10 signs you might have a vitamin C deficiency, according to an expert

Wutthichai/ShutterstockVitamin C is important for your bones.
  • Fatigue, bleeding gums, and tooth decay are all signs of a vitamin C deficiency.
  • Adult men need 90 mg of vitamin C per day and adult women need 75 mg of vitamin C per day.
  • Vitamin C helps to keep bones and teeth strong and aids with iron absorption, amongst other things.

Your body needs vitamin C to help heal wounds, keep your bones and teeth strong, and to help absorb iron in your body. Vitamin C is also used to help create vital proteins that are responsible for making your skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels, according to the US National Library of Medicine. The body needs vitamin C to help a handful of enzymes in the body produce molecules we need every day, like collagen and carnitine.

Without vitamin C, the body has trouble producing these molecules efficiently and problems arise. The deficiency is also known as scurvy. The body uses vitamin C as an antioxidant that reduces the harmful effects of reactive oxygen species. We spoke to Alexander Michels, a research associate at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Michels has over 18 years of experience researching vitamin C at the Linus Pauling Institute including aspects of how vitamin C is transported within the body.

Here are 10 signs that you might have a vitamin C deficiency.


You notice more wrinkles than normal.

Flickr/Cushy SpaVitamin C protects your skin from UV radiation.

Vitamin C works to protect your skin from the harmful implications of UV radiation and oxygen exposure. Vitamin C also supports collagen synthesis.

“Collagen is important for the structure of your skin, so vitamin C has the potential to lessen the appearance of wrinkles and support wound healing,” Michels told INSIDER. “When vitamin C levels in the body get very low, this can lead to a variety of skin problems that will alter its appearance, like thickening of the skin, and bruising or bleeding around hair follicles.”


Your hair is breaking off easily.

SonerCdem/ iStockA change in your hair type could be a sign.

“People with severe vitamin C deficiency grows hair that grows in a very peculiar corkscrew pattern,” said Michels.

This particular type of hair is very fragile and breaks very easily. If your hair used to be thick and lush, but is now frail and weak, you may have a very serious vitamin C deficiency.


Your gums are bleeding.

Flickr/Cody LongWithout the collagen that vitamin C creates, your gums can become inflamed.

Collagen is what holds together your skin, bones, gums, and teeth. Vitamin C is crucial to collagen production, and without it, these things can suffer. Without enough vitamin C, your gums can become inflamed and eventually begin to bleed.

“When people consume too little vitamin C, the effects can be mild or severe depending on the level of vitamin C that remains in the body,” said Michels. “When someone does not consume enough vitamin C for a few days up to a few weeks, the only effect would be a loss of antioxidant protection. That’s something that has no definable symptom. As time goes on and vitamin C levels in the body fall even further, the symptoms of deficiency would start to appear. First with general weakness and fatigue, and later with bleeding gums.”


You have tooth decay.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesPeople who don’t eat fruits and vegetables are at risk.

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. Your teeth are made up of dentine – a major tissue that helps to form the bulk of the tooth that hides underneath the enamel. This tissue relies on vitamin C to stay healthy. Without vitamin C, the tooth can start to decay.

“Tooth decay as a result of a vitamin C deficiency is very rare in the United States and other developed countries as long as people eat a balanced diet,” said Michels. “People who don’t eat any fresh fruit and vegetables are particularly at risk.”


You bruise easily.

ShutterstockBruises are less likely in people who aren’t vitamin C deficiency.

Researchers in Australia found that extensive bruising can be a sign of a vitamin C deficiency. The study, published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, found that bruising rapidly improved after a patient took oral vitamin C supplements. According to Michels, this is one of the more severe signs of a vitamin C deficiency.

To combat this, make sure you are getting enough vitamin C each day. According to the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, adult men need 90 mg of vitamin C per day and adult women need 75 mg of vitamin C per day. Additionally, smokers should consume at least 35 mg of additional vitamin C to maintain vitamin C levels in the body.


Your cuts and scratches are slow to heal.

Bunphot/ iStockWounds do not close properly when you are vitamin C deficient.

Minor wounds should heal up on their own within three to seven days, according to Cigna. If you notice that your cuts and scratches aren’t healing on their own or are taking weeks to close up, you may have a vitamin C deficiency.

“Very low vitamin C levels in the body can reduce the body’s ability to produce collagen,” said Michels. “During scurvy, vitamin C levels are so low that wounds do not close properly. But, even people who don’t have scurvy might have trouble with wound healing if they aren’t getting adequate amounts of vitamin C.”


You experience joint pain.

ShutterstockThe lack of vitamin C can lead to joint inflammation.

This is one of the most common initial signs of a vitamin C deficiency, according to Michels. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights inflammation. Without enough vitamin C, you may experience pain in your joints due to inflammation.

“The best way to prevent a vitamin C deficiency is just to eat a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. These contain other nutrients and phytochemicals besides vitamin C that will support good health,” said Michels. “Chilli peppers and golden kiwi are great ways to get your vitamin C because they have over 100 mg vitamin C. Blueberries, papaya, bell peppers, oranges, kale, and spinach are also good sources.”


You are more tired than normal.

Rawpixel/iStockFatigue can possibly be remedied with vitamin C.

Fatigue is a sign of vitamin C deficiency. If you are feeling sleepier than usual, this could be a sign that you need more vitamin C. A study conducted by researchers in South Korea found that taking vitamin C can reduce feelings of fatigue. This is one of the first signs of a vitamin C deficiency, according to Michels.


Your nails are brittle.

DianesPhotographicDesigns/iStockNails can break easily if you are vitamin C deficient.

If your nails are fragile and break easily, you might have a vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C is very important for the absorption of iron within the body. For this reason, your nails can become brittle and break off without difficulty.

“There is generally no need to see a doctor unless you have some signs of abnormal bleeding or problems with wounds healing,” said Michels. “Instead, the first thing you could do is add more fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet, like citrus or peppers. However, to get 400 mg of vitamin C a day, you likely will need to take a supplement.”


You experience frequent nosebleeds.

Saneeyaphotoroom/ShutterstockVitamin C help repair blood vessels.

According to Penn State’s Milton S. Hersey Medical Center, vitamin C is responsible for growing and repairing all tissues in the body – including blood vessels. A lack of vitamin C can weaken your blood vessels, especially the tiny ones in your nose, triggering frequent nosebleeds.

“If you take a multivitamin supplement, you are probably getting some vitamin C through that as well,” said Michels. “Single nutrient vitamin C supplements can be used if you believe you are still not getting enough.”

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