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Vitamin C

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Vitamin C (as calcium ascorbate)

Many mothers probably consider Vitamin C the universal cure all of vitamins. If children have a cold, many mothers give them an extra dose of vitamin C, either in the form of citrus fruit or a tablet. While only time can cure the common cold, vitamin C provides powerful antioxidants to help prevent complications that are more serious. However, the need for vitamin C wasn't established by a mother but by seafaring medical doctors that noted fresh citrus fruit helped prevent scurvy, occurring solely from lack of vitamin C.

While there were a number of remedies for scurvy or diseases that fit the description, dating all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, in 1734, Johann Bachstrom noted that scurvy came solely from the lack of fresh vegetables. The shipmates normally received a daily ration of grog and watered down rum but Admiral Edward Vernon, guided by the wisdom of Bachstrom's book included a dose of lemon or lime juice in that ration. His sailors remained far healthier. James Lind went on to prove that adding fresh fruit to the diet could prevent the dreaded disease in 1747. By 1790, most of the Royal Navy carried a supply of limes or lemons when they went to sea. This is where the term "limey," meaning a sailor, originated.

Types of Vitamin C

Vitamin C comes in a number of forms, all of them containing the same properties. However, some are easier on the digestive system than others are. Ascorbic acid, the traditional form of vitamin C has a tangy taste and can cause irritation of the stomach lining. Calcium Ascorbate is far gentler on the stomach, easily absorbed and supplements the body with additional calcium. A proprietary form of calcium ascorbate is Ester C and is far more expensive because of the branding. Magnesium ascorbate, another non-acidic form of vitamin C, is also gentle on the stomach and easily absorbed but offers supplemental magnesium.

Uses of Vitamin C, Historically and Today

Scurvy, a plague in ancient times came from lack of vitamin C. Many of the ancient cultures, however, used herbs to treat some of the symptoms of scurvy successfully. Scurvy causes bleeding gums, weakness of the connective tissue and tiredness. You'll notice weakness and irritability with aches and pains. The capillaries are weak which causes those with a deficiency of vitamin C to bruise easily. For those with enough of a deficiency to cause scurvy, often have capillaries so fragile they bleed from old scars and the fingertips.

Some dentists misdiagnose people with deficiencies of vitamin C with gingivitis and send them to specialists for gum surgery. Luckily many of the surgeons are aware that a vitamin C deficiency can cause the same symptoms and test them first for the deficiency.

Some newer studies show that by slowly increasing the amount of vitamin C in the system, it can help in reducing or controlling the joint pain of both gout and arthritis. However, since it dissolves the uric acid in the bone, the increase of the vitamin slow or the dissolved uric acid crystals can cause a new attack of gout.

Other studies show that some types of cancer respond to treatment with vitamin C. In most cases, however, the vitamin C complemented other forms of cancer treatment. One study showed that vitamin C stopped the proliferation of liver cancer and another showed the antioxidant properties were helpful in preventing stomach cancer.

Overdoses

While doctors used to believe there were no harmful effects of an overdose of vitamin C except gastric distress, their stance has recently changed. However, it takes large amounts over a long time to create a problem. Some of the problems are kidney stones, vitamin B-12 shortages, copper deficiencies and an increased need for oxygen.

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