Vitamin C: Water-Soluble Vitamin Deficiency & Toxicity Symptoms

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  • 0:01 Vitamin C
  • 1:12 Toxicity
  • 2:16 Deficiency
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Vitamin C is soluble in water, so it is easily flushed out of your body. If it is not replenished regularly, it can cause deficiency symptoms, such as scurvy and a reduced ability to fight infection. Toxicity is rare, but can cause GI distress.

Vitamin C

A British person is sometimes referred to as a 'Limey.' Limey is a nickname that was originally attached to a British sailor in the early days of sea travel. In those days, British sailors set out on long voyages and were unable to take along fresh fruits and vegetables. This resulted in a lack of vitamin C in their diets. To avoid health consequences associated with vitamin C deficiency, British sailors added lime juice to their daily rations, earning them the nickname Limeys. In this lesson, we'll learn about vitamin C and take a look at symptoms that can arise if you consume too little or too much of this vitamin.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is needed for the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is a protein that acts like glue and holds you together. To help you recall this important fact, you might want to think of vitamin C as vitamin collagen. This vitamin, which can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, also helps support your immune system. This explains why your mom told you to drink your orange juice - because it contains cold-fighting vitamin C.


Now, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that it is a type of vitamin that dissolves in water, kind of like a teaspoon of sugar dissolves in your glass of iced tea. Your body is a very watery environment, so when you consume vitamin C it moves with ease through your body, and it also flushes out of your body with ease. Because of this, you need to replenish vitamin C regularly for good health.

Now, it was thought for a long time that because water-soluble vitamins are not stored in your body and so easily exit your system when you use the restroom that you could not consume too many of them. However, this original thought has not proven to be entirely correct, particularly if you are taking in high doses of vitamin C supplements. In this case, vitamin C toxicity can cause a few gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps. In other words, too much vitamin C can give you a pretty bad bellyache.


It's more likely that an individual will take in too few of these vitamins and experience symptoms of vitamin C deficiency. Some groups are more susceptible to this deficiency than others. For example, we know that water-soluble vitamins flush out of your system in urine, so it's reasonable to think that consuming a diuretic, such as alcohol, which makes you go to the bathroom more frequently, could deplete these vitamins. This is why alcoholics are a group of people that are more prone to vitamin C deficiency. Cigarette smokers might also need to increase their daily consumption of vitamin C because this vitamin is needed to help break down the harmful compounds found in cigarette smoke.

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