Wednesday, 9 January 2013

How Much Vitamin C Is Too Much?

(brand shown above is the first mass-produced synthetic vitamin C - image source: Wikipedia)

For about a week now I've started taking Vitamin C supplements along with Magnesium to encourage bowel movement. When you're hypo, constipation is a major symptom, that can be quite debilitating at times. I've read online and also talked with lots of other folks who have this problem who said that Vitamin C and Magnesium taken together really help. So I gave it a try.

Right now I'm taking a vitamin C supplement 1000 mg around 11 am, and one in the evening after 8 pm, that one taken with a magnesium pill. The next day let's just say that bowel movement is like 'clock work'.

In the meantime another problem I'm struggling with these days is constant lower abdomen pain. It started also about 2 months ago, so I am almost certain that it's a secondary symptom related to hypothyroidism, specifically related to constipation.

So I went yesterday afternoon to my gastroenterologist for a checkup, and while discussing with him about my symptoms, I mentioned in passing that I'm taking Vitamin C and magnesium. While he totally agreed with the magnesium, he told me to avoid taking too much vitamin C and especially daily because too much is not good for the body. He said that it is only really recommended for people with serious immune system disorders. So there's that. I did want to say that hypothyroidism is related to the immune system, but I left it at that.

Coming back home, I talked it through with some folks on the STTM Facebook group, and many said that their doctors told them to take even more than I'm taking, and that Vitamin C supplements are safe. So now I'm utterly confused. How much vitamin C is too much and how much should I take daily?

Going online, I made some research, and let's just say that the results are conflicting at best. There are some good cases on both sides of the argument. There are those who say that Vitamin C is even used for shrinking cancer cells (albeit taken intravenously). On the other hand, there are those who say that while Vitamin C is an antioxidant, it has also dangerous effects which are usually not measured, so they go unnoticed until the damage is done. The allegations are serious enough that I'm really hesitant now...what do I do?

So let's see some research that I found for and against consuming too much Vitamin C in form of Vitamin C supplements

  • The Linus Pauling Institute has a very good article on Vitamin C, on how much is good for people of various ages (starting from infants to elderly), what types of illnesses it can help with and what problems might bring along. Worth a read:
  • The Office of Dietary Supplements says that: "Vitamin C has low toxicity and is not believed to cause serious adverse effects at high intakes. The most common complaints are diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, and other gastrointestinal disturbances due to the osmotic effect of unabsorbed vitamin C in the gastrointestinal tract." It also gives a good overview of what Vitamin C is, what the recommended doses are, what it can help with and a lot of other information worth reading:
  • The University of Maryland mentions in an article that: Serious side effects from too much vitamin C are very rare, because the body cannot store the vitamin. However, amounts greater than 2,000 mg/day are not recommended because such high doses can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea.

    On the other hand they have a long list of problems caused by too little Vitamin C:
I found several other respectable resources with real research under their belt for both sides of the story. I could go on and on posting more links, since research is being done on a regular basis. However I haven't come across a single resource that clearly and unequivocally proved that consuming too much Vitamin C can have disastrous effects.

Also considering how many people all over the world are taking Vitamin C in various doses, some simply to ward off cold and flu, others to help with health issues and symptoms such as constipation and many others, and they're still here, years after, to tell about it, I do believe that:

  • when a person has a real reason for taking these vitamins, where not taking it could cause real problems (try to live without a bowel movement for more than 5 days and then we'll talk again)
  • based on how thousands of people (including me) feel when taking it as opposed to when leaving it out from their diet
  • considering the fact that just as Vitamin C is not produced by the body, the excess is expelled in the urine just like Vitamin B
vitamin C does help more than harm. If too much is taken, the symptoms will make themselves known quite fast anyway, so the dosage can be reduced to a 500mg pill or less.

For now I will continue taking 1000-2000 mg a day until proven - truly proven that it is indeed absolutely dangerous to take it in such high amounts.

I've been also asked why I'm not eating more foods that contain Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes and so on. Well, I am also suffering from GERD, and for me eating anything with too much acid in it is truly painful. So far taking Vitamin C orally hasn't proved to cause problems related to gastritis and GERD.

How much Vitamin C are YOU taking - and are you taking it every day?

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