ME/CFS and Supplements 4: Vitamin C

Vitamin C has long been associated with giving health a boost especially when you’re run down or fighting infection. It’s now understood to be a powerful antioxidant and is thought to play a role in the immune system and repairing damaged tissue. In her book ME: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Practical Guide (1988), Dr. Anne MacIntyre also suggests that it can inhibit inflammation and may even act as an antiviral agent. These are all fantastic properties for someone with ME/CFS. Whilst vitamin C isn’t going to be a cure for ME/CFS it will definitely help the body to help itself. My goal with self-help is to help my body enough so that it can reconnect with its innate ability to heal itself.

The question is do we need to take vitamin C as a supplement and if so how much? Vitamin C is available in a huge range of fresh fruit and veg so the more of these we can eat raw or lightly steamed the better:

Broccoli; bell peppers; kale; cauliflower; strawberries; lemons; Brussels sprouts; papaya; chard; cabbage; spinach; kiwifruit; cantaloupe melon; oranges; grapefruit; limes; tomatoes; courgette; raspberries; asparagus; celery; pineapple; lettuce; watermelon; fennel; peppermint and parsley.

We are a bit strange in the animal kingdom as our bodies do not store vitamin C.  Because of this we need to take it in on a daily basis. In general excess vitamin C is easily excreted by the body; however, taking very high doses of vitamin C is thought to have possible dangers.

In the natural world, the animals which produce their own vitamin C will produce up to 10 times their normal amount when their bodies are under some kind of stress. I take this as evidence that my body probably needs several times the recommended daily allowance (of 80mg) because of the constant stress placed on it by ME/CFS. Although I eat a large amount of fresh vegetables, I tend to take between 1 and 2gm of vitamin C dissolved in water spread out over the day, as I take may various doses of other supplements. Large doses of vitamin C (500mg or above) should always be spread out across the day. Also, at this level the body can build up a tolerance and rapid withdrawal could lead to deficiency. So, if you are taking a large dose and decide to stop, it’s a good idea to cut down gradually. 2gms has been set as the upper tolerable limit for this vitamin. Above this level some people start to experience a stomach upset.

There is a controversial school of thought that suggests mega doses of vitamin C (from 2 to 20gm) could be beneficial to many conditions including ME/CFS. Unfortunately, now that the tolerable upper limit has been set at 2000mg (2 gm) science will never give us an answer, as strictly regulated research will not be accepted as ethical for doses higher than this. The following 2 links explore mega dosing of vitamin C in more detail: green girl fights fatigue and health, healing and hummingbirds.

Please remember that this post is not intended as a recommendation. We are all different and different supplements are likely to have a different value for each of us. We must each take responsibility for our own decisions about which ones might be worth investing in, making sure that they are adequately informed. If in doubt consult your doctor or alternative health practitioner, and always consult your doctor if you have any other conditions and/or are taking any kind of medication.

Again, I would recommend that when you choose to take a supplement you introduce each new one, one at a time. I would also suggest that you record your symptoms and general state of wellbeing before and after to observe if and how they make a difference. Every few months, if you are well enough to experiment with not taking it, it’s a good idea to cut it out for a few weeks and see if there are any ill effects. If there are you can resume taking it with confidence, if not you might want to economise.

What are your experiences with vitamin C?

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How vitamin C could be helpful for ME/CFS

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