Is Vitamin C Hard On Stomach

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Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient your body needs to heal and grow, however, you can take too much of it.

Generally, you can’t take too much vitamin C by eating food that is high in it, such as in citrus fruits like oranges. However, taking too many vitamin C supplements can result in significant side effects such as an upset stomach.

Because your body doesn’t produce vitamin C naturally, it’s important to include it in your diet. For the average adult, the daily recommended amount of vitamin C is 65 to 90 milligrams (mg) per day.

However, this dose may be different during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, so make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

Stomach acidity

The stomach produces hydrochloric acid as well as enzymes that digest food, and it protects itself from these chemicals by secreting a layer of mucus and bicarbonate as a barrier. Despite this protection, some people still develop symptoms of stomach acidity. This is often related to a condition known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), in which stomach contents reflux into the sensitive oesophagus above.

Heartburn and indigestion are especially common in those who are overweight, smoke, are anxious or stressed or who have a hiatus hernia (in which part of the stomach moves up into the chest). In these cases, taking acidic supplements – even a weak acid such as vitamin C – can trigger a burning discomfort. Some people are more sensitive to the acidity of vitamin C than others, and may also notice that vitamin C supplements have a laxative effect. Again, this is related to the acidity of vitamin C rather than to any specific toxicity.

Gentle vitamin C

If you are prone to indigestion or bowel looseness, then non-acid ‘gentle’ vitamin C is available, which will not upset your digestive system. Such supplements are known as buffered vitamin C, as the acidity is buffered, or neutralised, by chemically combining it with a mineral. When combined with calcium, for example, to produce calcium ascorbate, this greatly reduces the acidity of vitamin C and makes it more gentle on the stomach.

Another option is a sustained-release form of vitamin C which, as its name suggests, releases ascorbic acid at a constant slow rate over six to eight hours. Not only does this ensure the amount of vitamin C in your blood stays consistently higher for longer, it also reduces the amount of vitamin C present in the stomach at any one time.

Alternatively, effervescent vitamin C dissolves in water to produce a pleasant-flavoured drink for rapid absorption. The water also dilutes the ascorbic acid to reduce the chance of digestive upsets.

So, if you have previously experienced excess acid when taking vitamin C supplements, there are several different products for you to try that have a more gentle effect and are more stomach-friendly.

Here are the benefits of vitamin C, how much vitamin C is too much, and who’s at risk for serious complications due to an excess of vitamin C.

How does vitamin C affect the body?

Vitamin C is a powerhouse nutrient the body shouldn’t go without. It has the ability to repair tissue, stimulate the production of white blood cells, and reduce inflammation and other physical effects of stress. Vitamin C can also lower your risk of stroke and help with iron absorption.

“Vitamin C is a critical antioxidant that is involved in the structure and function of nearly every part of the body,” says Beverly Goode-Kanawati, DO, and director and founder of Beverly Medical Center in Raleigh, NC. “For example, vitamin C is needed to create collagen which is the underpinning of structures for everything from the skin to bones.”

Since the body doesn’t create vitamin C on its own, you need to get it in your diet or in supplemental form vitamin C is found in a variety of foods, including:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers

What happens if you take too much vitamin C?

Is Vitamin c Hard On StomachThough vitamin c is an essential nutrient for your body, you can ingest too much of it. Although you cannot technically “overdose” on vitamin C, taking more than the maximum recommended amount of 2,000mg of vitamin C per day may cause uncomfortable side effects, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Heartburn (or acid reflux)
  • Hemolysis (G6PD deficiency is present)
  • Nausea (or vomiting)
  • Headaches
  • Rebound scurvy (in infants born to women taking high doses of vitamin C)
  • Sleeping problems (insomnia)
  • Skin irritation and the formation of blackheads

Because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, you’re less likely to experience vitamin toxicity than you would with potassium, for example. This is because water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are absorbed in the small intestine. In other words, your body uses what it needs from the vitamin and discards the rest through your urine.

“Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and if you take large doses of it, your body will safely excrete it through the urine,” says Dimitar Marinov, MD, Assistant Professor at the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria. “However, taking large doses for long periods can lead to health problems such as hyperoxaluria and kidney stones. If you have a history of kidney stones, avoid vitamin C supplementation.”

Both Marinov and Goode-Kanawati claim negative side effects only occur when you take too much vitamin C in supplemental form and that it’s nearly impossible to consume an excessive dosage of vitamin C in food form.

“The reason is that many supplements contain four to 20 times higher doses than the recommended daily intake,” Marinov says.

How much vitamin C should you take?

So, what’s the right amount of vitamin C to take? The right dosage can vary depending on your age, gender, and lifestyle. Listed below are the daily recommended amounts of vitamin C according to the National Institutes of Health:

Age Male Female
9-13 years 45mg 45mg
14-18 years 75mg 65mg
19+ years 90mg 75mg

Ingesting large doses of a vitamin C supplement or a cold-fighting product like Emergen-C, however, may cause more serious effects. “The same effects from excess vitamin C ingestion can occur with Emergen-C but because this formula also contains large amounts of potassium, side effects can also include more serious symptoms and signs such as weakness, low blood pressure, and heart arrhythmias,” says Rand McClain, DO, and chief medical officer of Live Cell Research.

What are some long-term effects of taking too much vitamin C?

Vitamin C is water-soluble, so it’s difficult to keep it in your system.

According to the National Institutes of Health, consuming vitamin C in large doses overtime could cause a reduced amount of vitamin B12 and copper, an accelerated metabolism, allergic responses, and the erosion of dental enamel. In addition, Vitamin C may negatively interact with other medications, including, but not limited to, chemotherapy drugs and cholesterol-reducing medications (statins).

For people with hemochromatosis, for example, too much vitamin C could be harmful and even life-threatening. Hemochromatosis is a condition in which the body produces too much iron, which can be toxic and cause damage to the heart, liver, and pancreas.

“Vitamin C is not likely to cause hemochromatosis in healthy people, but those who have a higher risk of iron build up should avoid supplementation,” says Marinov.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient your body needs to heal and grow, however, you can take too much of it.

Generally, you can’t take too much vitamin C by eating food that is high in it, such as in citrus fruits like oranges. However, taking too many vitamin C supplements can result in significant side effects such as an upset stomach.

Because your body doesn’t produce vitamin C naturally, it’s important to include it in your diet. For the average adult, the daily recommended amount of vitamin C is 65 to 90 milligrams (mg) per day.

However, this dose may be different during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, so make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

Here are the benefits of vitamin C, how much vitamin C is too much, and who’s at risk for serious complications due to an excess of vitamin C.

How does vitamin C affect the body?

Vitamin C is a powerhouse nutrient the body shouldn’t go without. It has the ability to repair tissue, stimulate the production of white blood cells, and reduce inflammation and other physical effects of stress. Vitamin C can also lower your risk of stroke and help with iron absorption.

“Vitamin C is a critical antioxidant that is involved in the structure and function of nearly every part of the body,” says Beverly Goode-Kanawati, DO, and director and founder of Beverly Medical Center in Raleigh, NC. “For example, vitamin C is needed to create collagen which is the underpinning of structures for everything from the skin to bones.”

Since the body doesn’t create vitamin C on its own, you need to get it in your diet or in supplemental form vitamin C is found in a variety of foods, including:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers

What happens if you take too much vitamin C?

Though vitamin c is an essential nutrient for your body, you can ingest too much of it. Although you cannot technically “overdose” on vitamin C, taking more than the maximum recommended amount of 2,000mg of vitamin C per day may cause uncomfortable side effects, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Heartburn (or acid reflux)
  • Hemolysis (G6PD deficiency is present)
  • Nausea (or vomiting)
  • Headaches
  • Rebound scurvy (in infants born to women taking high doses of vitamin C)
  • Sleeping problems (insomnia)
  • Skin irritation and the formation of blackheads

Because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, you’re less likely to experience vitamin toxicity than you would with potassium, for example. This is because water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are absorbed in the small intestine. In other words, your body uses what it needs from the vitamin and discards the rest through your urine.

“Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and if you take large doses of it, your body will safely excrete it through the urine,” says Dimitar Marinov, MD, Assistant Professor at the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria. “However, taking large doses for long periods can lead to health problems such as hyperoxaluria and kidney stones. If you have a history of kidney stones, avoid vitamin C supplementation.”

Both Marinov and Goode-Kanawati claim negative side effects only occur when you take too much vitamin C in supplemental form and that it’s nearly impossible to consume an excessive dosage of vitamin C in food form.

“The reason is that many supplements contain four to 20 times higher doses than the recommended daily intake,” Marinov says.

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