Stress Depletes Vitamin C - Dramatically

21 Jan 2012 2:08 PMChristine Barnes

Our modern day stressors rapidly deplete our existing stocks of Vitamin C and increase our demand for vitamin C by 10 fold. Can we maintain our Vitamin C requirements with food? Yes and no; it depends on your lifestyle. Work deadlines, challenges and family life can all place heavy demands on us that sometimes cause us to experience stress. Not many of us can say we are stress free. I know I certainly can't! A Vitamin C supplement can be helpful.


Did you know that we (humans) don't make our own Vitamin C?  This is in contrast to many other mammals who produce between 336mg - 2,737mg of vitamin C per day.  While many mammals still produce their own stores of vitamin C, humans have lost the enzyme that helps convert glucose to vitamin C.  We're not the only ones who have lost the enzyme -  primates, guinea pigs and some bats have also lost the enzyme and therefore need to obtain their vitamin C from their diet. 


Vitamin C is used in conjunction with our stress hormones Adrenaline and Cortisol and is metabolised by us in great quantities during what's called the "fight or flight" reaction. The demand for vitamin C is increased dramatically during periods of extreme stress.  An example from the animal world demonstrates how much the requirement for vitamin C depends on stress;  a cat's vitamin C levels can increase from 336mg to 2,800mg during times of stress.  


Even when we consume foods that contain vitamin C, our stocks of it only last a few weeks.  Reduced levels of vitamin C negatively impact on many aspects of our health and well-being, and longer term deficiency has been the cause of major health problems. For example, vitamin C deficiency killed more sailors than all the battles, storms and diseases combined during the 16th to 18th centuries. In contrast, high consumption of Vitamin C is a cost effective way of encouraging beautiful skin, boosting the immune system, and can be used as an effective adjunct in cancer support.


Vitamin C is also essential for collagen production necessary to maintain healthy connective tissue, bones and capillaries.  It acts as an antioxidant that reduces free radical damage.  In addition, there is a concentration of Vitamin C in our immune cells which is consumed rapidly during infections. Vitamin C also acts as an Antihistamine to prevent allergies.


Seriously ill patients consume Vitamin C stocks rapidly and, unless replaced at the same rate, their stocks of Vitamin C remain low.  Low vitamin C levels negatively affect healing, immunity and recovery. On the other hand, high level Vitamin C intervention has shown positive results. This has been demonstrated in the treatment of Swine flu with high dose Vitamin C. High dose vitamin C has also been shown to be effective in the presence of severe viral influenzas, and viral illnesses such as shingles, bacterial infections and diseases caused by toxins such as tetanus, and various bites.


Beware, not all vitamin C supplements are the same - some work more effectively than others - and supplementation should not replace a healthy nutrient dense diet high in vitamin C.  For example, vitamin C is better absorbed and remains active in the body longer if taken with flavonoids. Our individual requirements, diet and lifestyle all impact on our vitamin C levels. How much supplementation and which type we should take is best addressed by a professional Nutritionist and Naturopath who will ensure that your supplements don't negatively affect your existing medications and the dosage is appropriate for the levels of stress and symptoms you are experiencing.


To summarise, Vitamin C is water soluble which means any excess is readily excreted. It is non toxic, even in extremely high doses, and is available from a variety of food sources; Capsicum, kiwi fruit papaya, blackcurrants, kale, Brussel sprouts and broccoli to name just a few.  The benefits of supplementation include everything from supporting your immune system to reducing inflammation. In addition,  its free radical-quenching action helps facilitate the action of other important nutrients like iron, Vitamin E & glutathione.  Finally Vitamin C is an important anti aging nutrient due to its ability to help synthesise collagen, an important structural component of blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and bone.



Hechtman, Leah. Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone Australia, May-11. p. 50, 63, 99.

Lewis, G., (2011) The value of high dose Vitamin C in the treatment of infections.

Natural News, (2011)


R.M. Salonen, K. Nyyssonen, J. Kaikkonen, et al.: Six-year effect of combined vitamin C and E supplementation on atherosclerotic progression: the Antioxidant Supplementation in Atherosclerosis Prevention (ASAP) Study. Circulation. 107, 2003, 947–953.