Natural Remedies | Vitamin C

The Facts: Defeating the Common Cold with Vitamin C

Has anyone ever told you to drink some orange juice when you feel a cold coming on? Or to take some Vitamin C tablets when you feel sick? Or have you seen the garlic soup fix made out of 50 cloves of garlic to cure your cold as soon as the next day? Are these natural remedies too good to be true or are these acceptable natural solutions to outsmart the common cold?

What we Already Know about the Common Cold

  • Antibiotics cannot treat the common cold because it’s a virus.
  • There are over 200 cold viruses (official name is “rhinovirus”).
  • The common cold is one of the major causes we call off of work or school.
  • Symptoms of the common cold are different from person to person.

Is Vitamin C a Natural Cold Remedy?

The body needs Vitamin C for the regular maintenance of connective tissues, bones, teeth, and healing wounds. Most importantly, Vitamin C is needed for a healthy immune system. A while ago, Dr. Linus Pauling claimed that 1 gram or more of Vitamin C taken everyday could fight the common cold. Since his findings, millions of Americans are chugging orange juice and supplementing Vitamin C tablets to avoid coming down with a cold or to reverse its effects.  However, many studies have not shown megadoses of Vitamin C to prevent the common cold, but regular supplementation of Vitamin C reduces the duration of colds.

How Much Vitamin C do I need?

The adult RDA (recommended daily allowance) is 75-90 mg/day. If you are an adult smoker your body needs more Vitamin C…An extra 35 mg/day due to the stress on the lungs from toxic by-products from cigarettes.

Is it Possible to Take too much Vitamin C?

Sure, it is possible to have too much Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin. When too much Vitamin C is consumed, the body ends up excreting most of it through the urine and feces while only some of the large dose will be absorbed. To give you an idea, the kidneys start excreting excess Vitamin C beginning at intakes of about 100 mg per day (1). The more that is consumed, the more quickly it is excreted. At dosages of 500 mg/day, almost all of consumed Vitamin C is excreted (1). The most common dosage of a Vitamin C dietary supplement is 1000 mg. Most of this amount will likely be excreted through your urine and feces.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is everyone’s body is different and the same goes for the immune system. It might be worth spending the money on a Vitamin C supplement to take every day to determine if supplementing Vitamin C will reduce the duration of your cold. Check with your health care professional before supplementing Vitamin C. But remember, your body will excrete what it doesn’t need at the time. There are plenty of food sources besides orange juice to give your body antioxidants and Vitamin C. Good sources of Vitamin C are whole oranges, cooked brussels sprouts, strawberries, red peppers, kiwis, and tomato juice. It is possible to eat 100% of your Vitamin C needs through foods without needed a dietary supplement.

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References:

  1. Wardlaw GM, Smith AM. Chapter 8 Vitamins. In: Contemporary Nutrition. 7th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2009: 281-334.

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