Hi, I’m Dr. Chad Larson, and this is Keep It Real. Keep It Real is all about real talk based on my 20 plus years of clinical experience. What we’re really talking about is real food, real medicine, and real change.
Is Vitamin C actually essential?
Today we’re going to talk about vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the most well known nutrients out there. Most people realize that vitamin C is a thing, and probably even take it to some degree every now and again. During the COVID era, a lot of people were taking vitamin C and everybody was telling their brother and sister, their mom and dad, to take vitamin C. I’ve had a patient actually pose to me the question, “Is vitamin C actually essential? What do we really need vitamin C for?” That’s actually a great question. I don’t get asked those kinds of questions enough, which is a little bit surprising. So let’s think about that a little bit.
Most people know that vitamin C does actually help the immune system. But it helps lots of other things, too. And it’s those other things I want to spend a little bit more time on because there are things about vitamin C that maybe you don’t know.
- Deficiency in Vitamin C can lead to Scurvy
- Connective Tissue supporting our Immune System needs Vitamin C
- It’s a great Antioxidant!
- Boosts Glutathione
- Helps with Iron Absorption
First, you’ve probably heard of the deficiency condition of vitamin C which is called scurvy. People don’t really get scurvy, certainly in developed countries like ours. Scurvy itself is actually very uncommon. I’ll come back to nutrient insufficiencies, which are a little bit different from nutrient deficiencies. But back in the day, sailors were dying of this really horrible condition that they ended up calling scurvy. Some smart botanists figured out that if the sailors used plenty of citrus fruits, which are high in vitamin C, it would help to alleviate the symptoms of scurvy. There’s a derogatory term called limeys because they would consume citrus fruits like limes and lemons to get enough vitamin C to feel better on these long voyages.
2. Connective Tissue requires Vitamin C
But vitamin C is important for lots of other things. And I think the thing that is most important, in addition to the support that it certainly provides to the immune system, is its effect on our connective tissue. The connective tissue is kind of the unsung hero that supports our entire system. It’s the tissue that holds our joints together, that holds our muscles up, and holds our organs in place. These are all made up of collagen and connective tissue, and these cross-linking scaffolding and support structures require vitamin C. Vitamin C supports the cross linkages and increases the integrity of these really important building blocks of our system. If we become deficient in vitamin C, or even insufficient, we can have accelerated breakdown of these tissues. This can manifest as joint problems, or it can manifest in our organ system just not working optimally. All the connective tissue around the blood vessels, the structural integrity for that requires vitamin C. So vitamin C is really, really important for lots of things even beyond the immune system.
Vitamin C supports the cross linkages and increases the integrity of these really important building blocks of our system. If we become deficient in vitamin C, or even insufficient, we can have accelerated breakdown of these tissues. This can manifest as joint problems, or it can manifest in our organ system just not working optimally. All the connective tissue around the blood vessels, the structural integrity for that requires vitamin C. So vitamin C is really, really important for lots of things even beyond the immune system.
-Dr Chad Larson
3. Great Antioxidant!
It’s also a great antioxidant. What do we mean by antioxidant? As the word suggests, it’s just anti-oxidation. Oxidation is a normal byproduct of human metabolism. As we process different things in our system, there’s a byproduct which is an inflammatory substance that we call free radicals. Free radicals are inflammatory if they get out of control. The way we can keep those in control is that antioxidants kind of swallow up those free radical inflammatory substances. That’s what an antioxidant does, and vitamin C really works well as an antioxidant. It’s very good at gobbling up these inflammatory free radicals.
4. Boosts Glutathione
It also helps to boost our glutathione. I’ve talked about glutathione many times. It’s like our cellular superhero of anti oxidation. How does vitamin C help glutathione? Well, if vitamin C is sufficient in the system, it will go after the inflammatory free radicals and glutathione doesn’t have to. But if your vitamin C levels are down, glutathione has to go do the job of vitamin C. When vitamin C is sufficient, there’s a net benefit, a net increase in glutathione. So it’s got this really great antioxidant benefit.
5. Vitamin C helps increases our ability to pull Iron out of our Foods.
Also, some of you are aware that taking vitamin C helps to boost our iron absorption. Iron is a very important nutrient, so we really want to be in the sweet spot of a certain amount of iron in our system. By consuming enough vitamin C, either in our diet or through supplementation, we can increase our ability to pull iron out of our foods. Certainly if you’re taking an iron supplement, taking vitamin C along with that supplement will help to absorb the nutrient itself. But studies have also found that if you’re increasing your vitamin C, maybe through a supplement, it’ll improve your ability to absorb and assimilate the iron in the food you’re consuming.
Increase your Vitamin C today!
So these are just some things that I wanted to add to the vitamin C story. It’s not just the immune system, which is a great reason to take vitamin C, but the effect on the connective tissue, iron absorption, glutathione production, and antioxidation. Some really, really great extra benefits of vitamin C that hopefully you learned something about. So, I will keep reading the studies and bringing you the information. Until then, keep it real.
*The midlife health minute in this episode of Keep It Real with Dr. Chad Larson, is possible with the help of Pure Prescriptions.