What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin also known as L-ascorbic acid. Humans don’t produce it on their own, though many animals do. It’s naturally present in some foods, but is added to many others to serve as a dietary supplement.

The National Institutes of Health’s list of roles Vitamin C plays is massive, and highlights how crucial the vitamin really is. The NIH says L-ascorbic acid is necessary to biosynthesize collagen (which is a major component of connective tissue and crucial to wound healing) and certain neurotransmitters. It’s a physiological antioxidant, which regenerates other antioxidants in the body. It plays a major role in the function of the immune system. It also improves the absorption of the type of iron found in plant-based foods.

Where do I get Vitamin C?

Fruits and vegetables are the best sources for L-ascorbic acid intake. Americans get the majority of their Vitamin C from citrus fruits, tomatoes, and potatoes. A single glass of orange juice provides a full day’s worth of recommended vitamin C intake.

Other good, natural sources include sweet peppers, kiwi, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cantaloupe. Those are recommended because they are often eaten raw; cooking the product or storing it for a long time can lessen the content of the product. Many companies fortify breakfast cereals with Vitamin C.

How is Vitamin C Used to Help with Wounds?

As mentioned, Vitamin C is crucial to collagen formation. The tensile strength it provides makes sure the tissue can stretch without tearing. L-ascorbic acid has also been known as an anti-inflammatory, and an antioxidant that protects against cell damage. Those benefits do not require doses higher than the daily recommended intake.

The NIH says Vitamin C also plays a role in the fight against cancer, the common cold, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration due to old age, and the development of cataracts.

The NIH maintains that Vitamin C does not serve as an overall prevention or cure-all for any of those diseases, but does acknowledge it could have an impact on severity of those illnesses or length of time they impact people.

For instance:

“Most case-control studies have found an inverse association between dietary vitamin C intake and [several forms of] cancers,” the NIH says. It also says, “The use of vitamin C supplements might shorten the duration of the common cold and ameliorate symptom severity in the general population.”

Dosage and Precautions

The amount of Vitamin C recommended in a daily dose changes depending on your age and physical state. Babies need about 40-50 mg a day, but at the toddler stage, the dietary allowance drops significantly, to just 15 mg. That goes up steadily, so that by age 9-13, both boys and girls should take in around 45 mg a day. By age 14, men should have 75 mg a day, where women only need 65 mg. If you are a male 19 years are older, you should get 90 mg of vitamin C a day; women 19 or older should have 75 mg daily. Pregnant women should have 80-85 mg, and if you’re lactating, bump that up to 115-120 mg. Most people can get their recommended daily dose from their regular food intake, and don’t need a supplement.

Major problems from taking too much Vitamin C are rare. Typically, excess Vitamin C simply comes out of the body when you urinate. If you take more than the upper limit of 2,000 mg a day (over 20 times the recommended dosage), you could experience symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps, and headaches.

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