The crucial role that vitamin C – also known as ascorbic acid – has in a range of bodily functions should not be understated. This essential water-soluble vitamin helps to safeguard the health of your body’s cells. It’s a big factor in keeping your skin, blood vessels, cartilage and bones in the best possible shape, and is also instrumental in wound healing.
A key downside, though, is that the body can’t make or store vitamin C itself. This means it’s necessary to eat it every day, which probably helps to explain why, in low income groups, about a fifth of men and one in nine women suffer from vitamin C deficiency.
So, what might be some of the indicators that you ought to up your vitamin C intake?
- You’ve noticed more wrinkles recently
Collagen plays a vital role in the structure of your skin, so when you’re short of vitamin C – which supports collagen synthesis – various skin problems can arise, including noticeable wrinkles, bruising or bleeding around hair follicles.
- You feel moody or fatigued
These are among the earliest signs that you might not be getting enough vitamin C, and may be apparent even before you become truly deficient.
The good news is that if feeling a bit tired or irritable is your only real symptom so far, you probably just need to take adequate vitamin C for a few days to return to top form.
- Your body hair is corkscrew-shaped
This might seem a bit of a weird one, but it’s true – hair may grow in bent or coiled shapes in someone who is short of vitamin C, because of the defects this can cause in hair’s protein structure.
You might not actually notice this symptom though, especially given that such damaged hairs also have a greater tendency than healthy hair to fall out or break off.
- Your joints ache
While joint pain has many potential causes that you should be mindful of if you do suffer from it, it’s worth considering whether insufficient vitamin C could be to blame in your case.
After all, musculoskeletal pain is one of the symptoms of scurvy, a condition caused by the body not getting enough vitamin C for at least three months.
- Your gums have become red and swollen
In addition to being key to blood vessel health and blood clotting, vitamin C further impacts on your teeth and gums due to the importance of collagen to these parts of the body.
So unfortunately, if your gums have been red and swollen recently or even bled, this might be another indicator that you aren’t getting enough vitamin C.
With the more advanced stages of vitamin C deficiency linked to such consequences as purple and rotten gums and even teeth falling out, if you notice those earlier signs, we’d urge you to remedy the situation quickly.
- You’ve put on weight
Various studies have linked vitamin C deficiency to higher levels of body fat – particularly belly fat – although it’s less clear whether there is a direct cause-effect relationship.
Nonetheless, it has been suggested that vitamin C may help to prevent obesity by regulating the release of fat from fat cells, lowering inflammation and decreasing stress hormones. So, if your weight has gone up unexpectedly lately and you’ve ruled out all other obvious causes, you might have a new suspect.
- You seem to be ill more often, and recover more slowly
This is a side of vitamin C deficiency that we’re all too familiar with here at Tonic Health – indeed, it’s a big factor behind our decision to pack a whopping 1,500mg of it into each of our sachets, which is well above the 40mg a day the NHS recommends for adults aged between 19 and 64.
And as we’ve recently blogged about, taking well in excess of the nutrient reference value (NRV) of a vitamin is by no means necessarily a bad thing.
Various studies down the years have shed greater light on vitamin C’s role in the immune system. It helps the immune system to work more efficiently, not least by acting as a co-factor, which the body needs in order to catalyse enzyme reactions for the innate and adaptive immune systems alike.
But on the other hand, when vitamin C isn’t present in adequate amounts, past research has indicated a higher risk of infection and slower recoveries. Furthermore, scurvy is inevitably fatal if left untreated, often due to infections that sufferers’ impaired immune systems are unable to deal with.
Don’t ignore those telltale signs
The above are far from the only symptoms that one can experience when vitamin C intake is below par, with others including the likes of easy bruising, slow wound healing and even loss of vision.
Nevertheless, that’s all the more reason for you to take any such initial signs seriously. Thankfully, with vitamin C available in rich amounts in such fruits and vegetables as orange juice, red and green peppers, blackcurrants and broccoli, it doesn’t necessarily need to be too difficult for you to address the situation and restore yourself to health.