Vitamin C is one of the most well-known vitamins when it comes to boosting the immune system, repairing skin, preventing illness, and fighting disease. From scurvy to strokes and some forms of cancer, vitamin C is an incredible weapon in our health arsenal, but what is less well-known is that it can help in the treatment of mental health issues as well as physical health issues.
Specifically, vitamin C can be used to prevent and treat the symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. But how can something as simple as vitamin C make a difference to something so complex as mental health?
Why Is Vitamin C Good for Mental Health?
There have been lots of scientific studies which have shown that by consuming higher levels of vitamin C, some people experience less stress when presented with challenges or problems to solve.
This is because vitamin C stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine, which improve our mood. It follows that people who are deficient in vitamin C will not have as many of the neurotransmitters and so may experience more stress when faced with the same situation.
How to Increase Your Intake of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is found in a variety of raw vegetables and fruits, including:
- Citrus fruits, e.g., oranges, tangerines and grapefruits
- Brussel sprouts
- Red cabbage
- Chili peppers (red and green)
- Bell peppers (yellow are best while green contain the least vitamin C)
However, an adult would need to eat a minimum of 1,000mg of vitamin C per day for it to have an effect on stress or anxiety, and an orange contains just 70mg. It means while adapting your diet to include more vitamin C could contribute; it’s unlikely that you could consume enough to reach the necessary level.
A more direct option is to take a vitamin C supplement, such as Altrient C by LivOn Labs from abundanceandhealth.co.uk. These vitamins are encapsulated, which means they reach the bloodstream intact, maximising the amount of vitamin C which reaches your cells where they can do their work.
Vitamin C: The Scientific Studies
One such study involved making 120 people solve maths problems while speaking in public simultaneously. Half of the group were given a 1,000mg vitamin C supplement; the other half were given nothing.
People who did have the vitamin C not only said that they did not feel stressed during the exercise but also did not have high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) or high blood pressure. The group who did not take vitamin C showed both higher blood pressure and high cortisol levels.
A study in Brazil for the Journal of Psychiatric Research subjected mice to stressful living conditions for 2 weeks, which resulted in depressive behaviour and altered brain chemistry. In the second week of the study, half of the mice were treated with Prozac and the other half were treated with vitamin C.
The results showed that the vitamin C was as effective at helping the mice recover from and cope with the stress (in terms of reversing their behaviour and brain chemistry) as the Prozac was.