Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vitamin C: how it may help you during the cold and flu season

Killer T cells—also called cytotoxic T lymphoc...Image via Wikipedia
Winter has hit us head on since its arrival on December 21.  Along with the colder temperatures came the coughs, colds and flu season. For those moms who want to minimize visits to the ED and the pediatrician's office, it's time to buckle and button  up with the winter paraphenalia.  And, last, but not least, take out the vitamin C.

Have you ever wondered how  vitamin C protects us against seasonal illnesses.  Let's take a look.

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid,  became prominent due to the work of Dr. Linus Pauling, who  reseached the vitamin's ability to prevent colds and other illnesses. Interestingly, the controversy still continues as to whether or not vitamin C can actually prevent the common cold. The facts certainly do seem to show that it can lessen the time sick and decrease the severity of the cold.

In more recent years,  vitamin C has most definitely been identified as an antioxidant making it invaluable in the fight against diseases. (As you may be already aware, antioxidants prevent the free-radical damage that contributes to age-related diseases, including cancer and heart disease).

Vitamin C also became well known due to the role that it has in the immune system:  it has been shown to help strengthen the immune system against infections and cancers.    It  also stimulates the production of lymphocytes, an important component of the immune system capable of killing viruses and bacteria.  It is also needed by the thymus gland which also plays a part in the body's immunity. Based on this information, there is more reason than not to supplement with additional C during times of stress or decreased immunity such as during cold season. (Lieberman, S. & Bruning, N."The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book" Fourth Edition (Penguin Group,2007)

What happens to vitamin C as we age?

As we age, vitamin C levels in the blood decrease leaving us susceptible to bugs, viruses,and bacteria. This  is why risk factors increase for certain diseases as we age.  It is during this time that eating extra foods with vitamin C would be wise.  And, if necessary,  taking vitamin C supplements. As always, check with your health professional as to whether supplementation is advisable.

Some foods high in vitamin C are: brocccoli, brussel sprouts, collard greens, guava, kale turnip greens, parsley and sweet peppers.(Lieberman, S. & Bruning, N."The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book" Fourth Edition (Penguin Group,2007)

In summary

Considering some of the lifestyles of most busy adults, taking additional vitamin C is the  course of action since we are bombarded with so many stressors: job, economy, bills, family and relationships.
(FYI: vitamin C is water soulble.  Any excess quantities taken will be excreted in the  urine.
Of course, check with your healthcare provider before starting a new vitamin.  If you are taking medication, please check first with your HCP.

For more information about health related topics, please visit:

Lieberman, S. & Bruning, N."The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book" Fourth Edition (Penguin Group,2007)

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