An Orange a Day?

By: Dr. Mike Baker, ND

As we approach cold and flu season I thought I would touch on a common home remedy for fighting and preventing colds and the flu – vitamin C. It should be noted, however, that recent scientific studies have shown that vitamin C is not effective at preventing nor treating the common cold. The only convincing evidence suggests it may lower the duration of the common cold. How might it do that? We’re not sure, but it appears to play a role in immune support. Currently this exact process is unknown, but vitamin C is found in high concentrations in our immune system like white blood cells.

We do know, however, that it plays a key role in building collagen and preventing scurvy, and is used in enzyme reactions for building neurotransmitters, like dopamine.
Collagen is critical for building strong bones, joints, blood vessels, and skin. Without vitamin C, scurvy symptoms such as poor wound healing, fatigue, loose teeth, and bleeding gums can arise.

When it comes to supplementing with vitamin C, it is important to know that only small amounts can be absorbed at one time; as the dose goes up, a smaller percentage of vitamin C is absorbed. Taking greater than 1000mg at one time isn’t generally beneficial, because only a small amount is actually absorbed and the remainder either passes through or can cause intestinal upset and diarrhea. To improve the absorption of vitamin C it is best to take small amounts (250-500mg) multiple times throughout the day.

Integrative cancer therapy bypasses the absorption issue by injecting vitamin C directly into the blood stream: A mega dose of 25 to 100 grams of vitamin C administered intravenously may increase the effectiveness of radiation and specific chemotherapeutic drugs. This therapy has been shown to reduce side effects of cancer treatment and improve patients’ quality of life by increasing appetite, energy, and reducing pain.

Supplementation of vitamin C is so common because humans are among the few species of animals that cannot make vitamin C and must obtain it all through food. Kakadu plums and camu camu fruits contain the highest amount of vitamin C of any source. But there are other fruits and vegetables that are also very high in vitamin C and may even be found in your garden. These include rosehips, red bell peppers, and broccoli. Red peppers contain roughly 190mg per pepper and one cup of broccoli has about 90mg. Oranges are commonly believed to be a good source of vitamin C, but the average orange contains about half of what is found in a cup of broccoli, or 3.5 times less than a red bell pepper. Health Canada recommends 90mg a day for adult males and 75mg a day for adult females. Another note, pasteurization destroys vitamin C, so food sources of vitamin C are best consumed raw.

So, when choosing foods rich in vitamin C pick raw red bell peppers and broccoli over oranges and if you supplement, try smaller quantities multiple times a day.