You’ll constantly hear me harping on how nutrient deficiencies are one of the top reasons for thyroid problems and adrenal fatigue in women. From vitamin B12 to iron to vitamin D to magnesium- there practically isn’t a nutrient we couldn’t all use more of, thanks to depleted soils and our modern diet of processed "foods.”
One common nutrient deficiency is also one of the most essential nutrients for fixing your thyroid fatigue- the humble vitamin C.
Vitamin C first made it’s claim to fame by preventing scurvy in sailors. Scurvy was common back in the mid twentieth century amongst sailors because the months spent at sea without the benefit of fresh fruits and vegetables led to bruising, bleeding gums, hair and tooth loss and even partial paralysis in severe cases.
It seems the common diet of sailors- salted beef, pork and fish, hardtack (biscuits cooked until they were hard as a rock), and beer- completely lacked any vitamin C. When sailors began to go to sea with lemons and oranges to enjoy on their voyage, however, scurvy all but disappeared.
Today scurvy is virtually unheard of in the modern world, yet, most of us are still not getting enough of this important nutrient and it’s keeping us exhausted and irritable.
A potent anti-oxidant, vitamin C plays a role in everything from growth and repair of tissues, to wound healing. Just take a look at some of the powerful things vitamin C does for you:
Top Benefits of Vitamin C
- Boosts immunity and promotes wound healing
- Important for the proper growth of bones and teeth
- Prevents gum disease
- Has been shown in studies to protect against heart disease (source)
- Aids in the absorption of iron (another important nutrient for fighting fatigue!)
- Plays a role in detoxification
- Has been shown to kill cancer cells in studies (source)
How Vitamin C Fights Fatigue
Vitamin C is a major player in your adrenal health as well. Adrenal fatigue is the popular term used to describe the exhaustion, irritability and insomnia caused by dysregulation of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Vitamin C is stored in the adrenal glands where it is used in the production of adrenal hormones, including cortisol. For those already struggling with adrenal fatigue, a lack of Vitamin C means your body doesn’t have the building blocks it needs to produce adequate amounts of cortisol.
This can eventually lead to chronically low levels of cortisol, resulting in blood sugar imbalance, low blood pressure, weight gain, anxiety, a lack of ability to cope with stress, and of course, the extreme exhaustion that we associate with adrenal fatigue.
So what’s a girl to do!?! Get more vitamin C, of course!
Because Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin it isn’t stored in excess in the body. That means it’s important to get adequate amounts of this vital nutrient in your diet every day. Let’s look at the top foods to eat for Vitamin C, as well as the best way to supplement (which I highly recommend if you are struggling with fatigue).
Top Foods High in Vitamin C
- Guava (1 medium)- 250 mg
- Papaya (1 cup)- 126 mg
- Parsley (1 cup raw)- 87 mg
- Kiwi (1 medium)- 70 mg
- Orange (1 large)- 60 to 80 mg
- Kale (1 cup)- 60 mg
- red, yellow or green pepper (1 ounce)- 50mg
- Broccoli (1/2 cup)- 50 mg
- Lemon (1 medium)- 30 mg
- Potato (1 whole)- 20 mg
Note that the daily recommended allowance is 65 to 90 mg for an adult. However, this is really the bare minimum you need to prevent scurvy. Ideally, your intake of vitamin C should be much higher- and if you are struggling with fatigue, you may want to consider supplementing to make sure you are getting optimal levels.
Choosing a Vitamin C Supplement
Like anything in life, supplementing with Vitamin C can get complicated. There are tons of options to choose from, some of which aren’t worth your time and some that will quickly have your energy levels back on track. Let's take a look at your options.
Vitamin C as Ascorbic Acid
I recommend avoiding over the counter vitamin C supplements made from ascorbic acid. These are your cheap supplements at your local drugstore that come in those hard pills (which always makes me suspicious). These supplements are often made from GMO corn (gasp!) and lack the co-factors that you find with natural forms of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C Powder made from acerola cherry juice
Made from the juice of the acerola cherry, this powder is a whole food supplement that contains 250 mg of naturally ocuring vitamin C in ¼ teaspoon. That’s as much vitamin C as you would get eating four whole oranges!
Because heat and light can damage vitamin C, acerola cherry powder is produced using a low heat method that maintains the integrity of the vitamin C content. (Side note: Cooking foods can drastically reduce their vitamin C content as well, so it's best to eat some raw foods that are high in vitamin C). You can learn more about High Vitamin C Powder here.
Liposomal Vitamin C
One of my favorite vitamin C supplements is liposomal Vitamin C. Let me explain what makes it such a great choice for supplementing with. Because vitamin C is water soluble, this poses a bit of a problem for absorption. Your cell membranes are composed of a phospholipid bilayer- a layer composed primarily of fatty acids. Because vitamin C is water soluble, and not fat soluble, it’s got to find a way to cross that barrier. If you've ever tried to mix water with oil, you can see why vitamin C can have a problem getting inside the cell- fats and water don't mix.
Liposomal Vitamin C solves the problem of absorption by encasing the vitamin C molecules in a phospholipid called lecithin. This allows the vitamin to absorb easily across the digestive wall and straight into the cell where it’s needed.
I became a firm believer in the power of liposomal Vitamin C after having dental surgery last summer. After learning of the benefits of liposomal vitamin C, including it’s ability to reduce pain, I took one packet of lipsosomal vitamin C before the removal of an infected root canal. After removing the tooth, the dentist decided he could go ahead and place the post for a dental implant immediately (a bad idea that didn’t work, but that’s a story for another time).
After what felt like hours of drilling and pounding, I left with a prescription for oxycodone and was told to take it throughout the next few days to deal with the pain. Instead, I took another packet of liposomal vitamin C immediately after I got home, and then a third packet before bed and never had to fill the prescription for the painkiller. There was no pain the next day and I felt great.
Liposomal vitamin C comes is a liquid consistency that you can add to a few ounces of water and drink. I've used this brand of Lypo-spheric Vitamin C with great results and recommend it.
How Much Vitamin C Should I Take?
If you choose to supplement with vitamin C, be sure to also consume plenty of foods high in vitamin C as well. Supplementing is never an excuse not to nourish yourself with real food.
Vitamin C Recommendations for Fatigue
If you are struggling with extreme fatigue, or know that you have adrenal fatigue or thyroid issues, I recommend either of these options:
- Whole Food High Vitamin C Powder: 2/3 to 2 teaspoons of vitamin C powder daily
- Liposomal Vitamin C: 1 to 3,000 packets daily (Packets contain 1,000 mg Vitamin C each)
Vitamin C Recommendations for Maintenance
Once you have your energy levels back in order, I recommend either of these options as daily maintence:
- Whole Food High Vitamin C Powder: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons of vitamin C powder daily
- Liposomal Vitamin C: 1 packet daily, or every other day
A few important things to note about supplementing with vitamin C: Because vitamin C is water soluble it's considered safe to supplement with, as any excess is excreted through the urine.
However, consuming too much vitamin C may lead to diarrhea and loose stools. If you find this to be the case, simply cut back on the amount of vitamin C you are consuming until digestion returns to normal.
I consider vitamin C to be one of the best weapons we have at our disposal for fighting fatigue and improving the immune system. Don't neglect this vital nutrient if you're looking to improve your energy and reset your hormones.