Food & Nutrition

11 Silent Signs of a Vitamin C Deficiency You’re Probably Ignoring

While serious vitamin C deficiency is uncommon, you still may be missing out on this important nutrient. Here’s how to recognize vitamin C deficiency.

The low down on vitamin C


Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that your body needs for numerous daily functions. In these 12 foods, vitamin C can even be a fat-burner. Since your body doesn’t store it, developing a vitamin C deficiency is easier than you might expect: You need to consume C daily—preferably through foods rich in vitamin C. Most people think of oranges—and they are a great source—but many other fruits and vegetables are loaded with this nutrient, like strawberries, kiwi, papaya, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, and cauliflower.

Adult women need at least 75mg of vitamin C daily, while adult men need at least 90mg, but some studies suggest that 500-1,000mg daily is optimal. You can easily get what you need from food: Broccoli and strawberries both have about 85mg vitamin C per cup, while a small orange provides just over 50mg. Here’s how your body is telling you you’re running low on other key vitamins.

What does vitamin C do?


Vitamin C is necessary for tissue growth and repair all over your body. It helps in the production of collagen, which is used to make skin, blood vessels, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. It also is needed for wound healing, iron absorption, and maintaining bone health. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, helping to reduce the damage caused by free radicals and thereby helping prevent the development of conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Severe vitamin C deficiency is a serious condition, known for centuries as the sometimes fatal disease scurvy. While scurvy is fairly uncommon now, evidence suggests that many people have low levels of vitamin C, which can be harmful to your health even if you’re not deficient by much. Don’t miss the 12 vitamin mistakes you didn’t know you were making.

Bleeding and swollen gums

GumsStefano Garau/Shutterstock

Your gums are made up partially of collagen, which is why they tend to be more sensitive when your vitamin C levels dip. They can bleed more, as well, and since vitamin C helps with wound healing, a deficiency means that bleeding gums won’t heal as quickly. Swollen gums are a result of inflammation, a process that vitamin C helps prevent as an antioxidant. Adequate vitamin C intake has been shown to be beneficial in improving gum health and reducing gum inflammation.

Frequent nosebleeds


Nosebleeds occur when the tiny blood vessels in the nose burst, so frequent nosebleeds are a sign of weak blood vessels in the nose. Since blood vessels are strengthened by collagen, having a vitamin C deficiency can result in weakened blood vessels, causing them to burst and create nosebleeds frequently. Find out which 16 vitamins and supplements doctors take every day.

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