10 Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms & Ways To Overcome It 2023
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin with numerous health benefits. It is essential, meaning your body needs it to survive. Getting adequate vitamin C is crucial to maintain and repair skin, bone, teeth, and cartilage.
A vitamin C deficiency can be detrimental to health, compromising immune system function, blood vessel health, wound healing, and energy levels. A vitamin C-rich, well-balanced diet can help you avoid these symptoms. Vitamin C supplements can be used to make up for a low-vitamin C diet, but it’s best to get your vitamin C from food.
Ready to learn about the most common vitamin C deficiency symptoms? Read on! We will also cover high-risk groups and how to best treat a deficiency.
10 Symptoms Of Vitamin C Deficiency
The most common symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency are:
- Weak immunity.
- Rough and dry skin.
- Slow wound healing.
- Bleeding teeth and gums.
- Joint inflammation and discomfort.
- Impaired vision.
- Tiredness and cranky mood.
- Weight gain.
- Spoon-shaped fingernails.
What Is Vitamin C Deficiency?
If you consume a healthy, varied diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole-grain carbohydrates, and lean protein, you should be able to meet your body’s dietary needs. However, nutrient deficiencies develop when the body does not receive enough vitamins from food or supplements.
While the human body can store certain vitamins to protect against low dietary intake, it cannot store vitamin C. Hence, you need to consume enough vitamin C daily to avoid a deficiency. A vitamin C deficiency is more common in countries with low to middle-income levels, but it’s not uncommon in high-income areas.
The Problem Of Vitamin C Deficiency
Vitamin C is critical for collagen production, a type of protein that makes up the skin, bones, and cartilage. A lack of vitamin C in the diet may slow or halt the body’s ability to produce new collagen, disrupting the body’s natural healing process and compromising overall health.
You might have heard of scurvy, a disease characterized by poor wound healing. Severe vitamin C deficiency can develop into scurvy, symptoms of which include bleeding lips and gums, anemia, bruising, and poor wound healing.
Scurvy can develop within one month of low vitamin C intake. Detecting early signs of a low vitamin C intake can prevent this condition from developing.
So, what are the symptoms to watch out for?
10 Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms
According to the U.S. Department of Health, the recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for vitamin C is 75 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams for men.
Risk factors for a low vitamin C intake include a diet low in fruits and vegetables, smoking, and drug abuse. But how can you tell whether your body isn’t getting enough?
Here are the most common symptoms of vitamin C deficiency to watch out for.
A lack of vitamin C is linked to an increased risk of disease and a more difficult path to recovery. Vitamin C helps protect against infectious illnesses such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections. According to some studies, vitamin C can also lower cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality risk.
Rough And Dry Skin
Vitamin C is necessary for healthy skin and a lack of it may cause your skin to develop a rough appearance. Vitamin C aids in the formation of collagen, a protein required for the flexibility and suppleness of the skin. It also protects against ultraviolet damage when exposed to the sun.
Slow Wound Healing
Vitamin C contributes to the body’s natural healing response to injury. When vitamin C levels are low, the body cannot produce enough collagen to regenerate damaged tissue. Studies show that vitamin C can speed up the healing of broken bones and help manage inflammation.
Vitamin C also helps the body fight infections due to its antimicrobial properties, preventing wounds from becoming infected and speeding up the healing process.
Bleeding Teeth And Gums
Severe vitamin C deficiency can lead to swollen and bleeding gums, signs of scurvy. Without adequate intake of vitamin C, your gum tissue and blood vessels may weaken due to low collagen turnover, increasing the probability of bleeding gums. Gums may darken to a purplish tone in the later stages of vitamin C shortage, and teeth may become loose and can even fall out.
Joint Inflammation And Discomfort
Cartilage pads your joints, preventing the bones from grinding together. However, cartilage is made from collagen and depends on vitamin C for its production. When vitamin C levels are low, cartilage can break down and bone scrapes against bone, causing joint pain and stiffness.
Preliminary research suggests that vitamin C may help prevent age-related vision loss due to cataracts. Cataracts is the clouding of the lens, usually due to age, and is the main cause of blindness.
Vitamin C could be recommended to reduce the risk of developing cataracts. However, more research is needed to determine the best dose for eye health and vision.
Tiredness And A Cranky Mood
Another symptom of low vitamin C might be low energy and a gloomy disposition. There are several reasons for this.
Vitamin C is needed to help the body produce energy and synthesize mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and hormones such as adrenaline. It’s also needed for iron absorption. Low vitamin C can increase the risk of iron-deficiency anemia, leading to fatigue.
Because of its capacity to lower inflammation and limit the release of stress hormones, vitamin C may be beneficial in avoiding weight gain and obesity.
This might be due to vitamin C’s ability to reduce two hormones in particular: the stress hormone cortisol and the hunger hormone leptin. It can also aid weight management by helping to regulate metabolism and inhibit inflammation.
Spoon-shaped fingernails can be a sign of iron deficiency. Because vitamin C is required for the absorption of iron, this might also be a sign of vitamin C deficiency.
The insufficiency can also emerge as red patches or lines in the nail bed due to the fragility of the blood vessels.
Before the 1700s, sailors were regularly afflicted with scurvy. Even though it is rare today, it is possible to suffer a deficiency if you consume restrictive diets for prolonged periods.
Scurvy symptoms include cracked and brittle fingernails and toenails, twisted or corkscrew hair, weakened blood vessels, impaired wound healing, and loose teeth.
It typically takes three months for a person to fully recover after taking supplemental vitamin C, but you should see some improvement after just one day.
Risks Of Vitamin C Deficiency
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that the body does not store more than it needs. Excess vitamin C consumed via diet or supplements will come out in the urine. As a result, supplementing vitamin C to correct a deficiency is generally safe, but taking too much could have negative effects such as:
- Vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.
- Skin flushing
- Stomach cramps or bloating.
- Sleepiness and fatigue or sometimes insomnia.
- Kidney stones.
High amounts of oral vitamin C have been linked to an increased risk of kidney stones in some patients. According to research, vitamin C supplementation between 250-1,500 milligrams taken over an extended period raises the risk of kidney stones, especially in men.
If you suspect an ascorbic acid deficiency, you should talk to a registered dietitian about a repletion regimen.
If you suffer from acid reflux, try taking a buffered vitamin C supplement.
Vitamin C Deficiency Treatments
Vitamin C deficiency is treated by increasing nutritional intake through a varied diet or multivitamins.
After a given repletion period, it is normally safe to quit vitamin C dosage. However, after the supplements are stopped, it is critical to maintain a vitamin C-rich diet. A registered dietitian may be consulted if you require assistance.
Scurvy treatment entails taking big doses of vitamin C and consuming foods that naturally contain 1-2 times the RDA for vitamin C. Fruits and vegetables, especially fresh ones, should account for a bigger portion of the diet.
The Bottom Line
Vitamin C is crucial in maintaining healthy biological functions and warding off disease. It promotes healthy blood vessels, supports immune system function, promotes the synthesis of collagen, facilitates the absorption of iron, speeds up the healing of wounds, improves the appearance of skin, and promotes the maintenance and repair of bone, cartilage, and teeth.
A vitamin C deficiency can manifest itself in several ways, including fatigue, gum bleeding, easy bruising and bleeding, joint pain, and rough, bumpy skin. Brittle bones, uneven nails and hair, slower wound healing, and a weaker immune system may result as vitamin C deficiency progresses. Inflammation, anemia caused by a lack of iron and vitamin C, and rapid weight gain are some other warning indicators. The good news is that symptoms of vitamin C deficiency typically resolve after low levels are restored.
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