter into your digestive tract, resulting in softer stool. In fact, a study on more than 350 children ages 3 to 5 found that children who were constipated had significantly lower intakes of fiber, vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. They also had higher intakes of milk. [15]

Just be careful not to take a dose that’s too high for your body; otherwise, you could end up with diarrhea. Speak with your physician before trying a supplement so you can find the right amount for your needs.

6. Contains cancer-fighting properties

It may sound a bit farfetched, but the truth is that vitamin C has been found to contain cancer-fighting properties.

A study published in 2016 found that when vitamin C is administered in high levels via intravenous therapy, it breaks down hydrogen peroxide in the body, which can damage your tissue and DNA. Because tumor cells are less capable of removing this damaging hydrogen peroxide than normal cells, the vitamin C was able to damage the tumor tissue. [16]

Also, a 2018 meta-analysis revealed many links between vitamin C status and cancer. First, the researchers found that studies consistently revealed that cancer patients had lower levels of vitamin C than healthy volunteers. Second, they found that several studies indicated that intravenous vitamin C therapy could decrease the toxic side effects of chemotherapy and improve quality of life in cancer patients.

Finally, the researchers also stated that due to its many health-benefiting properties, including its functions as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, different cancers would likely respond in different ways to intravenous vitamin C therapy. The researchers suggested tailoring intravenous vitamin C therapy regimens to specific cancers. [17]

Health benefits of vitamin c - Dr. Pingel

Consuming Vitamin C

When it comes to consuming vitamin C, it’s pretty common knowledge that citrus fruits are great sources of this nutrient. But what you may not be aware of is that vitamin C is also readily available in many foods that aren’t citrus. These include kale, brussels sprouts, kiwis, green peppers, broccoli, red peppers, and black currents.

If you suspect that you aren’t consuming enough vitamin C to meet your daily requirements, you should speak with your physician about taking a high-quality supplement each day. You can find vitamin C supplements at your local health food stores, vitamin shops, and even grocery stores.

 

Key Takeaways

  • There are many health benefits of vitamin C, including its ability to support bone formation, connective tissue development, wound healing, healthy gum maintenance, and even your body’s stress response.
  • While vitamin C is required for more than 300 metabolic functions within your body, it’s categorized as an essential nutrient, meaning your body can’t produce it but still needs it daily from a dietary source.
  • Some of the top health benefits of vitamin C include its ability to boost immunity, help fight and prevent anemia, support collagen synthesis, lower histamine reactions, act as a laxative, and potentially even fight cancer.
  • You can consume more vitamin C through certain plant-based foods and via supplements that you discuss with your physician.

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