- Vitamin C can help maintain a healthy immune system.
- The best way to add vitamin C is through certain foods.
- It may also shorten your cold, though more research is needed.
Everyone seems to have vitamin C on the brain once cold and flu season rolls around, as this essential vitamin can help give your immune system the boost it needs.
We spoke to some registered dietitians and medical experts about the role vitamin C plays into your daily health and how deficiencies in this necessary vitamin can impact you, too.
Vitamin C helps your body’s ability to repair itself
“Vitamin C is essential for your body’s ability to grow, maintain and repair its tissue,” said registered dietitian Lorraine Chu, MS, RDN. It helps heal wounds and repairs your bones, skin and, cartilage, she added. Vitamin C is essential in producing collagen, which can help wounds heal.
Vitamin C may help you miss more severe cold symptoms
“While vitamin C may not stop you from catching your co-worker’s cold, it may lessen the length of your symptoms by about a day or two,” Chu told INSIDER. Though, it’s worth noting that some studies did not find these results, so it’s best to talk to your doctor.
Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells
“Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C helps to stimulate the production and function of many types of white blood cells and also protects certain white blood cells,” said Dr. David Greuner of NYC Surgical Associates. White blood cells help fight off illness-causing viruses and bacteria, he explained.
Vitamin C may help improve physical symptoms of stress
“Vitamin C has been shown to improve weakened immune systems caused by stress (malnutrition, smoking, drinking, mental stress, etc),” said registered dietitian Haley Hughes, MS, RD, CDE, CF-L1. In fact, in small studies, some researchers found that people who got an adequate amount of vitamin C felt the physical symptoms of stress less often.
Vitamin C can be found in certain foods
“Since your body can’t produce vitamin C on its own, be sure to add citrus fruits, tomatoes, green peppers, and other forms of vitamin C in your diet,” Chu explained. However, she says it’s important to note that vitamin C can be destroyed when these foods are heated or stored for too long.
There is such thing as too much vitamin C
“Intake of large doses of vitamin C has been associated with diarrhoea and abdominal bloating,” said Dr. Mary Onwuka, a physician at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center. In addition, she noted that routine supplemental intake of large doses has been associated with the formation of oxalates kidney stones, especially in men.
You should always talk to your doctor before taking supplements to avoid these side effects. Like many vitamins, optimal vitamin C dosage can be obtained with a healthy diet.
But vitamin-C deficiency also causes issues
“Vitamin C deficiency can cause bleeding gums, dry splitting hair, skin rashes, and a weak immune system,” said Dr. Jill Blakeway, a licensed board certified acupuncturist, and clinical herbalist. That’s because several cells of the immune system, including phagocytes, and T-cells, need vitamin C to perform, she explained.
Think food first when trying to get vitamin C
“To boost your immunity, think food first,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Rachel Fine, MS, RD, CSSD, CDN. While we commonly associate orange juice with vitamin C, many veggies and fruits contain the vitamin including grapefruit, green peppers, sweet red peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries, she explained. She recommends about eight to 10 servings per day.
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