Why Do We Need Vitamin C?
Vitamin C has an incredible amount of vital roles in the body, from supporting our immune system, to helping in the production of collagen for our tissues. Many of us are not eating enough Vitamin C-rich foods and sadly, our food supply contains less and less Vitamin C because of premature food harvesting, artificial ripening, and food processing.
Nobel Laureate Dr L. Pauling was probably the most well known supporter of the benefits of vitamin C. According to Pauling, Vitamin C can help fight the effects of ageing, fight cancer and provide support for healing of all the body’s cells. It may also be able to kill harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites within the body when present in sufficient concentrations. Finally, it helps fight the effects of flu, allergies and chemical exposure.
- When damage occurs to the body, Vitamin C helps rebuild the tissue and minimise scarring associated with the injury
- It is involved in the biosynthesis of hormones
- It also maintains the integrity of connective tissue – cartilage, capillaries, bones and teeth
- Vitamin C also supports the immune system – it helps your body fight infections and reduces the effects of environmental pollutants
- An extremely powerful antioxidant in itself, Vitamin C also helps regenerate other antioxidants like glutathione and vitamin E
- It also helps your body deal with stress
Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins your body requires and the only way to get Vitamin C is through diet. Almost all animals and plants synthesise their own Vitamin C but there are a few animals that cannot make their own vitamin C – including guinea pigs, some monkeys, a species of bat and humans.
Animals, when adjusted for human size and weight, make the equivalent of 5-15 grams of Vitamin C a day, mostly in their livers when stress free. Production can more than double when the animal is distressed (but so too is consumption by the body!). Our genetic ancestors actually once had the ability to synthesise Vitamin C but lost it millions of years ago. The enzyme that converts glucose to Vitamin C (L-3 gulonolactone oxidase) is now missing in humans. Scientists estimate that without this mutation we would be making 10-30 grams of Vitamin C a day (this is 10,000-30,000mg). This makes the RDI of just 60mg look slightly inadequate!
Why Do A Flush?
A Vitamin C flush gives our system very, very high doses of vitamin C to the point where it totally saturates the system – and in the process, brings the immune system up and supports rapid healing. This is ideal anytime you might be feeling run down, are recovering from illness or trauma/surgery, or your immune system simply needs a boost.
There are many factors which create a greater need for vitamin C:
- increased oestrogen (are you on the pill or HRT?)
- exposure to toxins
- poor diet
Using a qualitative EEG, researchers have found vitamin C to have an anti-anxiety effect. They also discovered that less than 1000mg of vitamin C could result in an increase in cholesterol. A 2001 study published in The Lancet found that people with the lowest blood levels of vitamin C were two times more likely to die of heart disease than those with the highest levels. Interestingly vitamin C also significantly slows glycation – the process by which glucose binds to proteins interfering with their normal function.
Although there are many anecdotal claims about the benefits of a vitamin C flush, there isn’t any scientific evidence to support any of the above benefits.
Symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency;
- muscle pain or weakness
- loss of appetite
- bleeding or swollen gums
- sores in your mouth
- unexplained rash or red spots
Vitamin C Flush
The Vitamin C Flush involves taking as much Vitamin C as your body can tolerate. When you’ve reached ‘bowel tolerance’, or the point at which you can longer absorb Vitamin C from your gut, you will experience an enema-like evacuation of liquid from your bowel. For this reason it is important you choose a day to do the flush when you can remain at home, near the bathroom.
- Begin the cleanse first thing in the morning before you eat (you can, however, eat normally throughout the day)
- Take 1000mg of vitamin C every hour – mix into half a glass of water (or diluted fruit juice) and drink/sip it over the course of a few minutes
- Recording each time you take a dose – repeat this every hour, on the hour, and continue until you need to use the bathroom. You are looking for the bowel to pass a watery stool. Once this occurs, the flush is finished and you can stop drinking the vitamin C. The next time you go to the bathroom after the cleanse, your stools may still be a bit watery, but things should return to normal pretty quickly. Note what total amount of Vitamin C you took to achieve bowel tolerance*.
I like to do a Vitamin C Flush at the beginning of winter to load my immune system up ready for cold and flu viruses but you could do this biannually if you wished, and for those needing immune support/repair you could consider doing it monthly or bimonthly (under the supervision of a Natural Healthcare Practitioner). As your health improves you may notice that, each time you do the Vitamin C Flush, you need less total Vitamin C to reach bowel tolerance.
It is interesting to note that it appears the amount of Vitamin C which can be tolerated orally without producing diarrhoea, increases somewhat proportionately to how unwell you are. Most people will reach bowel tolerance at around 10-15 grams but, if the same person is acutely ill with a mild cold for example, that tolerance may increase to approximately 50 grams per 24 hours. A severe cold can increase tolerance to 100 grams; an influenza, even up to 150 grams; and mononucleosis or viral pneumonias, to as much as 200 grams per 24 hours.
Large doses of Vitamin C should always be given in divided doses, and at these higher amounts – may need to be given as frequently as hourly
Vitamin C Flush Tips
- If you’re prone to reflux or gut inflammation, then I would recommend using a powdered form of vitamin C that is buffered; ie; contains calcium ascorbate or potassium ascorbate as this brings the pH up (makes it less acidic) and will reduce the potential for heartburn or gut inflammation that may occur when using high doses of straight ascorbic acid (the most common form of supplemental vitamin C). I recommend one that is pure vitamin C with bioflavonoids and no other additives (otherwise you can get too much of the additional nutrients when you’re taking such high doses).
- Keep your water intake up as, when bowel tolerance is reached, you will lose some fluid through the bowel
- You may get a little bloated, or even a bit gassy towards the end – keep going until you actually pass a watery stool
- If you have been or are unwell, you may consider doubling your vitamin C dose each hour i.e. consume 2000mg of vitamin C every hour
- If you are on medications, or have an ongoing medical condition, please consult with either myself or another practitioner before attempting to do the vitamin C flush.
After The Flush
Sudden discontinuation of megadoses of Vitamin C is believed to cause ‘rebound scurvy’. Although I have only seen this once myself, it is best to be safe and gradually reduce your Vitamin C intake over several days or weeks. Here’s what I recommend the day after ‘The Flush’:
- Work out your bowel tolerance total. Look at what total amount of Vitamin C you consumed on the day of the flush to reach bowel tolerance*. E.g. if you took 1000mg of Vitamin C every hour for 6 hours and reached bowel tolerance on the 6th dose – your total daily consumption to bowel tolerance was 6000mg
- Take a reduced dose. The following day you want to take 75% of the total daily dose you got to before losing bowel tolerance and take this on the day after the flush in 2-3 divided doses. Using the example above, 75% of 6000mg is 4500mg which would equate to 3 doses of 1500mg each over the course of the day after the flush
- Gradually reduce your dose. Each day take a total of 1000mg less than you did the day before. So the second day after ‘The Flush’ (using the calculations above) you would take a total of 3500mg in divided doses. The following day, a total of 2500mg and so on – until you are down to 1000mg a day (this is an ideal maintenance dose)
You can’t ‘overdose’ on vitamin C per se. Any vitamin C that is unable to be absorbed is simply passed out through the bowel. However, there are some people for whom a vitamin C flush is not advised:
- Do not do a Vitamin C flush if you have excess iron in your blood (haemochromatosis) – Vitamin C increases the uptake of iron from your gut and we don’t want this to happen
- Do not do a Vitamin C flush if you have Gilbert’s disease (you will know if you have this)
- Do not do a Vitamin C flush if you have hepatitis
- Do not do a Vitamin C flush if you have any kidney problems.
- If you suffer from IBS, IBD or any inflammatory bowel disease, please speak to myself or another healthcare practitioner as a Vitamin C Flush may not be suitable, and you will need to be careful of the form of Vitamin C you use.
- If you are on medications, or have an ongoing medical condition, please consult with either myself or another healthcare practitioner before attempting to do the vitamin C flush.
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