As you surely know by now, vitamin C is essential to health. Although it is commonly used to prevent scurvy and for immune support, there are many other benefits to taking vitamin C. For example, increased concentrations of vitamin C in the blood have been shown to have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, skin, nervous system, teeth, bone density, immune function, and glands such as the thymus, adrenals and thyroid. Scientific studies have linked vitamin C with immune system function and the health of the eyes, cardiovascular system, liver, and joints.
Vitamin C and Stress
Perhaps one of the most overlooked uses of vitamin C is in the body’s stress response system. The adrenal glands require vitamin C to stay healthy and manufacture the adrenal hormones that cope with stress, particularly cortisol. The more cortisol made, the more vitamin C used, so vitamin C is so essential to the entire HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) Axis. This axis is one of the most important elements of homeostasis, the process that maintains a steady internal biochemical and physiological balance in your body. While stress accelerates vitamin C depletion in all the tissues in the body, the adrenal glands are especially affected, which must respond to every stress experienced.
During stress, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) disappears from the blood stream at an extremely rapid rate. This means that whether someone is exercising in aerobics class (good s tress) or dealing with a heavy life situation (bad stress), your adrenals need additional vitamin C. When your adrenal glands cannot make the additional adrenal hormones required to maintain you during stressful times, your whole body can feel it. Ongoing fatigue (even with rest), weakened immune response, decreased joy, increased frustration, and inability to respond to even the smallest of stresses are just a few possible side effects.
What Type of Vitamin C Is Best?
Vitamin C, as it occurs in nature, always appears as a composite of ascorbic acid and certain bioflavonoids. It is this vitamin C complex that is so beneficial, not just ascorbic acid by itself. Bioflavonoids are essential if ascorbic acid is to be fully metabolized and utilized by your body. The ratio of bioflavonoids to ascorbic acid should be approximately 1:2; that is, 1 mg of bioflavonoids for every 2 mg of ascorbic acid. Bioflavonoids basically double the effectiveness of ascorbic acid in your body and allow its action to be more complete. The kind of vitamin C you use makes a difference; vitamin C is much more than ascorbic acid.
The optimum form of supplemental vitamin C to look for is a true sustained release supplement that provides a gradual, steady supply of vitamin C, with a 1:2 ratio of bioflavonoids to vitamin C to enhance its activity, and trace minerals to balance the acidity the of vitamin C so it’s easier on your stomach.
How Much Vitamin C Do I Need?
Because vitamin C is water-soluble and quickly used up or excreted from your body, it should be consumed several times per day. This is particularly true when your body is under any kind of physical, emotional, environmental or infectious stress. The quantity of vitamin C required varies by person and by stress level. As stressful events increase, the need for many nutrients, but especially vitamin C, also increases.
To find out how much vitamin C your body requires, try a very simple test called the Vitamin C Loading Test. On day one, take 500 mg of ascorbic acid plus an additional 250 mg every hour until your bowel movements become somewhat loose and runny. Once you have achieved this level, reduce your ascorbic acid by 500 mg and add approximately half the amount of bioflavonoids so you have a 2:1 ratio of ascorbic acid to bioflavonoids.
This is usually the amount of vitamin C your body needs at this time. The most common point for this to occur is about 2,000 to 4,000 mg (2-4 grams) of ascorbic acid for people with adrenal fatigue. Typically, the more chronic and severe your stress and/or adrenal fatigue, the more vitamin C is necessary.
What are the best foods containing Vitamin C?
If you have been following me for any amount of time, you know that I believe food is healing. I believe, through nutrition, we can reverse many ailments we experience in our health. Hippocrates got it right. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" is one of my favorite quotes that speaks to my biggest desire to help others through functional nutrition.
Oranges don’t have to be the only go-to to include Vitamin C in your daily nutrition. Here is a great list of foods that are highest in Vitamin C.
Fruits with the highest sources of vitamin C include:
Citrus fruits and juices, such as orange and grapefruit
Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries
Vegetables with the highest sources of vitamin C include:
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
Green and red peppers
Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens (all the kale!! 😍)
Sweet and white potatoes
Tomatoes and tomato juice
What do you need to remember?
Vitamin C is critical for health, especially in times of high stress. You can increase your Vitamin C intake through diet; however, you may also want to include a high-quality supplement to make sure you are getting the maximum amount needed to help maintain health when stress has you burning essential nutrients.
*adapted with permission from AdrenalFatigue.org