Vitamin C deficiency, also known as scurvy, occurs when the body doesn’t have enough vitamin C

What Is Vitamin C Deficiency? Causes And Early Symptoms

What Is Vitamin C Deficiency? Causes And Early Symptoms

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a vital nutrient renowned for its significant impact on our health and vitality. Its reputation stems from its role in bolstering the immune system and promoting collagen synthesis. However, what occurs when our body experiences a shortage of this essential nutrient?

Let’s delve into the origins and initial signs of vitamin C deficiency, highlighting why prioritizing this nutrient in our everyday nutrition is imperative.

The Importance of Vitamin C

Before delving into deficiency, it’s crucial to grasp the role of vitamin C in our bodies. Dr. Sanchayan Roy, Senior Consultant in Internal Medicine and Critical Care at the National Heart Institute in New Delhi, highlights its significance: as an antioxidant, vitamin C shields cells from harm induced by free radicals and bolsters the immune system’s resilience against infections.

Furthermore, vitamin C is indispensable for collagen synthesis, promoting the health of skin, blood vessels, bones, and connective tissues. It also facilitates iron absorption and assists in the healing of wounds.

Causes of Vitamin C Deficiency: Insufficient Dietary Consumption

A primary cause of vitamin C deficiency stems from a diet deficient in fruits and vegetables. Given that our bodies cannot manufacture or stockpile vitamin C, we depend on our dietary intake to supply this vital nutrient.

Limited Variety in Diet

Even if you consume fruits and vegetables, a limited variety can still lead to deficiency. Certain foods, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli, are rich sources of vitamin C.

Cooking Methods

Overcooking or prolonged exposure to heat can destroy vitamin C in food. Boiling or cooking at high temperatures can significantly reduce the vitamin content.

Alcohol and Smoking

Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can deplete vitamin C levels in the body. Both alcohol and smoking increase oxidative stress, requiring more vitamin C for antioxidant defence.

Early Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency

Fatigue and Weakness

Experiencing persistent fatigue and weakness, even following sufficient rest, might serve as an initial indicator of vitamin C deficiency. This arises from the vital role vitamin C plays in energy generation and counteracting oxidative stress within the body.

Frequent Infections

Vitamin C serves as a cornerstone for a resilient immune system. A deficiency in this nutrient can heighten vulnerability to infections, leading to increased susceptibility to colds, flu, and various other illnesses.

Slow Wound Healing

According to Journal Antioxidants, vitamin C aids in collagen synthesis, a lack of it can lead to slower wound healing. Cuts and bruises may take longer to heal than usual.

Dry and Damaged Skin

Vitamin C contributes to skin health by supporting collagen production. Deficiency may manifest as dry, rough, or easily bruised skin.

Joint Pain and Muscle Aches

Vitamin C plays a role in maintaining healthy connective tissues. Without sufficient vitamin C, you may experience joint pain and muscle aches.

Swollen and Bleeding Gums

Vitamin C deficiency can weaken blood vessels, leading to swollen and bleeding gums. This condition is known as scurvy and is a severe form of vitamin C deficiency.


Vitamin C enhances the absorption of nonheme iron from plant-based foods. Deficiency can contribute to iron-deficiency anaemia characterised by fatigue and weakness.

Preventing Vitamin C Deficiency

Diversify Your Diet

Include a variety of vitamin C-rich foods in your diet, such as citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, bell peppers, and leafy greens.

Minimise Cooking Losses

Opt for cooking methods that preserve vitamin C content, such as steaming or microwaving.

Avoid Excessive Alcohol and Smoking

Moderation in alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can help preserve vitamin C levels.


If your diet consistently lacks vitamin C, it’s advisable to contemplate taking a vitamin C supplement under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

Although vitamin C deficiency may initially manifest with subtle symptoms, it can escalate into significant health complications if neglected. The multifaceted significance of this essential nutrient in bolstering immunity, fostering collagen synthesis, and providing antioxidant protection underscores its critical role in overall health.

Incorporating a diverse array of vitamin C-rich foods into your diet, employing healthy cooking techniques, and embracing a mindful lifestyle can ensure your body receives the necessary vitamin C to flourish and sustain optimal well-being.