Stress is an unavoidable part of our fast-paced culture that values hard work and pulling yourself up from your bootstraps! However, chronic stress may have more of an impact on your body and your health than you realize. This feeling of being constantly exhausted may be caused by adrenal fatigue, which over 1 million people in the United States suffer from.
The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys and release several hormones that are important for key functions within the body. They also produce cortisol, a stress-related hormone that helps regulate energy and blood sugar. Cortisol triggers the “fight or flight” response to stress which allows us to spring into action in a dangerous situation. However, chronic stress causes adrenal hormones like cortisol to be over-produced without any time for your body to rest and recover. High levels of stress or anxiety can overwork your adrenals so much so that they aren’t able to keep up and fail to produce enough cortisol, leading to adrenal insufficiency. Frequent exposure to high levels of stress also impairs learning and memory, exhausts the body’s physical resources, and makes people more susceptible to depression.
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If you experience adrenal fatigue (or any stress in your life, for that matter), you’ll want to look into the benefits of vitamin C. Vitamin C not only treats scurvy and gives your immune system a boost, it also supports your adrenals and keeps them functioning properly.
Does Vitamin C Help Adrenal Fatigue?
Ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C, is well-known for its health benefits and is widely used. Vitamin C plays an essential role in activating collagen producing enzymes. Collagen is a key structural protein found in skin, blood vessels, and other tissues. Vitamin C is also necessary for the activation of carnitine for energy production.
Vitamin C is a broad-spectrum antioxidant with the ability to protect DNA and cellular structures from damage caused by free radicals. This is why vitamin C is particularly important when you’re experiencing increased stress, as stress typically increases the amount of free radical damage, energy production, and cellular repair. In fact, vitamin C is necessary for the normalization of cortisol and is used as a cofactor to produce epinephrine and steroid hormones in times of stress. This explains why the adrenal gland contains the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body. When you experience stress, the demand for cortisol increases, so naturally the body will also have a higher demand for vitamin C.
In stressful situations, vitamin C stores can be rapidly depleted. Research has shown that daily vitamin C supplementation can lower blood pressure, help cortisol levels normalize faster, and cause participants to feel less stressed. Other studies have shown that people who take vitamin C supplements do not show the expected physical and mental signs of stress when subjected to acute psychological challenges. They also bounce back from stressful situations faster than those with low levels of vitamin C in their blood.
That said, vitamin C supplements shouldn’t be treated as a magic pill for stress. To see meaningful and long-term benefits, it’s important to take a multi-faceted approach to healing. While taking vitamin C supplements is the first step, learning to manage and/or reduce stress is next on the list. To do so, take up yoga, stretching, or meditation – but make sure to do your relaxing activity of choice at least once daily.
Best Form of Vitamin C for Adrenal Fatigue
Studies have shown that the key to reversing damage caused by adrenal fatigue is stress management. That said, there are some additional ways you can help support healthy adrenal gland function and ease mental stress.
Humans are among the few mammals that are unable to produce vitamin C. Instead, we rely on our nutrition or supplemental intake to maintain stores. You can get vitamin C from a variety of sources, however the kind of vitamin C you use makes a difference – vitamin C is much more than ascorbic acid.
Many people who take in low amounts of fruits and vegetables have suboptimal levels of vitamin C. Foods high in vitamin C include guavas, chili peppers, yellow bell peppers, black currants, thyme, parsley, kale, kiwi, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and more! One eight-ounce glass of fresh orange juice will provide you with 97 milligrams of vitamin C.
This vitamin C as it occurs in nature, is always accompanied by bioflavonoids, which are essential to the metabolization of the ascorbic acid. There should be around 1 mg of bioflavonoids for every 2 mg of ascorbic acid, making the ideal ratio approximately 1:2. The reason bioflavonoids are so important is that they double the effectiveness of ascorbic acid in the body.
However, if you’re trying to heal from adrenal fatigue, you will likely also need to incorporate vitamin C supplementation. Regularly taking vitamin and mineral supplements is a great way to be sure that your body is getting what it needs. Even those of us who meditate daily might need a little bit of help from vitamin C supplements every now and then.
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You can find powdered vitamin C that you mix into liquids, like the Emergen-C Super Orange which comes in individual packets (great for on-the-go!). If powders aren’t your thing, you can also get vitamin C from daily multivitamins, chewy vitamins, or timed release tablets. In fact, the optimal form of vitamin C supplementation is a sustained release that provides a steady and gradual supply of vitamin C, while maintaining the 1:2 ratio of bioflavonoids to ascorbic acid. Trace minerals in the supplement will also balance the acidity of the vitamin C, making it easier on your stomach.
How Much Vitamin C Should You Take for Adrenal Fatigue?
Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means it is quickly used up or excreted from the body. Because of this, it should be consumed multiple times throughout the day. This is especially true if your body is going through any physical, environmental, emotional, or infectious stress or if you know you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue.
The amount of vitamin C your body needs will vary person by person and by stress level. As more stress comes into your life, your body may need higher levels of vitamin C. The current recommended dosage for adults is 60 mg, however a growing body of research suggests that this number is quite outdated. This dosage was set decades ago based on the amount of vitamin C needed to ward off scurvy. Current research suggests that the amount needed to promote health under varying environmental conditions is much higher than the amount needed to prevent deficiencies.
To determine how much vitamin C your body requires, you can perform a simple test called the Vitamin C Loading Test. On the first day of the test, take 500 mg of ascorbic acid plus an additional 250 mg every hour until your bowel movements become loose and somewhat runny. Once you’ve reached this point, reduce your intake of ascorbic acid by 500 mg and add about half the amount of bioflavonoids so you have that 1:2 ratio. This is usually the amount of vitamin C your body needs at this time.
For most people with adrenal fatigue, they land between 2,000 to 4,000 mg (2-4 grams) of ascorbic acid; however, the more severe and chronic your stress is, the more vitamin C you’ll need.
Best Vitamin C Supplements for Adrenal Fatigue
1. Nature's Way Vitamin C-500 w/ Bioflavonoids 250 caps
Nature’s Way Vitamin C supplement has one of the best ascorbic acid to bioflavonoid ratio on the market, with 1 g of vitamin C to every 600 mg of bioflavonoids. It may be a bit pricier, but the amount of bioflavonoid is worth it, especially for those looking to cure their adrenal fatigue. It should be noted that this supplement is not vegetarian-friendly.
2. Health Labs Nutra Extra-Strength Vitamin C 1,000mg with Rose Hips
A close runner up is the Health Labs Nutra Extra-Strength Vitamin C tablets. These tablets contain 1 g of ascorbic acid and 530 mg of citrus bioflavonoids. This supplement will provide you with all the bioflavonoids your body needs to make the most out of the vitamin C.
3. Viva Naturals Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids and Rose Hips, Quali®-C from Scotland, 1000mg, 250 Veg Caps
Viva Naturals Vitamin C capsules are a more affordable way to get your vitamin C fix. They contain 1 g of ascorbic acid with a proprietary blend of bioflavonoids and rose hips. These capsules are small and easy to swallow, but can also be opened up and sprinkled on to room-temperature food. Lastly, they’re made with coconut oil and are totally veg-friendly.