I Am Not a Pirate. And yet…

I’ve been sick since November. Well, probably longer than that, but it became VERY APPARENT in November when blisters started popping up in my mouth. I thought they were canker sores at first, but then I got what felt like tiny cuts underneath my tongue. I was hit with debilitating fatigue a couple of days later. When I finally looked at my mouth with the aid of my cell phone flashlight, I was floored. I had never seen my tonsils and throat look like that! (David said, “You’re turning into a lizard person!”)

From there, it took more than 10 weeks to figure out what was wrong with me. I saw a couple of MDs, an ENT specialist, my dentist…none of them had any idea what was causing my symptoms. Finally, on the suggestion of a rheumatologist, my doctor tested my Vitamin C levels. BINGO!

As soon as that result came back, I high tailed it to the pharmacy and picked up three types of Vitamin C supplements and a whole bunch of oranges. Then I started reading every medical study about scurvy I could get my hands on (my doctor admitted to knowing very little about scurvy).

I still don’t know how in the world I ended up with this, but in my search for answers I became fairly well-versed in Vitamin C deficiency. And I think this info is worth knowing, particularly if you have a limited diet or digestive issues. You do NOT want scurvy, I can promise you that!

Things You Should Know about Scurvy

  • It’s usually pretty hard to get to the point of deficiency, so doctors generally don’t even test for Vitamin C. My local lab had to send my blood draw to a lab in another state, and it took 6 days to get the results. (Btw, the test is called “ascorbic acid.”)
  • You are susceptible if you get ulcers or have IBS because damage to the digestive system impacts your ability to absorb vitamins. Those with autoimmune disorders are also at risk.
  • It’s harder to absorb iron if you are deficient in Vitamin C, so you almost always end up anemic, too.
  • Vitamin C builds collagen—which is in your bones, skin, muscles, and other connective tissues—so if you are deficient, your body literally starts coming apart. While mouth issues are what most people know about, dry skin is common, as is petechiae. Muscles and joints get achy too, so it may feel like you are getting the flu.
  • You are susceptible to infection if you have scurvy because white blood cells need Vitamin C to work properly. Wounds may reopen or just not heal.
  • You might not get bleeding gums and tooth problems early on if you have otherwise good dental health. In fact, symptoms can vary a lot based upon how healthy you are.
  • Heat/cooking drastically degrades the amount of Vitamin C present in food, so when they say “fresh” fruits & vegetables, they mean uncooked.
  • You need Vitamin C every day because your body doesn’t store it like other vitamins. And if you’re deficient, you need to spread your intake throughout the day. I take a total of 1000mg a day, but spread out in doses of 250mg each.
  • It takes 1-3 months of Vitamin C supplementation to recover. In that time, you’ll still be vulnerable to other illnesses.

It’s rare enough that the average doctor doesn’t know much of this information or may not recognize the cluster of seemingly unrelated symptoms. So now you probably know more than they do! Make sure you get Vitamin C every.single.day. and if you have some mysterious virus just isn’t getting better, don’t be afraid to keep asking your doctor for answers.

References

Lab Values for Vitamin C Deficiency
Symptoms of Scurvy
Vitamin C and Immune Function
All about Collagen

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