While we usually associate vitamin C with its immune-boosting properties, the benefits of popping this vitamin daily extend well beyond cold and flu season. In fact, it probably isn’t given the credit it deserves, so here are five new reasons to keep it in your daily supplement arsenal.
1. Detox your bowels
We absorb vitamin C in the upper part of the intestine. Unabsorbed vitamin C continues into the lower bowel and causes watery stools or diarrhea. By taking large doses of vitamin C we can induce loose stools or a “levage” which is ideal during a detox (although timing is essential if you decide to do this). This can be helpful for improving elimination as well as determining what your daily dose of vitamin C should be. Make sure to check with your doctor to see if this process is right for you. Here are the instructions:
1. Remain at home for the entire time of the vitamin C levage.
2. Do not eat during the levage; drink only water.
3. Vitamin C must be a buffered version (approximately 4 g or 1 tbsp).
4. Take ½ to 1 level tsp of buffered vitamin C (for easier digestion) in 2 to 3 ounces of water every 30 to 60 minutes. (Keep track of when you start, and how much vitamin C you consume.)
5. Continue until you experience a flushing/diarrhea.
6. If, after five hours, you do not experience the flushing reaction, stop. You can start the process again the next day, or whenever possible.
7. Determine how much vitamin C was taken to induce the flushing response and take three-quarters of the dose on a daily basis, in three divided doses a day. If you took 1 tsp an hour for three hours then had the flushing, you would have taken 12 g of vitamin C. Your three-quarters dose would be 9 g, and you could take that as 3 g three times a day.
2. Improve your stamina at the gym
Vitamin C is required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body, making it a great idea to keep a bottle in your gym bag pre- and post-workout. One study, from the University of Wisconsin, found that 500 mg of vitamin C can offset workout fatigue.
Participants performed 60 minutes of exercise at the intensity of 50 percent of predicted maximal oxygen consumption. The vitamin-C-supplemented group had significantly lower heart rates during exercise. In addition, perceived exertion and fatigue were both significantly reduced in the vitamin C group. The vitamin has also been shown to lower post-workout cortisol levels and improve recovery overall.
3. Feed your adrenals
Vitamin C is naturally highest in our adrenal glands. Research suggests stress can deplete our stores of the vitamin, meaning supplementation is a wise choice for extra protection during trying times.
Alabama researchers put laboratory rats under stress by immobilizing them for one hour a day over a three-week period. To check whether vitamin C would reduce the production of stress hormones, the rats were fed 200 mg a day. The study showed that vitamin C reduced the levels of stress hormones in their blood and also reduced other typical indicators of physical and emotional stress.
A German study subjected participants to stressors such as public speaking and math problems (certainly an acute stress for many). They found that cortisol and high blood pressure were significantly greater in those who did not receive a vitamin supplement.
4. Beat belly fat and improve insulin sensitivity
Vitamin C is one of the most widely used supplements today, but many of us don’t realize that it also plays a key role in our blood sugar levels.
A 2007 study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research looked at 84 patients with type 2 diabetes who randomly received 500 or 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily for six weeks. The researchers discovered that the group supplementing with 1,000 mg experienced a significant decrease in fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol (LDL) and insulin levels. The dosage group with 500 mg did not produce any significant changes.
Vitamin C and glucose have a similar chemical structure. When both are high they compete with one another to enter the cells. If there’s more glucose around, less vitamin C will be allowed into the cells, creating a deficiency. Not only is it important to keep your C levels up, it’s just as crucial to keep your blood sugar levels stable with a low-glycemic diet.
5. Reduce your risk of heart disease
Research from University of California Berkeley, adds to the evidence that vitamin C supplements can lower concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), a central biomarker of inflammation that has been shown as a powerful predictor of heart disease and diabetes. For healthy, non-smoking adults with an elevated level of CRP, a daily dose of vitamin C (I recommend 1,000 to 3,000 mg per day, or until bowel tolerance) lowered levels of the inflammation biomarker after two months.
According to the researchers, the improvement is comparable to many other studies of cholesterol-lowering drugs. While further research is needed, it’s certainly another good reason to keep up with your vitamin C intake.
See more detox tips at our 30 Days of Detox hub.
Natasha Turner, N.D., is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet, The Supercharged Hormone Diet and The Carb Sensitivity Program. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show and The Marilyn Denis Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.