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What Does Vitamin C Do In The Body? What Happens When We Don't Have Enough Of It?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble, nutrient powerhouse that serves as an antioxidant working to protect our cells against free radicals which we are exposed to on a daily basis. Free radicals are also present when our bodies break down food or are exposed to radiation from the sun or artificial lighting, x-rays or smoke. Without antioxidants working to combat free radicals, one is more susceptible to developing heart disease, cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Our body is also a vessel for delivering nutrient-rich blood and oxygen to the muscles and organs that demand it. Our red blood cells carry oxygen through the lungs and throughout the rest of the body. When there is a deficiency of vitamins in the blood, vitamin deficiency anemia can occur leading to a variety of other health conditions and diseases. Aside from vitamin deficiency anemia, Vitamin C can aid in the prevention of hemoglobin anemia as it enhances the absorption of iron. Studies have highlighted Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties and its ability to aid in vasodilation, improve nitric oxide production and help to reduce plaque within the lumen of the vessels for those with atherosclerosis. This further aids in the prevention and protection against hypertension and heart disease. Vitamin C also plays an integral role in combating allergens and strengthening the immune system when it is under attack. When the body experiences an allergic reaction, the body and cells undergo oxidative stress. Supplementing with Vitamin C provides the body with the antioxidants it needs to fight the free radicals it has been exposed to and reduces allergy symptoms.
Vitamin C is a crucial antioxidant that helps to strengthen our immune system and works to reduce inflammation. Inflammation can be recognized by its four cardinal red flags; redness, heat, swelling and/or pain. As the body enters into an inflammatory state, it is working to fight antigens and foreign pathogens - this occurs when the body perceives a threat from external sources. By decreasing inflammation, Vitamin C works to support our body’s adaptive immune system and immunity.
When Vitamin C isn’t working as an inflammatory reducer and immune booster, it is helping the body to produce collagen, L-carnitine and neurotransmitters that boost cognitive function and memory. It also enhances wound heal and aids in the absorption of iron, another important mineral. Vitamin C also plays an integral part in the production of collagen, connective tissue that makes up 1-2% of muscle tissue and is responsible for the elastic, pliable and durable nature of one’s skin. Collagen utilizes Vitamin C to aid in the formation of fibrous tissues such as tendons, ligaments, skin, cartilage, bones, blood vessels and gastrointestinal organs. Vitamin C’s requirement for the formation of collagen is also attributed to its ability to increase wound healing time. The more Vitamin C the body has access to, the more collagen it can produce to heal the wound, thus reducing recovery times.
Researchers have also found that Vitamin C help reduce the symptoms associated with asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease when used in conjunction with Vitamin E.
When our bodies don’t receive the amounts of Vitamin C they need, a handful of symptoms may present themselves including; a weakened immune system, tiredness, lethargy, prolonged wound healing time and dullness of the skin. The most common causes of Vitamin C deficiency are a poor diet, alcoholism, anorexia, severe mental illness and dialysis. Most symptoms will take months to develop and show signs, so it is important to supplement regularly through whole foods and Ener-C Multivitamin drink mix packets!
-By Lindsay Mustard. Lindsay is a Holistic Nutritionist, firefighter-in-training and recipe-wizard with a burning passion for health and fitness. In her nutrition practice, Lindsay works with clients to craft a unique plan that is tailored to their specific health goals using a natural, whole food and supplement approach.