Vitamin C plays an important role in immune system function and overall health. This powerful antioxidant is vital to many of the complex processes that our bodies are constantly undergoing in order to keep us healthy.
There are a number of surprising symptoms that might be signs of a Vitamin C deficiency. The side effects that result from depleted levels of Vitamin C in the body range from cosmetic to potentially life-threatening.
The signs of a deficiency in Vitamin C can present in a variety of ways. These common symptoms could be a sign that your diet may not be meeting your daily needs when it comes to this much needed antioxidant.
What Are The Signs Of A Vitamin C Deficiency?
It’s shocking, but on average the human body loses roughly 3% of its stored Vitamin C(1) every day.
While it’s possible to have a Vitamin C deficiency and exhibit none of these signs, these are some of the most common symptoms that are associated with deficient levels of Vitamin C.
Not having enough Vitamin C in your body can result in excess storage of body fat. The midsection of the body carries much of this extra weight typically.
Rough, Dry, Or Bumpy Skin
Collagen is a protein that is found in connective tissues like skin, hair, joints, blood vessels, and even bones. The production of collagen is highly dependent upon Vitamin C being present in the body.
Keratosis pilaris(2) is the skin condition that develops when Vitamin C levels are low. It’s sometimes referred to as “chicken skin” and develops on upper arms, buttocks, or thighs.
Body Hair That Spirals Like A Corkscrew
Coiling or corkscrew-like hair growth(3) is another sign of a Vitamin C deficiency. These corkscrew hairs are caused by defective protein structures (due to lack of Vitamin C) that are present at the time of hair follicle development.
Dry And Brittle Nails Or Hair
Vitamin C plays an important role in the absorption of iron. If iron levels are deficient, it’s more difficult for the body to move oxygen to cells. Cells that stimulate the growth of nails and hair are susceptible to becoming dry and brittle when Vitamin C isn’t present for oxygen transportation.
Lines Or Red Spots On Fingernails
Lines or red spots may appear on fingernails as a result of low levels of Vitamin C too.
Another nail related symptom for Vitamin C deficiency is spoon-shaped fingernails. The shape of the nail takes on that of a spoon and may be related to iron levels as well (which Vitamin C plays a role in the absorption of).
Red Hair Follicles
This is another indicator of lower than normal levels of Vitamin C in the body. Hair follicles have small blood vessels that surround them on the surface of the skin. When there is insufficient Vitamin C available, they become fragile, break more, and cause bright red spots to appear around the follicle.
A lack of collagen (which needs Vitamin C for proper production) can produce weakened blood vessels.
Bruising is caused by blood vessels underneath of the skin rupturing and leaking blood to the affected area. So those weakened blood vessels are more likely to rupture and cause a bruise more easily.
Painful And Swollen Joints
Because joints contain large amounts of collagen, they can become painful and swollen when there is a Vitamin C deficiency.
Lowered Immunity To Illness
Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant powerhouse and helps the body fight free-radicals.
Studies have touted the benefits of Vitamin C for immunity building for years. Most recently doctors have been using high doses of intravenous Vitamin C for COVID-19 patients.
Depression and Fatigue
These are some of the first signs of Vitamin C depletion in the body. Depression and fatigue are some of the emotional symptoms that present with a lack of proper Vitamin C levels in the body.
Hospitalized patients with lower levels of Vitamin C were found to be more likely to feel tired and depressed, but doctors found that patients’ moods improved once they received Vitamin C(4).
Anxiety was another reported side-effect of low levels of Vitamin C.
Why Is Vitamin C So Important?
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and acts as a free-radical scavenger(5) in the body. A free radical is a type of atom or molecule that is produced as a byproduct of the normal changes that occur in cells.
Metabolism, the natural aging process, or outside environmental elements are some of the changes that can cause free radicals to form.
Free radicals are harmful to the body because they cause oxidative stress that can lead to not only the visible signs of deficiency that are mentioned above but can also lead to serious conditions like cancer and other chronic illnesses(6).
What Could Cause A Vitamin C Deficiency?
Poor diet is often the top cause of Vitamin C deficiency. The body needs a daily supply of Vitamin C to maintain levels that are recommended for optimal health.
While eating a balanced and healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables is beneficial in meeting the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C, there are some caveats to this.
Absorption levels can vary based on a variety of factors. Some people are more susceptible to lower absorption rates of Vitamin C(7). The most commonly at-risk groups for Vitamin C deficiency are:
- Smokers and passive smokers (those who inhale secondhand smoke regularly)
- Infants who are fed evaporated or boiled milk
- People with limited variety in their diets
- Individuals with chronic diseases or other malabsorption issues
Other factors that can play into how readily your body can absorb Vitamin C from foods are the cooking processes that are used. The way that vegetables are prepared can deplete the levels of Vitamin C and other nutrients in the produce.
What’s The Best Way To Take Vitamin C?
The form that you take your Vitamin C in matters. Researchers found that excessive amounts of sugar in the body can affect how your body is able to absorb Vitamin C. So the gummy vitamins that are high in sugar are not as effective as other methods due to their high sugar content.
Liposomes have been on the radar of many researchers as of late due to their increased efficacy at delivering supplements and other drugs.
The liposomes act as a protective barrier that shields the Vitamin C from destructive stomach acids that break down the supplement before it can reach the small intestine for absorption.