Vitamin C is one of those antioxidant vitamins that’s always been in the spotlight. Not surprising considering this nutrient plays an essential role in the normal growth as well as repair of tissues in your body. You need vitamin C for the formation of collagen, carnitine, and amino acids in your body. It helps build tissue in your skin, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C also helps keep your bones and teeth healthy and promotes wound healing and iron absorption. Reason enough to ensure you get adequate amounts of this water-soluble vitamin!
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) intake for vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. Women need to up their intake to 85 mg during pregnancy and 120 mg while nursing. Miss out on this vital vitamin and you stand to see health niggles. But the catch here is that vitamin C deficiency signs develop very slowly, which means you may see signs weeks after your levels have started dropping. The first signs may appear 5–12 weeks after C depletion starts, when your intake falls below 10 mg/day over time.1 The following signs and symptoms will gradually kick in as your body loses out on the benefits of vitamin C.
Feeling unusually tired and fatigued can be a sign of vitamin C deficiency. Low levels of this important vitamin may diminish carnitine, a component of our cells that plays an important role in fat metabolism and energy production. As a result, you’ll see energy levels drop. Depletion of vitamin C also results in reduced levels of catecholamines, chemical compounds that function as hormones and neurotransmitters in our body. Low levels of catecholamines have been linked to fatigue.2
2. Easy Bruising
Bruises form when small blood vessels under your skin break. If you tend to bruise easily, it could point to a weakening of your blood vessel walls. Collagen, a component of your blood vessel walls, plays a role in giving them strength and structure. Vitamin C is required to make this protein so a vitamin C deficiency can throw this system out of whack.
Nosebleeds are another sign of weakened blood vessels. Since collagen fortifies blood vessels in your nose, frequent nosebleeds can be a sign of weakened blood vessels and, consequently, vitamin C deficiency.
4. Bleeding Or Inflamed Gums
Do you find blood on your toothbrush even when you take care to brush gently? Bleeding gums can be a sign that you’re not getting enough vitamin C as this vitamin is involved in wound healing. You may also find that your gums look purple or reddish or are tender to the touch as the collagen levels in the gums take a hit.3
Anemia occurs when you don’t have sufficient healthy red blood cells. So what’s the connection to vitamin C? Your body needs iron to form healthy red blood cells and vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron by your body. So a deficiency of vitamin C can impair iron absorption and pave the way for anemia.4 Anemia can cause symptoms such as being unusually tired or weak, trouble thinking or concentrating, and headaches. As the condition worsens, you may notice shortness of breath, brittle nails, a bluish tinge to the whites of your eyes, or pale skin. But do note that a deficiency in other nutrients like iron, folate, or vitamin B12 can also cause anemia.5
6. Greater Susceptibility To Infection
If you’re low on vitamin C, you may find yourself falling ill more easily. Your immune system is responsible for warding off infections and vitamin C has a vital role to play in this mechanism. For instance, it has been found to stimulate the production as well as the function of white blood cells. It also protects them from oxidative damage due to its antioxidant properties.6 Whether it’s the flu, a UTI, cough and cold, or a throat infection, if you are falling sick ever so often, it’s time to probe further.
7. Slower Wound Healing
If you find that cuts and wounds are taking longer to heal, it could point to a loss of collagen that’s needed to form scar tissue and, thereby, a vitamin C deficiency. But do keep in mind that this is not the only factor that impairs wound healing. Your body also needs other nutrients like protein and zinc to heal wounds and a deficiency in these too could slow down the rate of healing. So can smoking, certain medicines, infection, and conditions such as diabetes or immune system disorders.7
8. Dry Hair And Split Ends
If your glossy mane has turned dry and dull and you suffer from split ends, you may be deficient in vitamin C. As we’ve seen, low levels of vitamin C can impact collagen production adversely and this might be causing your hair to become brittle and dry.
9. Weight Gain
Do you find that you’re gaining weight even though there have been no changes to the number of calories you consume or the exercise that you get? Vitamin C supports your body’s metabolism. A deficiency in this nutrient can, in turn, slow down your metabolism and potentially cause weight gain.
10. Dry, Rough, Scaly Skin
Vitamin C promotes the synthesis of fats or lipids which function as a barrier and prevent the loss of water from your skin. Collagen too plays an important role in keeping your skin firm. So a lack of vitamin C can wreak havoc on your skin texture.
11. Pain And Swelling In Your Joints
Painful and swollen joints are another sign of a vitamin C deficiency. A deficiency in vitamin C may lead to inflamed and painful joints because collagen is an important component of connective tissue in your joints.
12. Weakened Tooth Enamel And Loss Of Teeth
Severe vitamin C deficiency for months can cause a condition known as scurvy. This condition is very rare now, but till the 19th century many sailors who went on long voyages with little access to fresh fruits and vegetables contracted this potentially fatal condition very frequently.9 10
The fragility of tissues and blood vessels, as a result of vitamin C deficiency, can lead to a loss or loosening of your teeth over time. Your tooth enamel may also weaken, causing yellow, white, or brown streaks on the surface of your teeth.11
|↑1||Delanghe, Joris R., Michel R. Langlois, Marc L. Buyzere, Na Na, Jin Ouyang, Marijn M. Speeckaert, and Mathieu A. Torck. “Vitamin C deficiency: more than just a nutritional disorder.” Genes & nutrition 6, no. 4 (2011): 341.|
|↑2||Vitamin C. Oregon State University.|
|↑3||Gingivitis. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Fishman, Steven M., Parul Christian, and Keith P. West. “The role of vitamins in the prevention and control of anaemia.” Public health nutrition 3, no. 2 (2000): 125-150.|
|↑5||Anemia. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑6||Vitamin C. Oregon State University.|
|↑7||Wounds – how to care for them. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑8||Vitamin C and Skin Health. Oregon State University.|
|↑9||Vitamin C. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑10||Vitamin C. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑11||Weakened tooth enamel. Department of Health.|