Insufficient vitamin C in our body can result in health issues ranging from minor skin rashes to a disease as serious as scurvy. It is very common in developing countries like India, and research finds that it is more prevalent in poor communities.
One of the research conducted in south and north India clearly suggests how deeply rooted it is for countries like ours.
Findings reports that only 10.8% in the north and 25.9% in the south India met the criteria for adequate levels of vitamin C level. Vitamin C deficiency varied by season, and was more prevalent in men, with increasing age, users of tobacco and biomass fuels, in those with poor nutrition and with lower intakes of dietary vitamin C(1).
However, if you watch out these 8 early vitamin C deficiency symptoms, you can take the necessary steps and can prevent yourself.
In this article, we are going to break down 8 signs and symptoms of this extremely important vitamin in our body. We will also learn what is scurvy, its clinical features including the best sources for natural vitamin C.
Vitamin C deficiency
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin and is easily oxidized acid and destroyed by oxygen, alkali, and high temperature. It is an antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage(2).
Our body requires vitamin C for normal biochemical and physiological functions in our body. It has an important function of:
- It lowers the blood cholesterol level by converting cholesterol into bile acids.
- It helps the absorption of iron in the gut by reducing the ferric to the ferrous state.
- As an antioxidant, it protects the body from various deleterious effects of free radicals, pollutants, and toxins.
- Vitamin C is essential for the development and maintenance of connective tissues. It plays an important role in bone formation, wound healing and the maintenance of healthy gums.
Signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency?
Some other symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include-anemia, infections, capillary hemorrhage, muscle degeneration, atherosclerotic plaques, and neurotic disturbances.
1. Rough, dry skin
Vitamin C produces collagen, which is very important for healthy skin. Low levels of vitamin C can result in poor skin health. If there is a lack of vitamin C for more than 3 months then it can lead to a condition known as Keratosis Pilaris. It can make your skin dry, dull and rough. You might have noticed most skincare products are loaded with vitamin C content as it is loaded with skin benefits.
2. Extensive Bruising
Collagen in our skin and epidermis acts as a protective layer to prevent bruising. When there is not enough supply of Vitamin C, collagen production of your skin slows down, causing you to bruise easily. A small injury can end up leaving severe scars.
3. Poor wound healing
It is the collagen in your skin that assists your body in healing. You may also experience slow healing of wounds due to vitamin C deficiency. Additionally, our body’s metabolism also plays an important role in the healing process.
Lack of sufficient vitamins causes weak metabolism and hence slow wound healing. For your wounds to heal properly, you need to have Vitamin C in your body, which is ascorbic acid.
4. Weak bones
Vitamin C is also responsible for better bone health. Vitamin C helps the absorption of calcium inside our gut which in turn plays a crucial role in the formation of bones.
Therefore, vitamin C deficiency leads to poor bone health. Children should also consume enough vitamin C for better development of bones since childhood.
5. Joint pain
There may be many reasons for joint pain, but one of them is a lack of vitamin C in our body. This is because Vitamin C plays a crucial role in strengthening our joints. More importantly, joints contain a lot of the collagen that Vitamin C helps to produce.
Vitamin C is responsible for the absorption of iron from the diet consumed. Low vitamin C levels can result in iron deficiency. If left untreated it can even lead to anemia.
Vitamin C is also responsible for replenishing your energy. The absence of this Vitamin C will likely make you feel tired.
8. Bleeding gums
Deficiency of Vitamin C causes scurvy?
When there is a deficiency of vitamin C in our body it is termed as scurvy. It is a condition that has multiple signs and symptoms. If left untreated scurvy can result in severe vitamin C deficiency which can contribute to several other health issues. There are several symptoms of scurvy that you may notice. Usually, it takes a few months to develop these symptoms.
Symptoms of scurvy
The presentation of scurvy is often malaise, fatigue, stiff joints and bruising, mostly on the upper thighs and legs. Frequently, easy bleeding of spongy gums is encountered.
The next stage After one to three months the symptoms can worsen and consists of
- Open wounds,
- Loss of teeth
- Anemia due to poor iron absorption
- Bone pain and swollen joints
- Eye dryness
- Slow healing of wounds
- Poor immunity
- Tooth decay
- Chest pain
- Bleeding under the skin
Dietary management of Vit C deficiency
The plant source is rich with vitamin C. All kinds of citrus fruits and green pepper are very good sources of vitamin C. One must include these into their food habits.
Here is the list of plant source:
- Green chilies
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See More of Dr. Sunit:
- Ravindran RD, Vashist P, K. Gupta S, S. Young I, Maraini G, Camparini M, et al. Prevalence and Risk Factors for Vitamin C Deficiency in North and South India: A Two Centre Population Based Study in People Aged 60 Years and Over. PLoS ONE [Internet]. 2011 Dec 6 [cited 2020 Jun 3]; Available from: https://www.scienceopen.com/document?vid=58cbfbb4-d7b1-4d82-8084-1e3c7cb27eff
- Chambial S, Dwivedi S, Shukla KK, John PJ, Sharma P. Vitamin C in disease prevention and cure: an overview. Indian J Clin Biochem [Internet]. 2013 Oct;28(4):314–28. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24426232