Many of us spent our childhoods necking orange juice and know the benefits of vitamin C as innately as we know our own names. This powerful antioxidant is present in foods from garlic and spinach to oranges and tomatoes and most people eat a little every day. Vitamin C supplements are popular and beneficial too, but there's one question we need an answer to.
What happens if you take too much vitamin C?
As with most nutrients and supplements, it's not always a case of more is better. There's a range of factors that affect vitamin C absorption and how your body uses it. This means it's not about eating a bag of oranges and feeling great. Instead, it's better to get the right vitamin C from the right sources.
Want to know how vitamin C works in the body and what happens if you take an excessive amount? Keep reading, we'll take you on a tour of a metaphorical orange grove.
How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?
Vitamin C, otherwise known as L-ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin. That means our bodies don't make it themselves so it's vital to life that we consume it. Yes, help yourself to another orange while you're reading.
Our bodies aren't very good at storing vitamin C for a rainy day either, unlike vitamin D. This means we have to consume it every day to stay healthy.
So what's the recommended daily intake of vitamin C? Well, it depends on who you are:
- Children under 9: 35mg
- 9-18: 40mg
- Adults: 45mg
- Pregnant women over 18: 60mg
We appreciate that these numbers might not mean much without something to compare it to. So let's get back to that orange.
100g of orange contains roughly 53mg of vitamin C. Many other fruits and vegetables contain high levels of vitamin C too, like bell peppers, strawberries and broccoli. Oranges are extroverts though, so they get all the attention.
A balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables should provide an adequate amount of daily vitamin C and deficiencies are rare in developed nations.
What Affects the Usage of Vitamin C in the Body?
Vitamin C does lots of smart things in the body but it's not always a case of taking any old vitamin C and assuming you're doing enough. Other factors exist that affect how the body uses vitamin C and its effectiveness.
Glutathione and Vitamin C
This vitamin is an antioxidant which means it runs around the body defeating harmful free radicals without breaking much of a sweat. It often partners up with another antioxidant, the almighty glutathione.
Vitamin C doesn't just do its own thing, it also supports other antioxidants. Glutathione is an exceptionally powerful antioxidant and vitamin C helps raise levels of it by attacking free radicals so glutathione can do other jobs. When glutathione oxidises, vitamin C can reactivate it, boosting glutathione levels in white blood cells.
It's not a one-way street though, glutathione similarly recycles vitamin C (and vitamin E). This is one of the reasons why choosing a vitamin C supplement that includes glutathione gives you a much greater boost than vitamin C alone.
Smoking and Vitamin C
Smoking significantly reduces the levels of vitamin C in the body which means if you smoke, taking a supplement may become essential. Vitamin C is metabolised much faster in smokers and isn't used as effectively.
Health Conditions and Vitamin C
Some health conditions such as celiac disease can decrease the absorption rate of vitamin C and taking supplements might be necessary to get enough. If you have a digestive condition, speaking with your doctor is the first step to identifying areas of deficiency.
What Happens If You Take Too Much Vitamin C?
The human body is a clever thing. It minutely controls nutrients including vitamins and deals with each in a different way.
Vitamin C has become a popular supplement because it plays many positive roles in the body and it's usually safe to consume for children and adults, even in high doses.
If you consume more vitamin C than the body can use, it excretes the excess through your urine. This means you'll never have unused vitamin C lurking in your body and why you need to replace it every day. If you get enough from your diet and take a supplement, your health won't be at risk.
However, some studies have shown that extreme doses of vitamin C can cause ill effects such as diarrhoea and nausea. Excessively high doses are also linked to kidney stones but more evidence is needed. Extreme high doses are rare and occur if the body cannot excrete the quantity quickly enough.
When Do You Need a Vitamin C Supplement?
Many people take vitamin C supplements because, except for rare circumstances, they have positive effects with no downsides to taking more than you need. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and helps support your immune function on many levels.
Taking a supplement every day means that you don't need to ever worry if you're getting enough through diet. As levels can drop with age as well, supporting your immune system by guaranteeing a good daily intake of this popular vitamin is a great idea. This is especially effective if you take vitamin C with glutathione as they work well in tandem.
If you struggle getting enough fruit and vegetables each day, or suffer from digestive issues, taking vitamin C supplements will make sure you keep your levels of this antioxidant up. As it boosts the production of lymphocytes (white blood cells), your immune system is more likely to be at the top of its game if you have adequate amounts of vitamin C.
Keep Your Levels of Vitamin C Optimal and Stay Healthy
As an essential vitamin, we need to consume enough vitamin C every single day. For some of us, this can be tricky if we've been ill or haven't been eating right for any number of reasons. By taking a high-quality vitamin C supplement, you can ensure you always have this antioxidant doing good work in your body.
So what happens if you take too much vitamin C? It's easy, your body will excrete it down the toilet.
As vitamin C is so highly prized by the immune system and needed on a daily basis, supplements can be the quickest way to get enough no matter what's going on in your life. If you're looking for a high-quality supplement, check out our Manuka-C powder. This formulation contains glutathione because vitamin C gets lonely without its best friend and why deny them their free radical-bashing fun?
If you would like any more information regarding the contents of this article or have any questions you can head to our Virtual Clinic to book a free 20 minute consultation with one of our experienced Naturopaths.