Dr. Zoltan Rona on Vitamin C

This is from a short article Dr. Zoltan Rona wrote for a column called "Ask an Expert" sponsored by NaturaPlus.

Vitamin C is important for the following reasons:

1) formation of collagen and the health of bones, teeth, gums, nails, muscles, ligaments and all other connective tissue

2) strengthens blood vessels and prevents bleeding and plaque formation in the arteries; vitamin C prevents atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)

3) promotes healing of all body cells

4) increases resistance to infection

5) aids iron absorption and utilization

6) anti-oxidant which helps prevent cancer and heart disease

7) natural antihistamine in high doses

8) natural antidepressant because it helps convert the amino acid tyrosine in the brain to adrenalin

9) lowers high cholesterol levels

Ideally, you should get vitamin C from food sources. If you do not tolerate citrus, try eating more peppers, garlic, onions, cantaloupe, kale, parsley, turnip greens, broccoli, rose hips, black currants, strawberries, apples, persimmons, guavas, acerola cherries, potatoes, cabbage and tomatoes. All fresh fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C and variable amounts of bioflavonoids. For a variety of reasons including stress, illness, surgery, athletic competition, poor access to fresh foods, etc., food alone does not meet the requirements for vitamin C in many people. Such individuals must supplement vitamin C to prevent the many signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency. These include diseases of the bones, teeth, gums, connective tissue, arteries and heart as well as allergies, infections and cancer.

Vitamin C is generally well tolerated by most healthy individuals but there is a wide range of tolerance when megadoses are supplemented. Large doses (500 mg. or more) can cause diarrhea but this appears to be the only significant side effect. This property of vitamin C is often used by many people as a quick fix for chronic constipation. In highly sensitive individuals, any amount of vitamin C in supplemental form can cause diarrhea. On the other hand, there are individuals who feel fatigued, constipated and achy unless they supplement with a daily dose of 15,000 mg. Everyone is biochemically unique in their response to vitamin C.

It has often been falsely reported that vitamin C supplementation causes kidney stones in dosages above 6000 mg. daily. There is no clear proof of this claim since numerous studies conclude the exact opposite - that vitamin C in dosages above 6000 mgs. daily prevents kidney stones. The idea that vitamin C causes kidney stones is one of the enduring myths of conventional medicine.

Sudden discontinuation of megadoses of vitamin C is believed to cause rebound scurvy. Although neither I nor any of my colleagues who prescribe high doses of vitamin C have ever seen this phenomenon, it is theoretically possible. To be safe, if you have been on high doses of vitamin C (6000 mg. or more daily for several months) and you want to discontinue supplementation, do so gradually, tapering dosages over several days or weeks.

Many people who have iron deficiency know that vitamin C enhances iron absorption from the gut into the bloodstream. Megadoses of vitamin C are contraindicated in cases of iron overload due to this ability of vitamin C to boost iron stores. If a blood test called "ferritin" (the storage form of iron) is very high, avoid vitamin C supplementation. If it is low, vitamin C will help bring iron levels back up to normal.

In cases of kidney failure (renal insufficiency), it is best to avoid vitamin C supplementation because vitamin C enhances the absorption of aluminum, a toxin to the nervous system.

A small percentage of people have bad reactions to just about any dosage of vitamin C including headaches, gas, nausea and lightheadedness. Often these symptoms can be overcome by using buffered forms of vitamin C like sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, ester C and others.

In general, Vitamin C is a weak acid. Candida, bacteria, fungi and parasites are often killed off by high dose vitamin C and this releases toxins into the system. Gas, headache, nausea and lightheadedness sometimes results but this is just a sign of a temporary cleansing or detoxification reaction. The problem can be eliminated by doing a vitamin C flush. This is done by increasing the dose of vitamin C to the point of clear, watery diarrhea which usually results in a nice purge of the majority of these toxins. The vitamin C flush is best done with buffered vitamin C powder, taking a teaspoon in juice every half hour until watery diarrhea is reached. After this bowel tolerance level is reached, the dose can be adjusted to where the bowels feel comfortable. The gas and other detoxification reactions should disappear.

If you do not wish to do a vitamin C flush, consider adding sodium bicarbonate to your ester C, sodium ascorbate or calcium ascorbate supplement. This is available in powdered form and can be taken immediately after taking the vitamin C. Start with low doses and increase gradually as tolerated. Additionally, use a good lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus supplement to help control the bowel flora, reduce gastrointestinal toxins and improve digestion.

Worsening hay fever and bleeding gums are signs of vitamin C deficiency. They are also a sign of a greater need for bioflavonoids. Good examples of bioflavonoids include pycnogenol, quercetin, hesperidin, catechin and rutin. These can be taken in high doses without side effects and might also help you tolerate vitamin C supplements better.

If you are having trouble tolerating even the buffered forms of vitamin C, consider getting yourself checked out for chronic gastrointestinal dysbiosis. It is possible that you are suffering from a bacterial flora imbalance, candida overgrowth, bacterial infection or parasites. A natural health care practitioner can order a comprehensive stool and digestive analysis with a comprehensive parasitology evaluation to rule out this potential problem.

Dr. Zoltan Rona