We’ve all heard that vitamin C is good for our immune system, but many of us don’t realize just how important it really is in helping us prevent and fight off infections!
Every time we get an infection, our white blood cells (our immune system soldiers) use up a lot of vitamin C to help fight off the infection. Most animals can make more vitamin C in their livers to replenish supplies. However, humans lack an important enzyme for vitamin C production. Therefore, we can’t make our own vitamin C. We must replenish supplies from our food or from supplementation.
How it works:
Vitamin C stimulates the immune system by...
- Enhancing production of lymphocytes
- Enhancing movement of lymphocytes to the virus or bacteria, or whatever our immune system is trying to fight off
- Increasing interferon levels, antibody responses, and antibody production
- Mechanically inhibits spread of infections by occupying the space between cells in our cartilage, bone, and fibrous connective tissue
- Protects our white blood cells from the enzymes they release to fight off the bad guys
Other amazing benefits of vitamin C:
- Helps us synthesize collagen and certain neurotransmitters
- Involved in protein metabolism
- Plays a vital role in wound healing
- Important physiological antioxidant
- Improves absorption of nonheme iron (the type of iron we get from plant based foods)
Get it from your food!
Foods that contain vitamin C should be a part of our daily diet. If we eat an organic, plant based, whole foods diet, we’re going to get all the vitamins and minerals we need to support a healthy body and healthy immune system (I know, I know- a lot easier said than done).
I always recommend getting your nutrition from the food you eat for many reasons…
- It is the most natural source of vitamins and minerals you can find.
- Most foods that contain the vitamin you’re after will also contain the minerals and enzymes you need to digest it.
- Mainly, I believe strongly in the idea that the more “good stuff” you eat, the less room there is to eat the “bad stuff.” I know that when I rely solely on supplementation for a certain vitamin or mineral, I’m a lot less likely to choose healthy, organic whole foods that contain that supplement, because in my mind- I’m already getting it. So, I reach for what my emotions (not my body) are craving, like chocolate, sugar, and anything fried. ☹
Good Dietary Sources of Vitamin C
- Brussel sprouts
- Turnip greens
- Beet greens
The vitamin C content of food can be reduced by prolonged storage or cooking. Most of these foods are delicious raw, but raw turnip greens sounds pretty gross... so steam these foods if you’re going to cook them. You lose less vitamin C with steaming than other cooking methods.
What about OJ?
Every time I get sick, I remember being a kid and my grandma giving me a big glass of orange juice and telling me to drink up. While orange juice does have a lot of vitamin C, it also has a ton of sugar! There’s much better sources (listed above) to get a good dose of vitamin C, without all the sugar.
What about supplements?
Now, I also know there are times when supplementation is necessary. If you’re not getting it from your food, it’s a good idea to supplement for maintenance. Any good quality multivitamin will have vitamin C in it.
I'm already sick! What now??
Research shows vitamin C can decrease the duration of the common cold, so I supplement with a little extra vitamin C when I feel a cold coming on, during the cold, and for a few days after. Everyone is different, how much you should take depends on your diet and other health factors. Ask your chiropractor or other healthcare professional how much vitamin C is right for you on the daily, and when you’re sick.