What is vitamin C?
Ascorbic acid or vitamin C is a natural, water-soluble vitamin. Since the human body, unlike most animals, is not able to produce the vitamin itself, it must be ingested through food.
Vitamin C is available in high doses as tablets or powders. Often the vitamin C supplements are also available in combination with other vitamins or minerals such as iron or zinc.
What is the function of vitamin C in the body?
Vitamin C has a supportive effect on the immune system and metabolism. It possesses antioxidant properties and improves the absorption of iron in the intestine. It is also involved in collagen formation and wound healing in the body.
It also protects the body from free radicals. Vitamin C promotes bone growth and plays a crucial role in the formation of dentin (dentin). Another function of vitamin C in the body is the breakdown of histamine and cholesterol.
Who has an increased need for vitamin C?
The body has an increased need for vitamin C during pregnancy or breastfeeding, during wound healing, cancer and iron deficiency, among other things. People who have a lot of stress or smoke should also consume more vitamin C. The same applies to the elderly and athletes.
There is also an increased need when taking certain medications, such as birth control pills, acetylsalicylic acid, antibiotics or diabetic medications.
How does vitamin C deficiency manifest itself?
An unbalanced diet is not healthy. If the body is not given enough vitamin C, deficiency symptoms can occur.
In the case of a severe vitamin C deficiency, it is called scurvy. This disease is also known as seafarer’s disease. The reason for this is that between the 16th and 19th centuries it was mainly sailors who fell ill with scurvy, as they did not have the opportunity to eat fresh fruit or vegetables on long crossings. Nowadays, this disease occurs predominantly only in some third world countries.
A mild lack of vitamin C can lead to tiredness, fatigue, pain in the muscles and immunodeficiency. However, if the deficiency symptoms are already advanced, they can cause the following symptoms:
- inflammation and bleeding on the gums,
- slowed wound healing,
- Joint pain
- edema (water retention in the tissues),
- decreased collagen formation.
In severe cases, bleeding may occur in the eyes and brain.
Foods that contain a lot of vitamin C
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best source of vitamin C. Citrus fruits in particular contain a lot of it. But sauerkraut, sweet peppers, parsley, blackcurrants, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kiwi and lychee are also rich in vitamin C.
Vitamin C Drug Interactions
If vitamin C is taken at the same time as iron supplements, the absorption of iron from the digestive tract is increased. Under certain circumstances, the dosage of iron must be adjusted. Salicylates lead to faster excretion of vitamin C. Estrogens, on the other hand, improve absorption.
What happens in case of an overdose?
An overdose with vitamin C is harmless in healthy people. In the worst case, symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhea may occur. However, an overdose is dangerous for people with kidney and metabolic diseases, as it increases the risk of kidney stones.
What else you should know about vitamin C
The body can only store a certain amount of vitamin C. Excess is excreted through the kidneys. For this reason, admission should be made several times a day.
Strong sunlight and heat can reduce the vitamin C content in fruits and vegetables. Therefore, it should always be stored in the refrigerator. In addition, it has been proven that frozen fruit and vegetables are richer in vitamins than fresh ones, as the vitamins are better preserved by shock freezing.
It has not been proven whether taking vitamin C supplements for a cold actually makes you recover faster. However, it can’t do any harm.