Vitamin C Basics

We covered many of the fat soluble vitamins in our two previous posts (Fat Soluble Vitamins – Part 1 and Fat Soluble Vitamins – Part 2), and now it is time to shift our focus to the second group of vitamins: those that are water soluble.

Even though deficiencies in water soluble vitamins are less common than deficiencies in fat soluble vitamins, it is possible to not have enough of these important nutrients, which can cause all sorts of problems in your body. And you can overdose, especially when supplementing without prior research or testing.

Vitamin C is a nutrient everyone has heard of. We most commonly link it with fruits and vegetables like blueberries, oranges, and bell peppers. But there are things you might not really know about Vitamin C. Let’s cover it first, before diving into the whole extended family of B Vitamins, which deserve their own post.

Everyone knows Vitamin C. You might say that it is the popular kid among all of the vitamins. Everyone likes it and wants more of it. Many supplement brands on the market sell it. It can be found on boxes of fruit juice, fruit flavored candy, cereals, and sorbets.

It seems like staying in bed and stuffing ourselves with The C is the best strategy for treating and preventing colds. As summer turns to fall, people run to get their tubs of fizzy Vitamin C dissolvable tablets. To boost their immunity before cold season kicks in. And while it is true that Vitamin C is very important and useful, more doesn’t necessarily mean better. In this case, more is just more, and too much can also be a problem.

And frankly, if your diet includes foods rich in Vitamin C, there is no need for daily supplementation for the average person.

Vitamin C is more than just an essential nutrient. Since our bodies don’t make it, so we need to get it through our diet or supplements. It is water soluble and non-toxic. There are many different forms of vitamin C.

Many people go around thinking they are getting enough vitamin C in their everyday foods. More often than not, this is just not true. Less than 10% of people are getting enough in their food. Vitamin C is also fragile and is destroyed through heat, light and oxygen.

Dr. Frederick Klenner was a doctor in the 1950’s who used high doses of ascorbic acid for some of the worst conditions out there including polio and black widow spider bites. It was his work that inspired Linus Pauling to further is research into Vitamin C. Dr. Klenner had an interesting comment about his colleagues. He noticed that some doctors would rather stand by and see their patients die than try to use vitamin C because they think that it is only a vitamin.

Vitamin C acts as a reducing agent, oxidizing agent, anti-clotting agent, antihistamine and anti-infective agent. It neutralizes toxins. Dr. Klenner used vitamin C extensively.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid (since 1928) or ascorbate is a very powerful antioxidant. Its able to control the damage caused by oxidative stress in the cells. But it doesn’t have only this one job. It is very important for collagen formation, thereby promoting healthy skin and joints. It also helps with iron absorption (important for blood health).

Vitamin C also works as an antihistamine agent. It helps manage swelling and inflammation caused by histamine during an allergic reaction. When your body is under a lot of stress or infection (both acute and chronic), Vitamin C stores are quickly depleted. This can cause deficiency and have an impact on all of the functions described above. Without enough Vitamin C, our skin and other tissues heal slower. Low blood iron can develop. Allergic reactions tend to manifest more severely. Immunity can become impaired. Disorders of connective tissues and mast cell activation. For these reasons, people may choose therapeutic doses of Vitamin C.

Is it true though that higher doses of Vitamin C can help us fight colds and prevent or shorten their length? This study showed that elevating the dose of Vitamin C doesn’t really have a significant impact on the symptoms of the common cold or its prevention. Another study even failed to show benefits for cancer patients compared to placebo, and there also isn’t strong evidence that supplementing with additional Vitamin C can solve any health problem without addressing the whole picture. It is merely a piece of a larger puzzle.

Sébastien Noël from Paleo Leap sums it up by saying that “there is no strong evidence that Vitamin C is an effective treatment for anything but Vitamin C deficiency.” As we mentioned at the beginning, deficiencies in water soluble vitamins are not as common as deficiencies in fat soluble nutrients, which might suggest that most of us get enough through our diet. The small percentage of people who are deficient will benefit from more Vitamin C rich foods. Without investing in supplements. Some may cause more harm than good, when the dose isn’t adjusted for their bio-individual needs.

There are two very important things to say about Vitamin C in the body. First, because it is water soluble, it does not build up in our body, so we are not able to store it for later use (unlike fat soluble vitamins that we can store in our cells for future times of shortage, for example storing enough Vitamin D in summer to last well through the winter). Any Vitamin C we take in and don’t use that day will be excreted the same day, no storing. Boosting our immunity by very high doses of Vitamin C every day can have dangerous side effects. Because our natural detox system has to eliminate it later via urine. Which can overburden our liver and kidneys. Very high doses of this nutrient can cause diarrhea. Some studies showed  high levels of supplemental Vitamin C intake can contribute to kidney stones. As Noël points out,”Supplemental Vitamin C, like any other supplemental antioxidant, also has the paradoxical effect of reducing the body’s own antioxidant defenses. It’s basically training your body to rely on the supplement, instead of forcing it to do its own homework.”

The second thing we should mention is the fact that humans are one of the very few animals that can’t make their own Vitamin C. Leaves us totally dependent on dietary sources. We learned that our bodies can manufacture Vitamin D from cholesterol or turn beta-carotene into Vitamin A. But there is no production line in our metabolism for Vitamin C. It might not seem logical at first. Why would we vitally need something we actually can’t manufacture? Why would nature do this to us? But our natural healthy, real-food based eating automatically gives us adequate amounts of all essential nutrients. Including Vitamin C. The best plant based sources of Vitamin C are:

  • Papayas
  • Bell peppers (especially the yellow variety)
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Mangoes
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Citrus fruits

Thyme is an excellent vitamin C source from the herb family, adding not just a boost of flavor to your dish, but some additional antioxidant properties. For the best absorption, it is ideal to consume fruits and vegetables when they are fresh and raw, as cooking can break down some of the vitamins.

The USDA recommendation for daily Vitamin C consumption is 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg per day for men, and the upper limit is 2 grams. The World Health Organization (WHO) offers completely different numbers – they only suggest around 45 mg per day. Some researchers even recommend adding up to 200 mg per day, which is still a number perfectly achievable through a real food based diet rich in colorful vegetables and fruits. If you focus on consuming enough plant based Vitamin C sources, you’ll automatically add other important nutrients to your diet. Brings your overall health to another level. Maybe this is why many studies see a correlation between high Vitamin C intake and overall health, but Vitamin C is not the only hero here. If you have difficulty accessing fresh fruits and vegetables, or if you struggle with significant allergies to many foods, it may also be worthy of considering supplementation. Also, considering the fact that produce today is very depleted compared to the fruits and vegetables our ancestors grew and ate, adding a high quality supplement (and dosing carefully) can minimize your worries.


A man sustained severe burns to his body. The man was rushed to the hospital. He asked the doctors to give him high doses of vitamin C in IV form. They refused. He begged them, then he threatened them. He said he would leave right now and take such high doses of vitamin C orally that he could hurt his stomach. They finally relented. His skin healed so fast it was like a miracle happened.

Why is this not a common practice with burn victims if it works so well?


The need for Vitamin C during pregnancy cannot be understated. It can help all through pregnancy with keeping the skin elastic and reduces perineum tearing and stretch marks. High doses of vitamin C was shown by Dr. Klenner to help with labor, delivery and help prevent after birth bleeding.  Pregnancy can use up 15g per day, which is 15,000mg. Increasing your intake of Vitamin C during pregnancy is highly recommended.

Vitamin C Myths

To make things worse, there is a lot of bad information out there demonizing vitamin C supplements. If you need large doses of vitamin C fast, IV, sodium ascorbate or liposomal vitamin C is a great way to do it.

Dr. Suzanne Humphries gave a talk in Stockholm Sweden in 2014 about vitamin C. She is one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to using vitamin C to treat illness. She addressed some of the common myths out there in her talk. Here are some common myths:

  • Doses over 1000mg are dangerous and wasteful
  • Natural whole vitamin C is always best
  • There is no science behind high doses of ascorbate use
  • Kidney stones occur
  • Diarrhea from ascorbate is dangerous
  • You can get enough ascorbate from food when you are very ill

None of these myths have been properly proven clinically or scientifically.

Other Benefits

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and has an anti-histamine action and is a co-factor for many enzymes.

It helps with collagen formation, skin repair and healing.

Glucose levels can be improved with vitamin C supplementation. Those with blood sugar issues have chronically lower levels of vitamin C in their body.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that many cardiovascular conditions are scurvy of the heart or arteries. Osteoporosis also appears to look like scurvy of the bones. We have a serious vitamin C deficiency problem in North America.

Different Forms of Ascorbate

You may see articles and supplements talking about buffered vitamin C.  Buffered C is made my combining a mineral with ascorbic acid. This makes it less acidic for use in higher dosages. If you are sensitive to ascorbic acid, then try a buffered form.

Ascorbic Acid
This is the most common form of vitamin C. The Ascorbic acid molecule in an orange is exactly the same as the ascorbic acid molecule in a supplement. They are chemically identical. There is no harm in taking an ascorbic acid supplement on a daily basis using a maintenance dose. As always, we want to avoid cheap drug store brands that are loaded with binders, fillers, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners or sugary chewable tablets or gummies.

Sodium Ascorbate
This is a buffered form of vitamin C and is a great form to use when you feel like you are getting sick, or are sick. It is the form that Dr. Humphries uses in her Whooping Cough protocols, even in babies and small children in high doses.

Calcium Ascorbate
This was made popular by the brand name Ester-C. It is ascorbic acid, buffered with calcium. This makes it less acidic, but the amount of calcium would not be suitable for taking very high doses when needed.

Liposomal products deliver the nutrients straight into your bloodstream.  This is a great choice for people who have compromised gut health, the elderly and anyone who suffers from poor absorption of their nutrients.

Whole Food Sources

While whole food sources are touted as “better” by some, they are by no means better for every situation. If you need high oral doses fast, a sodium ascorbate is better, not to mention more cost effective and far easier to dose. Whole food sources can be great to take for maintenance doses on a daily basis.

Camu is a popular “whole food” vitamin C. However, you must be careful where you source it from. Rainforests are being decimated to plant more Camu and it is not being sustainably harvested. You need to look for a source that is sustainably harvested and grown.

Most Camu supplements have also been heated to dry the berries, and then vitamin C is added back in afterwards. Our Uhtco Camu Camu that we carry has been dried carefully so as to not disturb the vitamin C content. It is also wild-harvested in a sustainable fashion. No rainforests were cut down, nor were any animals murdered in the process.

Indian Gooseberry or “Amla” is another good source, as long as it hasn’t been heated in the drying process. It is a more sustainable and environmentally friendly source than most Camu Camu out there.

Acerola Cherry is another good whole food source of C if you can find one that is not heated during the manufacturing process.


The RDA is only 75-90mg per day. That is barely enough to prevent scurvy.  Just barely preventing health issues it not optimal health by any means.  The evidence alone of people being sick all the time should be enough to tell us that something is wrong with the RDA.

For daily use, take 30mg per kilogram of body weight per day, in divided doses. What does that mean? It means that if you need to take 1800mg per day, you can split that in half and take 900mg in the morning, and 900 in the late afternoon.

As soon as you start feeling a bit ill, increase your dosage of Vitamin C right away. If you get a bite, take a dose of Vitamin C and if it is a serious bite, take your Vitamin C and head to the hospital.

When you feel a cold or a flu coming on, then taking 50-100mg per kilogram of body weight per day of sodium ascorbate is perfectly safe.

One of the ways you can tell if you are using enough is something we call “bowel tolerance”. If you start to get diarrhea, you have taken too much.  Back off your dosage until you don’t get diarrhea anymore. Just make sure you are drinking plenty of water and replenishing your electrolytes if you are having loose bowels as well.

Learn more about using Vitamin C for illness in this video by Dr. Suzanne Humphries.

For Vitamin C treating illness and poisoning you can read the works of Dr. Klenner

Author: Alicia Passmore