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What Happens When Your Body Has Vitamin C Deficiency?

By Jessica Wellons

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin essential for cellular growth and tissue repair. Also known as ascorbic acid, this vitamin exhibits antioxidant properties, protecting the body from cellular and molecular damage due to free radicals. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, many people may be mildly deficient in vitamin C, contributing to numerous health conditions including heart disease and high blood pressure. The best way to prevent vitamin C deficiency is by eating fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin C and Collagen Formation

Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis collagen, an important structural component of connective tissue, cartilage, skin, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. This essential nutrient promotes cellular growth, tissue repair and wound healing. Vitamin C deficiency inhibits collagen and cartilage synthesis, and may result in degenerative joint diseases in which your joints become painful and swollen. Weakened connective tissue, broken blood vessels, weakened blood capillaries and muscle stiffness are symptoms of vitamin C deficiency. That deficiency results in impaired wound healing, internal bleeding, swollen and bleeding gums, weakened tooth enamel and loose teeth.

Vitamin C and Immune Health

Vitamin C is a powerful and effective antioxidant that destroys oxygen free radical that cause cellular damage, accelerate the aging process and increase your risk for different types of cancers. It strengthens the immune system, protects against viral and bacterial infections, and maintains the integrity of the immune system by protecting white blood cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. Early symptoms of vitamin C deficiency in adults include weakness, lethargy and irritability; later symptoms include decreased immune function, respiratory infection, weight loss, anemia and jaundice.

Vitamin C Deficiency Causes and Treatment

A diet poor in fresh fruits and vegetables is the most common cause of vitamin C deficiency. Fruits and vegetables lose two-thirds of their vitamin C content in the cooking and canning process. Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, as well as an immune overload, also deplete your body of vitamin C. Chronic diarrhea, alcohol consumption and anorexia also increase your risk of vitamin C deficiency. The best treatment for vitamin C deficiency is increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Dietary Sources and Recommendations

Vitamin C can be obtained from all fruits and vegetables. Strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, mango, green peppers, kiwi, cabbage, red peppers and watermelon are excellent sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is sensitive to light, heat and air, thus raw and uncooked fruits and vegetables contain the highest content of vitamin C. The dietary recommendation is 90 mg for adult males and 75 mg for adult women daily. Vitamin C supplements, which are usually taken two to three times a day, can help improve blood vessel dysfunction and capillary weakness caused by smoking.

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