Do You Get Enough Vitamin C In Your Diet?

Is it possible to get too much vitamin C? Yes, but it’s also possible that you may not be getting enough to support important immune functions in your body. I happen to love this vitamin. It does so much for our health and is readily available in so many fruits and vegetables.  The RDA of vitamin C is 75 – 90 mg/day for adults, but as in most RDA for vitamins and minerals, it is not enough to keep your blood levels high.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are not stored in the body.  They are eliminated in our urine, so excess amounts are excreted, thus overdose is not a concern. But it’s still important not to exceed the safe upper limit of 2,000 milligrams a day to avoid stomach upset and diarrhea.

Our bodies cannot make vitamin C. In order to reap the health benefits of vitamin C, you must have a continual supply in your diet, or take a dietary supplement.

Eating vitamin C-rich foods is the best method to ensure an adequate intake of this vitamin. While many common foods contain vitamin C, the best food sources are citrus fruits. One orange, a kiwi fruit, 6 oz. of grapefruit juice or 1/3 cup of chopped sweet red pepper each supply enough vitamin C for one day.

Still, American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Dee Sandquist, RD, suggests doing your best to work more fruits and vegetables into your diet before taking supplements.

“Strive to eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, because you will get a healthy dose of vitamin C along with an abundance of other vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are good for disease prevention and overall health,” she says.

Here are all the foods and beverages you’d need to consume in a day to reach 500 milligrams (mg):

  • Cantaloupe, 1 cup: 59 mg Vitamin C
  • Orange juice, 1 cup: 97 mg
  • Broccoli, cooked, 1 cup: 74 mg
  • Red cabbage, 1/2 cup: 40 mg
  • Green pepper, 1/2 cup, 60 mg
  • Red pepper, 1/2 cup, 95 mg
  • Kiwi, 1 medium: 70 mg
  • Tomato juice, 1 cup: 45 mg

I know what you are thinking. Most Americans eat on the go, fast food, or simple don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables a day to get 50 mg of vitamin C, let alone 500 mg. Especially parents of special needs kids and their picky eating habits. I know only one friend that has her son eat this many vegetables a day, and he is also on the gf/cf diet.  She is one smart cookie and started him out at a young age eating fruits and vegetables. I wish I’d done that with my sons at an early age. I am now struggling with getting my son with autism to try new fruits and vegetables. My older son’s palate is much more daring and he likes to try a variety of new recipes; even if they include vegetables. But since vitamin C is water-soluble, veggies lose its vitamin C when cooked. Raw veggies are best, but sometimes just not a reality for most families.

Why do we need vitamin C?

The body needs this vitamin to keep it in good working order. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C helps hold body cells together, aids in wound healing, assists in bone and tooth formation, strengthens the blood vessel walls, is vital for the function of the immune system, and improves absorption and utilization of iron. It is also a natural anti-histamine.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and it works with vitamin E as a free-radical scavenger. Studies suggest that vitamin C reduces the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, and cataracts.

Stress reduces our bodies vitamin C supply. Vitamin C can benefit individuals whose immune system is weakened by stress. Because it is one of the nutrients sensitive to stress, it is the first nutrient to be depleted in alcoholics, smokers and obese individuals.

Vitamin C is heavily concentrated in the brain and crucial to brain function. The earliest signs of deficiency is confusion and depression. Studies have shown vitamin C to improve cognition and alertness.

Vitamin C supplements are plentiful on the market. Something you should consider is the source of the vitamin. Most vitamin C supplements are derived from corn. This created a problem for my oldest son since he showed an allergy to corn. I found a corn and citrus-free version by Twinlabs called Allergy C. It’s made from sago palm. Keep in mind that sago palm contains salicylates if your child reacts to them. I give it with the morning digestive enzyme TriEnza that contains No Phenol digestive enzyme.

I give my son with autism a vitamin C supplement. He gets 250 mg in the morning and another 250 mg after school. This helps maintain a more even blood level than taking all 500 mg at once. When he is sick with a cold I up the dose to 750-1,000 mg/day. He takes a corn-based supplement since he has phenol sensitivity and no allergy to corn.

I Thought I Knew It All (well, most of it)

I’ve learned about most biomedical interventions for autism and really thought I was just going to “refresh and recharge” my batteries that fueled the science geek in me.  Where did I go, you ask?  The 2010 Autism Research Institute’s (ARI) Conference held in Long Beach, CA on October 8-10. That’s where doctors, research scientists and parents discuss the exploration and evaluation of scientifically documented biomedical interventions for individuals within the autism spectrum.

Well, of course no one person can possible know about every aspect of this medical research, but as a parent whose life has been engulfed by it, I thought I knew most of it.  Well, I don’t, and I find that exciting. We are still learning about autism and the sensitive biochemistry of our children that are triggered by various environmental assaults. Unfortunately, more research still needs to be done, more children will be hit by the “autism bus” and more parents will demand answers on why this is a growing epidemic.

I have said before on my blog that I believe autism is not solely a disorder of the brain, but one that affects the brain, the immune system, and the gut. Well, one of the leading autism research scientists is Dr. Jill James, PhD from Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute, and she spoke at the conference on her research done on oxidative stress in autism.

Oxidative stress is a condition which occurs when the production of free radicals in the human body exceeds the body’s ability to neutralize and eliminate them. Oxidative stress can result from a lack of antioxidants (like vitamins A, E and C) or from an over abundance of free radicals. Free radicals can react with key components of cells including DNA, lipids, and protein, resulting in cellular damage.

Dr. James discussed  “The Autism Triad: Brain-Gut-Immune Axis” which are inter-dependent and their individual balance requires each other. All three systems are highly sensitive to oxidative stress, especially during critical developmental windows. A healthy brain needs to develop in a healthy immune system and gut. All three systems are immature at birth. Gene and environmental interactions affect the intracellular GSH/GSSG (ratio of reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione) and the maturation of all three systems.  GSH/GSSG is the measure of cellular toxicity. Glutathione is our body’s primary antioxidant that protects red blood cells from damage and destruction by mopping up toxic free radicals. (side note: Did you know it is also needed for the action of insulin?)

A toxic inflammatory insult in one of these (brain, immune system, gut) can indirectly affect the development and function of the others. Wow! That says it all for me. In other words, if your infant or young child has inflammation in their immune system from a virus (acquired/immunization), the development of their brain and gut will be affected. Or perhaps your child had numerous ear infections and prescribed antibiotics. Their gut was affected by the reduction of good bacteria (wiped out by the antibiotics) vs. the bad bacteria that took over. This is an example of an inflammatory insult to the gut, which indirectly affects the development of the brain and immune system.

Oxidative stress may be a final common pathway for many structurally diverse environmental exposures such as heavy metals (lead, aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, mercury), solvents (alcohol, chlorine, benzene), and industrial chemicals (PCBs, pesticides, herbicides). All of these induce oxidative stress and deplete our body’s store of glutathione. Dr. James noted that a combined sub-toxic dose of these can reach a toxic threshold. Which means that our children can be exposed to these individual toxins at levels that are not considered toxic by our FDA/EPA, but the combined doses reach the toxic threshold.

This is exactly the point I continually try to make.  That our environment has a combination of toxic exposures that is affecting our current and future generation of children. It’s also affecting us as adults. It may not present itself as autism for us “grown ups”, but as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, etc.

Research in this area needs to continue and I am grateful for ARI, the doctors, scientists and parents that contribute their documented studies on biomedical interventions for autism.  Thanks to them, children are recovering and parents have hope. Perhaps our FDA and EPA could learn something from this community if they would just pay attention. I do know one thing. These agencies that are assigned to protect us certainly don’t (or choose not to) know it all.  And neither do I.

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