Whether you’re stressed, tired, overworked or exposed to other factors like smoking, pollution, certain medications or endurance sports, your vitamin C intake may not be sufficient for your lifestyle and needs.
As fall arrives, Florence Hanczyk -- a homeopathy doctor in Paris, France, specializing in chrono nutrition -- advises taking vitamin C combined with other vitamins and minerals (E,A, zinc, selenium) to make it less toxic for the body. She also recommends sticking to a daily intake of 500 milligrams unless you have a particularly active lifestyle.
What are the signs of vitamin C deficiency?
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that the body gets from food and from dietary supplements. Unlike certain animals, the human body cannot make on its own vitamin C. Smokers, for example, have a greater need for vitamin C, and should make sure they’re getting enough every day. Moreover, an acidifying diet of the “steak-fries-coffee-cigarettes” kind inevitably leads to vitamin C deficiency, which can cause fatigue, increased risk of infection and poor sleep. Being tired for no reason, having cold after cold from fall to spring, gums that bleed when brushing teeth, skin that marks easily with bruises at the slightest bump, and allergies that flare up intensely and more frequently, can all be warning signs of vitamin C deficiency.
What’s the best kind of vitamin C to take? Synthetic or natural?
A 2013 study found no significant difference in terms of absorption between so-called “synthetic” vitamin C and natural forms of vitamin C such as acerola -- a small red fruit native to South America and widely available in tablet form. It’s important to check a product’s composition and avoid those that contain additives and sweeteners, as they can disrupt sleep. Synthetic vitamin C is much cheaper to produce than natural vitamins, making it more affordable to buy.
Why are vitamin C supplements needed on top of dietary intake?
It all depends on your needs. A diet including plenty of fresh, seasonal fruit (oranges, kiwis, lemons, guavas, blackcurrants) and vegetables can be sufficient for some people but not for others. Freshly harvested, ripe and seasonal fruit isn’t always readily available. Nutrient levels are highest when fruit is ripe, but they drop with storage time. On the other hand, anyone who is stressed, overworked, lives in a city or a polluted environment, is a smoker or lives with smokers, or who takes certain medications or exercises regularly -- particularly endurance sports -- will have vitamin C requirements that exceed their intake.
What’s the right dosage?
It is better to be cautious with vitamin C and avoid taking the vitamin alone in high doses for prolonged periods of time. This antioxidant vitamin can become harmful in the presence of other antioxidants, due to complex biochemical mechanisms. It’s best to look for a supplement that combines vitamin C with vitamins E, A, zinc and selenium, always in moderate doses for a regular treatment, with a maximum 500 milligrams per day for sedentary lifestyles or one gram per day for keen exercisers. It is the combination of these vitamins and minerals that will ensure the desired effect. For a shock treatment, when you have a cold for example, try taking two grams of vitamin C three times a day for a short period of time (between one and three days) then drop back to between 500 and 1,000 milligrams.