Vitamin deficiency: The condition you can develop if you’re low on vitamin C

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Often when individuals discuss vitamin deficiencies during the winter they are referring to vitamin D deficiency. During the winter, when the body isn’t making as much of it from the sunlight as during the summer, the government and NHS recommends the consumption of supplements in order to redress the potential for a deficiency to occur. However, although rare, it is possible for a person to become deficient in a neighbouring vitamin to vitamin D, vitamin C. Found in oranges, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, potatoes and co, vitamin C is very easily included in the diet.

Despite this it is still possible for a person to become deficient in the vitamin leading to a condition that used to be common among sailors centuries ago.

Scurvy is the condition a person develops when they can’t get enough vitamin C into their diet.

Before the invention of transportable refrigeration, sailors used to suffer from scurvy as they couldn’t store any fresh fruit and vegetables on board.

Later on, James Lind would discover how to treat the condition.

In what is considered to be one of the first controlled clinical trials, in 1747 he tried different remedies for scurvy on six pairs of sailors on board HMS Salisbury.

As a result of the trial, Lind found citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons could be used to treat the condition.

Lind meanwhile went onto become a qualified physician and published his Treatise of the Scurvy in 1753.

However, it wouldn’t be until 42 years after his findings that the Royal Navy would recommend the distribution of lemon juice.

Historians have discussed at length as to why Lind’s findings were not put into practice sooner.

Despite the work of Lind and advances in modern diets and refrigeration, people still suffer from scurvy in 2022.

Patients suffering from scurvy can experience a number of symptoms such as fatigue, bleeding gums, slow-healing wounds, shortness of breath and, potentially, fatal issues with the heart.

The NHS recommends that an individual should see a GP if they think they have any symptoms of scurvy.

If a person is diagnosed with scurvy, it is an easy condition to treat through the addition of vitamin C to the diet.

Should the condition require it, a GP may also recommend a vitamin C supplement in order to further boost levels back to where they should be.

The NHS says: “Adults aged 19 to 64 need 40mg of vitamin C a day.”

While it is possible, if rare, to experience complications as a result of too little vitamin C it is also possible to overdose on it too.

Symptoms of too much vitamin C in the body include stomach pain, diarrhoea, and flatulence.

However, these symptoms “should disappear once you stop taking vitamin C supplements” says the NHS.

While supplements are available, a person should be able to get all the vitamin C they need from their diet.

For more information on vitamins and the foods to find them in contact the NHS or consult with your GP.

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