Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins are carried throughout the body in the bloodstream. They are, for the most part, not stored in the body. The body uses what it needs and the rest is passed in the urine.
Vitamin C is important to many body functions. It helps the body build and maintain collagen; heal wounds and bruises; keep the immune system healthy; maintain healthy bones, teeth, gums, red blood cells, and blood vessels; repair bone fractures. Vitamin C may also reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases by acting as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help the body fight the effects of free radicals, which can damage the body's cells.
Pregnancy, breastfeeding, gastrointestinal diseases, and hyperthyroidism increase the need for vitamin C. Inflammatory diseases, burns, and surgery can also increase a person's need for vitamin C. Vitamin C deficiency is often caused by a diet that does not include enough fruits and vegetables, excess alcohol intake, smoking or stress.
It is unclear from studies whether physical activity increases a person's requirement for vitamin C. There is no substantial evidence that mental or emotional stress increases the need for vitamin C for healthy people.
Severe deficiency of vitamin C can lead to scurvy. However, severe deficiency and scurvy are rare in developed nations. Scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. It causes open sores in the mouth, loose teeth, and soft gums. In the 1700s, it was discovered that sailors who often drank lime juice did not get scurvy. Sailors who did not drink lime juice had a 50% chance of dying from scurvy. It was not until 200 years later that vitamin C was found to prevent scurvy.
To test the effects of vitamin C in preventing muscle soreness, researchers at Western States Chiropractic College gave 3gm of vitamin C to students beginning 3 days before exposing them to the stress of exercise. The vitamin C group developed significantly less muscle soreness than did the control group. [Pain 1992;50: pp.317-21]
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