Vitamin C is necessary for proper functioning of prolyl hydroxylase, which carries out proline hydroxylation in a protein, named collagen. It plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, which in turn aids in the formation of bones. It also plays an important role in healing fractures and other injuries. Vitamin C also helps in the decomposition of cholesterol to bile acids.
Other functions include assisting in transformation of tryptophan to a neurotransmitter called serotonin, in formation of tetrahydrofolic acid from folacin and in improving iron absorption. It also helps increase the resistive power of the body, by strengthening the white blood cells. In addition to these functions, the supplement assists in guarding vitamins E and A against oxidation and in preventing damage to tissues. Usually, vitamin deficiency is unhealthy for the body. Lack of vitamin C can result in a condition called scurvy. Periodontal disease is a gum disease caused by its lack.
Causes of Vitamin C Deficiency
The main cause of vitamin C deficiency is failure to consume enriched diets. Diseases such as coronary heart disease, burns and inflammatory diseases demand more consumption of the nutrient. Thus, existence of such conditions increase the chances of deficiency or scurvy. Smoking, and sometimes exposure to smoke also enhances the chances of deficiency. Exposure to toxic environment also results in this deficiency.
Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency
The initial deficiency symptoms are food aversion, fatigue, feebleness, depression, and bleeding gums. Injuries fail to heal since scar tissues, responsible for healing, do not get produced. Inflammation and pain is experienced in the joints as well. Water retention in the body with bronchial infection are also among the different deficiency symptoms. Wrinkled, anhydrous and brownish skin also hints at lack of vitamin C. Deficiency can also lead to anemia, muscle decay and weakening of bone ends. Long-term symptoms include arthritis, jaundice, seizures, and in a severe cases nervous system damage.
Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention
A blood test is the most reliable means to detect lack of the nutrient in your body. A blood sample from a vein in the arm, is checked for ascorbic acid level in the white blood cells.
Treatment simply stresses on following vitamin C-enriched diets, and the best source of this would be consuming citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, gooseberries, etc. Initially, the doctor would probably recommend a 250 mg dosage of ascorbic acid or vitamin C supplement to be had daily. Gradually, the dosage can be reduced to 40 mg, as the level starts building up in the body. Once the treatment starts, bleeding, if any, wards off within a day. However, it takes a few weeks to alleviate bone pain. As discussed above, the best way to keep the deficiency at bay, is to consume at least 5 portions of vitamin C enriched fruits and vegetables. Some other sources are kiwi, sweet potatoes, grapefruits, broccoli, green peppers, sprouts, tomatoes, fish and fresh milk.
If you suspect you have scurvy, consult your doctor immediately. Vitamin C deficiency is not a threatening ailment. Opting for a balanced diet enriched with vitamin C and other essential nutrients, will help keep this deficiency at bay. Eat healthy, live healthy!