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.

GABA: The Natural “Chill Pill”

Oh, if we all could just “chill out” as easily as my dog!  How many times have you thought that an individual you’ve encountered needed to just take a “chill pill”?  That old saying came up a lot in our house before I discovered the supplement GABA.  Both of my sons had anxiety and were impulsive, which are common in children with autism and ADHD.

That is, until we introduced GABA as a supplement.

GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid that acts as the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in our brain. It also keeps all the other neurotransmitters in check.  The GABA system acts as something of an information filter to prevent the nerves from becoming overstimulated.  It has long been suspected that this filtering process is compromised in many autistic children. Impairment of the GABA system could overwhelm the brain with sensory information, leading to many of the behavior traits associated with autism. GABA is also believed to play a key role in the early development of the brain.

Excitement in our brain needs a balance with inhibition. An unstable balance, or too much excitation will lead to restlessness, insomnia and irritability. GABA will balance this out, naturally. It is also involved with the production of endorphins in our brain, which provide us with that feeling of “all is good”, or what is often referred to as the “runner’s high”. GABA will reduce stress, relieve anxiety and increase alertness.

A deficiency of GABA can contribute to the poor inhibition that allows the brain to become over stimulated, which results in a constant state of anxiety. People with a GABA deficiency may experience:

  • anxiety/nervousness/jumpy or on edge
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • heart palpitations
  • seizures
  • hypertension

Factors that may reduce GABA levels:

  • B1, B6, zinc, manganese and iron deficiency
  • Chronic stress
  • Chronic pain
  • Mercury or lead exposure
  • Inadequate sleep

This can be helped with the GABA supplement.  Whenever you introduce a new supplement, always take it slow and go low on dose. We started with a 250 mg capsule (they can be opened up and mixed in drink/food) and worked our way up over several weeks until we found the dose needed for our children. My son with autism uses between 1,000-1,250 mg/day.  The effects wear off, so we dose throughout the day. I end the day with 500 mg at bedtime to induce relaxation for sleep.

My son with ADHD use to need 1,500 mg/day, but since we treated his ADHD with neuro-feedback, he now only needs 500 mg/day. GABA is a little known, but very effective supplement for symptoms resulting from autism and ADHD. It’s my family’s natural little “chill pill”.

How to teach your child to swallow vitamins

We all want our children to take their vitamin and mineral supplements, right? Teaching him/her to swallow them is no easy task.  Especially if they have special needs and are not open to learning new things. Today, both my sons put me to shame on how easily they swallow their supplements. I am a sissy about it. One capsule at a time with LOTS of liquid to wash it down. It’s probably psychological, but my throat closes up when I need to swallow a vitamin; even if it’s smaller than a bite of food.

When we started our sons on vitamin and mineral supplements, I did the labor intensive task of breaking open each capsule and mixing it into juice or food. It worked for about six months or so. I eventually got tired of the time waster, begging kids to “finish your juice” or “eat ALL of the applesauce” for fear of not getting the entire dose into them. I know some goes to waste with this method, but some was better than nothing.

Supplements can get expensive and they were of vital importance for my sons to take to help them with their deficiencies.  So I started to inquire as to how other moms were “getting the medicine to go down.”  Here are some ideas that can work for toddlers or young children alike.

  1. Put a bit of honey on the pill and pop it in followed with liquid. Takes away the taste of any supplement if there is one.
  2. Open them up and mix into juice inside a sippie cup with a lid, to hide any color changes to it and the smell. I used to get my four-year-old to drink cod liver oil mixed with his powder vitamin in a juice mixture (pear juice) inside a sports sippie cup every morning. I did have to chase him around and ask him to finish his juice….but the nasty smell was contained inside the cup and he couldn’t smell it. Washing the cup was another story. Ugh!
  3. Make vitamin smoothies with juice, ice, fruit and blend till dissolved.
  4. Open up capsule into applesauce, pear sauce or a nut butter. We used sunflower seed butter since both boys were allergic to peanuts. Trader Joes sells a yummy sunflower seed butter.
  5. At dinner time I’d mix supplements into ketchup, (dairy free) ranch dressing for dipping veggies.
  6. Some parents will mix it into GF/CF chocolate syrup, and make it a treat.
  7. Then there is always the mixing it into a tiny amount of liquid and using a medicine syringe, hold child down and squirt it into the side of their mouth. I’ve heard parents have some success with young toddlers using this method.
  8. An adult can model how it’s done. This works best with dad showing his son, who wants to do everything daddy does. Put the vitamins on the table with a cup of juice and show them how it’s done. Good luck with that one. But it’s worth a try!

OK, ready for the easiest method I found to teach my kids to swallow vitamins? It’s the Oralflo cup. You can buy it online at It’s unique design has a lid with a spout that has a screen on it to keep the vitamin separate from the liquid. You place a small amount of liquid in the cup and the vitamin in the spout. I found that if my boys quickly (not too quick) tossed their head back with the cup in their mouth, the liquid pushes the vitamin back into the mouth and they swallow it easily.  If they went too slow, the liquid reaches the vitamin before it shoots it into their mouth and it sticks inside the cup spout.  We started practicing with Nordic Naturals DHA Jr. capsules. They are small round gels that go down easily.

Once my sons felt comfortable with the smaller capsules, they had no problem taking larger ones. Eventually they told me they didn’t need the cup any more and tried it by just placing the vitamin in their mouth and swallowing with liquid. You’d be shocked how many they can take at one time now!

If you have success stories that aren’t listed here on how you taught your child to swallow vitamins, please post a comment below.

Everyday Autism Miracles Biomed Mom Question Feb. 26

Shannon Penrod, host of Everyday Autism Miracles on internet radio had a “biomed mom” (me) question on her show this week from a caller in Idaho.

Shannon:  How can I know which biomedical supplements are working?

Joanne:  Well, first of all, I only add or change any supplements/biomeds one at a time. That way you can determine which ones are working or not by charting everything. I chart the date the supplement was started, dosage, the time of day given, and note any behaviors or improvements you see.  You also need to make note of any changes to your child’s schedule, environment, therapies, etc. to make sure that these changes are not affecting certain behaviors or reactions. Then I start looking for things like: are they sleeping better, how are their bowel habits, cognition, social, speech, hyperactivity. Write down everything that happens everyday for a two to four week period.  Then review it and see if the supplement improved or worsened any of your child’s symptoms.

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