We all know that vitamin C is an important part of a healthy immune system, but its critical role in adrenal function is no less valuable, and far less well known.
The highest concentration of vitamin C in the body is stored in the adrenal glands.
Vitamin C is utilized by the adrenal glands in the production of all of the adrenal hormones, most notably cortisol. When you are faced with a stressful situation, your vitamin C is rapidly used up in the production of cortisol and related stress-response hormones.
In adrenal fatigue, your adrenal glands "panic" when they don't have enough vitamin C available, and, in what seems like an odd paradox, they release MORE cortisol. This not only increases your immediate anxiety, but as this state of high cortisol is prolonged, it wreaks havoc on your blood sugar, blood pressure, and contributes to the dreaded accumulation of belly fat.
Not only are you unable to cope with stress when don't get enough vitamin C, you are also weakening your immune system, and you become more vulnerable to illness, which then adds more stress demands to your adrenals.
Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells (the infection fighters) as well as stimulating production of interferon and virus antibodies. It also stimulates production of liver detoxifying enzymes that help eliminate toxic waste products from your body, including environmental chemicals you may have been exposed to.
In addition to its role in hormone production and immune response, Vitamin C also has many other important roles in your body.
An antioxidant, vitamin C helps prevent "oxidative stress", which is damage to the DNA in your cells that can leave you vulnerable to many serious degenerative diseases, including cancer. Speaking of cancer, there are several studies that suggest that vitamin C reduces your risk of certain (non-hormonal) cancers, sometimes by half compared to patients with low vitamin C intake.
Cataracts and macular degeneration are also conditions that are a result of oxidative stress, and increased vitamin C can help prevent these and other "signs of aging".
Vitamin C is used by your body in the formation of collagen, the elastic tissue that keeps your skin looking young, and keeps your blood vessels strong. If you find you bruise easily or frequently, this could be a sign you need more vitamin C.
Vitamin C plays a role in reducing plaque buildup in your arteries and helps reduce cholesterol levels in your blood.
It is also important in helping your body absorb important trace minerals such as iron and zinc, so you should make sure to have some vitamin C along with your iron or zinc-rich foods and/or supplements.
Vitamin C is sensitive to both light and heat, so it is best to drink fresh-squeezed orange juice. Processed juices in clear containers that have been pasteurized (heated) may not have much vitamin C left by the time they make it home from the grocery store!
Vitamin C is water-soluble, so it is quickly processed and eliminated from your body. It is important to take your vitamin C in divided doses throughout the day as opposed to one mega-dose.
There are few "dangers" in taking vitamin C, however you should be aware that if you are taking a therapeutic dose during an illness, it is important to decrease your intake gradually, so your body doesn't develop withdrawl symptoms that mimic scurvy (vitamin C deficiency). This is especially important if you are pregnant or nursing, as your baby will have become accustomed to the higher levels of vitamin C as well.
The best way to determine how much vitamin C your body needs is by monitoring your stool. When your stools become loose and watery (diarrhea-like), you have reached what is called bowel tolerance, and you can drop your dosage down by 500-1000mg. This diarrhea is temporary and should resolve itself with a reduction in intake, so don't be alarmed.
While actual scurvy is rare in modern countries with well-rounded diets, milder symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include gums that bleed when you brush your teeth, tooth loss, easy bruising of the skin, poor wound healing, and frequent colds or respiratory infections.
Alcohol, The Pill, smoking, antidepressants and OTC painkillers all dramatically reduce the level of Vitamin C in your body. Smokers may need to take 25-50% more vitamin C than non-smokers to maintain the same levels in the body.
Vitamin C is Ascorbic Acid, which can cause stomach upset, so you should always take a buffered form to neutralize the acid . Most Vitamin C supplements include bioflavonoids, which facilitate the absorption of Vitamin C. Look for whole food sources of vitamin C, as well as the "Ester-C" form. Ester-C is a form of Vitamin C that is easy on your stomach and highly effective.
I like to take vitamin C from several different sources throughout the day, including a multivitamin, an ACES+Zinc combo, and then adding any additional vitamin C as needed. This allows me to take the "daily maintenance amount" with my regular vitamin regimen, and boost my Vitamin C intake by itself when I feel like Im coming down with something, or when I'm anticipating more stress in my life than usual.
I also LOVE to use a powdered vitamin C drink when I feel a sore throat coming on, because I feel relief almost immediately after swallowing it--there is just something about that topical application! Plus, it's a lot easier to swallow than a handful of pills when you want a larger dose! Most vitamin C tablets come in 500mg or 1,000mg potencies, and if you are sick and want to take 5,000-10,000mg per day, that's a lot of tablets to choke down...