The Vanishing Period

This is the story of losing and regaining my period. I am sharing this tale in the hopes that my story will resonate with a friend or follower who currently doesn’t experience her monthly bleed. I challenge that woman to take an interest in reclaiming that power and health. You can also read along if you’re simply interested, for whatever reason. ūüėČ

The Beginning

My first “visit” arrived in the 5th or 6th grade. I really can’t pinpoint my age, but I do remember calling for my mom from the bathroom while still sitting on the toilet. “Mom, I got my period!”. She entered the room, looked at me sympathetically and said, “Okay, no big deal!”, then handed me a pad. I know she was just trying to make me feel comfortable, but I couldn’t help feeling awkward and unsure about becoming a “woman”. Little did I know I wouldn’t become a “woman” again until I was nearly 30…

The Vanishing

As far as I remember, I had normal, light periods throughout junior high and high school. Although, I’d be surprised if I didn’t experience anovulation (sporadic missed periods due to not ovulating) here and there. Fast forward to late college though- I’m managing a salon, attending classes full-time, and paying private out-of-pocket tuition all by myself. I wasn’t sleeping well, maybe 4-5 hours a night at best. On top of all of this, I was barely eating. I recall going through a phase of only consuming 1 plain packet of oatmeal for breakfast (made with water), working a 12 hour shift, then maybe having a snack before bed. I was starved and stressed, and so was my reproductive system (the last thing on my mind at the time).

This chronic stress caused me to develop hypothalamic amenorrhea (the absence of your period for 3+ months due to hypothalamus insufficiencies). I didn’t think much about my missing period. Heck, I thought it was kind of awesome not getting one in my early 20s. I didn’t have to buy tampons, so I saved money there. I also escaped the monthly woes of the dreaded bleed, including mood swings, cramps, breakouts, cravings, etc. Bonus points for not having to worry about it interfering with sex! Hey-o! Not getting a period was great, or so I thought.

A Story Within a Story

I met my husband in the winter of 2011. We did long distance from Chicago to Nashville for about a year, and then I moved to Tennessee to be with him. In the following years, I started training for marathons. Boy did I love running and the stress release it provided. In fact, I still do. When training for and running my first marathon, I could barely finish due to under fueling. I was incredibly tired and drained. Plus, my recovery was killer from the lack of nutrients and depletion. I’m actually shocked I didn’t injure myself that first training cycle, especially because amenorrhea can have adverse effects on bone density (something I wasn’t aware of or cared about at the time).

As my training and experience progressed throughout my 9 marathon training cycles, I came to realize that I was not going to get faster without proper fueling. This realization, a couple of injuries, and the desire to recover from my eating disorder made me dive deep into nutrition research, ¬†purchase my favorite “Run Fast. Eat Slow.” cookbook, and it even inspired me to major in nutrition & dietetics! ūüôā

I proceeded to learn how to properly fuel my body and ALL of its systems with what it needs- macro + micronutrient- wise. I gained a bit of weight, and guess what? I ran my fastest race and qualified for the Boston Marathon! In April 2019, I PRed at Boston with a 3:21.. Do you know what else? I had regained my period a couple of years prior leading up to that, which I attribute to my bone health, injury prevention, hormonal balance, increased energy levels, a quicker recovery time and improved athletic performance. Regaining my period was a blessing in disguise, and I never take its presence for granted now. Here’s more info on Why You Shouldn’t Dread Your Period, and to even embrace it for what it’s doing for you, your overall health, and your ability to conceive if you so wish.

The Takeaway

What I have learned from my hypothalamic amenorrhea was that just because it didn’t appear to be doing damage, the absence of a period can cause long-term health consequences. These consequences include, but are not limited to: infertility, osteopenia or osteoporosis, thyroid issues, adrenal disorders, PCOS, and hormonal imbalances. I was lucky that my running injuries were fairly minor and that I didn’t suffer any stress fractures. The plan is to get a DEXA scan to check my bone density. I’m hoping there is no serious damage or signs of onset osteopenia/osteoporosis.

While amenorrhea occurs naturally while pregnant and breastfeeding, it should be taken seriously as a health concern when caused by an eating disorder, extreme exercise, being underweight, medications, stress, and sometimes birth control (among other causes). Many OBGYNs claim that there is nothing wrong with the absence of a period while on birth control, but I strongly suggest that you educate yourself on how birth control works and what that means for your body. For example, hormonal birth control suppresses ovulation (an entire phase of your cycle) and therefore induces a “withdrawal bleed” during your placebo week. In other words, you are not getting a real period on birth control. This is something to think about.

My last message about amenorrhea is to not take it lightly like I did in my early 20s. Having the mentality that you are saving money on sanitary products, avoiding period symptoms, and changing the game with your lifestyle and sex schedule can be detrimental and negligent to your long-term health. I know it is difficult to adopt a new perspective after learning new information, but I promise you it’s worth the investment in yourself and your health. If anything, do me a favor and educate yourself, continue to learn, then make changes that are right for you and your body.

Please feel free to reach out without questions regarding amenorrhea, and check out my previous post, “I Don’t Have a Period. Now What?“.

 

Disclaimer: The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

 

5 Nutrients to Support Your Period

Premenstrual and menstrual symptoms can be less than manageable. Heck, I know plenty of women who have such debilitating symptoms, they’ve taken off school or work at some point. That’s crazy. We should be able to use those days for a mental health reset or when we’re actually sick with other illnesses. So, how can we begin to minimize and alleviate these symptoms to save our sick and PTO days?¬†Nutrition is one of the large pieces to completing this puzzle. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Water

Did you know that water is a nutrient? It sure is! It’s okay if you didn’t, but is it that much of a surprise? We NEED water to survive, and our bodies are made of 60-70% of the stuff! When we are properly hydrated during our periods, we decrease our chances of cramping. This is because we aren’t retaining water and decrease bloating. Water can also help with muscle function, which the uterus is! (well, partly).

2. Omega-3s

Consuming foods high in omega 3s (fatty fish like salmon and tuna, flaxseeds, chia seeds, soybeans, etc.) has been proven to reduce menstrual pain, help with depression and mood swings, and is a great support for brain health which may help with lessening the incidence of headaches!¬Ļ

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a bright yellow spice known for its unique flavor in Middle Eastern dishes, its anti-inflammatory properties, and its ability to be used as a clothing dye. Ya, it stained my nails from dinner last night…the only downside, but I digress. The antioxidant compound in turmeric is called curcumin. In larger doses, curcumin has been shown to reduce oxidative muscle damage and aid in healing and recovery by decreasing inflammation. This can help with period cramps since the uterus is a muscular organ.

*HOT TIPS* If you don’t like the taste of turmeric, you can purchase a turmeric supplement. Just make sure that black pepper (pepperdine) is present in the formula because it makes it more bioavailable and easier to absorb for us! Same goes for when you are cooking with turmeric or even make a turmeric “golden” latte- add a pinch of pepper!

4. Iron

Iron is the number one nutrient women are deficient in, partially because we lose iron when we menstruate through blood. Here are some great food sources to add to your diet to receive proper amounts of iron:

  • grass-fed beef
  • lentils & legumes
  • shellfish
  • liver & organ meats
  • turkey
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • dark chocolate
  • tofu¬Ļ

**HOT TIP** consuming vitamin C increases iron bioavailability. Example: bell peppers with tofu- yum!

5. Magnesium

Studies have shown that magnesium both eases period cramps and decreases the prostaglandins (lipids that act like hormones) that cause those contractions and cramping. So not only does magnesium alleviate the symptoms, but it addresses one of the root causes.

Foods high in magnesium include:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • almonds
  • spinach
  • cashews
  • dark chocolate
  • avocado
  • nuts and seeds
  • tofu
  • whole grains¬≤

Nutrition can greatly influence how our body operates and feels, with menstrual symptoms being no exception. Water, omega 3s, turmeric, iron, and magnesium are nutrients that can aid in cramp and unfavorable symptom reduction. Please consult with your doctor if you are currently taking any medications to avoid food/drug interactions, and feel free to reach out with questions with how to incorporate these into your diet!

Disclaimer: The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Resources

1.Ferguson, S. (2019, July 16). What to Eat During Your Period: Fish, Leafy Greens, Yogurt, and More. Retrieved August 04, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/what-to-eat-during-period

2. Spritzler, F. (n.d.). 10 Magnesium-Rich Foods That Are Super Healthy. Retrieved August 04, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-foods-high-in-magnesium

Why You Shouldn’t Dread Your Period

A period- something found at the end of a sentence or at the end of a menstrual cycle. *Ugh* is what every woman just said in their head after reading that sentence. If your exasperation was audible, then you are probably all too familiar with the woes of the red monster. But what if we reframed how we felt about our period and took control of our experience with it? Hear me out.

Our period is a sign of reproductive health, so much so that the¬†American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) has proposed clinicians should consider one’s menstruation as the fifth vital sign (along with body temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure).¬Ļ Whoa. That’s a bold statement. This tells us that there’s something to be said about the presence of a healthy period.

Amenhorrea is the opposite- the absence of your period. It naturally occurs during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and when menopause occurs. Additional causes of amenhorrea could be birth control (another great blog post to come) and other medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and blood pressure drugs. Structural abnormalities can also cause issues with menstruation.

If a woman has amenhorrea at any other time, this indicates an underlying issue. Whether its a hormonal imbalance, weight concerns (over or underweight), nutrition deficiencies, overexercising, or stress, something is causing either anovulation (when no egg is released during ovulation) or a skipped menses. ²

Aside from the obvious sign of a missed period, some other signs and symptoms that accompany this include:

  • hair loss
  • headaches
  • vision changes
  • facial hair
  • pelvic pain
  • acne
  • nipple discharge¬†¬≤

Now, after learning that getting your period is HEALTHY and considered the fifth pillar of female health, are you beginning to appreciate its presence more? What about the fact that having your period indicates you are reproductively equipped to reproduce should you so desire? Yes, I completely understand and respect that not all women want children (I might be one of them!), but the fact that our bodies are staying healthy enough for ourselves and that option is incredible.

Benefits of Having a Period

  • reproductive health
  • bone health (hormones aid in maintaining bone density)
  • thyroid & adrenal health
  • being able to track your cycle and leverage you energy levels, creativity, sex drive, and more!
  • you can better understand and make sense of your emotional state¬†¬≥

If you do not have a period at the moment. Don’t fret. Contact your primary care physician and OB to rule out any medical condition, then turn to your diet and other lifestyle choices to help the return of the red sea. ūüėČ

So, after reading this, do you appreciate what us women tend to demonize? Reframe and take control ladies! Your period is normal, natural and something to be talked about and celebrated, not shunned!

Disclaimer: The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

References

  1. Vartan, S. (2020, March 16). Doctors Think Your Period Should Be a Fifth Vital Sign. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://elemental.medium.com/doctors-think-your-period-should-be-a-fifth-vital-sign-5b882c864783
  2. Amenorrhea. (2019, July 25). Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/amenorrhea/symptoms-causes/syc-20369299
  3. Network, W. (n.d.). Health benefits of regular menstrual periods. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.womenshealthnetwork.com/pms-and-menstruation/health-benefits-regular-periods.aspx

 

Let’s Talk About PMS.

PMS. It is the dreaded acronym to every woman who has ever experienced it. PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome. It is a condition that can alter your emotional, mental, physiological AND physical states. Did you know that PMS symptoms are not normal? I didn’t either up until this past year. I bought into the story we’re told as young girls that PMS is part of it all. This is FALSE! Think about it. Our bodies are so intricately designed to perform on an optimal cellular level to keep us alive. Why would it fail us when it comes to reproductive health?

Pre-, meaning before, and menstrual, meaning your period, means that PMS is experienced the week leading up to your bleed. Signs and symptoms can range from mood swings to extreme physical discomfort. Refer to the list below for the slew of possible signs and symptoms.

Signs & Symptoms of PMS

  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • bloating
  • acne
  • abdominal pain or discomfort
  • sore breasts
  • food cravings
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • heightened senses to light, smell, taste
  • skin sensitivity
  • fatigue
  • trouble sleeping
  • depression
  • behavioral changes¬Ļ

*Among many others. PMS has been associated with nearly 200 hundred signs and symptoms! Every woman experiences this differently.

On average, 47.8% of women experience chronic PMS symptoms. The highest recorded prevalence rate was 98%.²

These numbers are staggeringly high for a syndrome that shouldn’t be making an appearance at all, let alone every 21 days. So what is the cause of PMS that is plaguing women on a global scale?

Possible Causes of PMS

  • hormonal fluctuations/imbalances
  • neurotransmitter changes
  • anemia
  • endometriosis
  • thyroid disease
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • connective tissue or rheumatologic diseases¬Ļ
  • eating disorders
  • vitamin or mineral deficiencies

Ways To Treat Symptoms

  1. First and foremost, you know I’m going to suggest reevaluating your diet. Removing or minimizing fast food, foods high in sodium and saturated fats, sugar, caffeine and alcohol should be your first move. It doesn’t sound fun, but let’s focus on what you can ADD to your diet. Adding foods that are rich in magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins have been shown to reduce PMS symptoms.

These foods include:

  • dark chocolate (woohoo! Just make sure it’s over 70% and low in sugar)
  • avocado
  • spinach
  • almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • salmon
  • wheat germ
  • black cohosh (a medicinal root, also found as a supplement, shown in some studies to help relieve menopause and PMS symptoms)
  • low-sugar yogurt
  • citrus fruits
  • bananas
  • brown rice
  • shellfish
  • legumes

Just to name a few…

2. Secondly, moving your body can help relieve symptoms, boost endorphins, and even metabolize excess estrogen that could be the culprit of some symptoms. Walking or doing light yoga is ideal during this time of your cycle, but you choose a form of movement that feels good for you.

3. Drunk up, buttercup! Staying hydrated can help with bloating, water retention, and abdominal pain. Aim to drink 1mL for every calorie you consume, or from 1,500-2,000mL (1.5-2L) per day.

4. Mayo Clinic suggests acupuncture as an alternative treatment to relieve symptoms.¬≥ (I can’t wait to try this).

5. Reduce stress to decrease cortisol levels, which has an effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. One again, stress management looks different for every individual. Pick a few ways to manage stress that works FOR YOU.

6. Catch those Zzz’s! I’ve said it in many other posts, but sleep is so very important in our overall health and wellbeing. It’s the third pillar of health after diet & exercise. Sleep is when our brains detoxify, which can affect our neurotransmitters! If you recall, neurotransmitter changes (such as a dip in serotonin and dopamine levels) can be one of the root causes of PMS.

6. If holistic measures do not work for you, talking to a doctor about antidepressants, NSAIDs, or diuretics may help those with underlying issues and severe conditions.

Conclusion

If you’ve experienced PMS symptoms and do not want to live with these predictable symptoms anymore, try some of these remedies out. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I am happy to help, and keep in mind that I’ll be accepting nutrition clients come next Feb/March to help alleviate these issues through food!

Take care. Be safe, and stay healthy, friends! ‚̧

Disclaimer: The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

References

  1. Higuera, V. (2027, June 05). Premenstrual Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/premenstrual-syndrome
  2. A DM, K S, A D, Sattar K. Epidemiology of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Study [published correction appears in J Clin Diagn Res. 2015 Jul;9(7):ZZ05]. J Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(2):106-109. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/8024.4021
  3. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). (2020, February 07). Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premenstrual-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20376780

Women Have Testosterone Too!

Testosterone, a male sex hormone that many think is only produced in, well, men is also produced by women. Testosterone in women is made and secreted by the ovaries, just like estrogen. This hormone actually aids in growth and maintenance, muscle building, reproductive health, bone mass, mood balance and even influences behavior. So yes, as women, we need this hormone. It’s when testosterone is too low or found in excess in women that it becomes a problem.

Signs and symptoms of high testosterone:

  • excess body and/or facial hair
  • hair thinning/loss/balding
  • acne
  • enlarged clitoris
  • decrease in breast size
  • deepening of the voice
  • increased muscle mass
  • irregular periods
  • mood swings
  • low libido ¬Ļ

Some causes of elevated testosterone:

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • adrenal and thyroid disorders
  • certain medications

*genetics and insulin resistance can also be risk factors¬†¬Ļ

What can I do?

Elevated testosterone can be diagnosed through a routine blood test. From there, adjusting your lifestyle and habits could be the first proactive step to influence your hormonal status.

  • Take a step back from intense exercise. Instead, try walking for a bit until you feel better and your hormones balance out.
  • Consult with a dietitian to achieve a healthy weight to support your reproductive organs and system.
  • Aim to consume phytoestrogens to help raise estrogen levels and decrease testosterone. Minimize foods that metabolize estrogen, such as cruciferous vegetables (just for the time being).
  • Add healthy fats to your diet that support endocrine function and reproductive health, such as avocados, nuts and seeds, tahini, coconut milk, etc.

Phytoestrogens

Here is a list of phytoestrogens that may help raise low estrogen levels and decrease elevated testosterone levels.

  • Seeds! Flaxseed meal, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds
  • Fruits, such as strawberries, apricots, and oranges
  • Dairy
  • Soy products, mainly tofu, soybeans, and tempeh
  • Vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and kale
  • Lentils and legumes
  • Chickpeas
  • Olives and olive oil

So, what questions do you have? Leave them for me to answer, contemplate, and research for you. I am happy to assist! XO -Danielle

 

Estrogen Dominance: What Is It, and What Can I Do About It?

Estrogen dominance. It’s a term used to describe elevated estrogen levels within the body, for females or males. Estrogen dominance can also imply normal levels of estrogen in comparison to lower levels of progesterone at times throughout the menstrual cycle when progesterone is supposed to be the dominant sex hormone.

Signs and Symptoms of High Estrogen (for women):

  • irregular periods
  • bloating
  • weight gain
  • fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping
  • breast tenderness
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • hair loss
  • low libido
  • benign cysts¬†development in breasts
  • heightened PMS symptoms
  • headaches
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • cold hand or feet
  • memory issues ¬Ļ

Signs and Symptoms of High Estrogen (for men):

  • breast tenderness
  • breast enlargement
  • infertility
  • erectile dysfunction¬Ļ

These symptoms, especially a collection of them, are indicative of elevated estrogen. I always suggest contacting you primary care physician or OB to get a hormone analysis done to confirm this, but you can also tackle this issue with holistic approaches.

Holistic Approaches:

  1. Move more! Exercise aids in estrogen metabolism by releasing it from fat cells. Don’t worry. It’s not necessary to partake in vigorous exercise if that isn’t your style. Simply adding steps to your day (a common goal is 10,000 steps) works wonders in the long run.
  2. Try to avoid xenoestrogens, chemical compounds that mimic estrogen and cause endocrine disruption. Endocrines are glands that release these hormones, so if you have chemicals in your body that block or impair endocrine gland function, then your hormones will surely be out of wack. Xenoestrogens are found in plastic water bottles and food containers, beauty and cleaning products, and sunscreen (just to name a few). Do some research and buy brands with labels that say non-toxic and plant-based on them. Decreasing your toxic-load can do wonders!
  3. Chill out! Find things that help you relax and works for you. A sheet mask might sound idyllic to one person, while it sounds like a claustrophobic, goopy mess to another. Stress-management will help decrease cortisol production. In order for your body to make cortisol, progesterone is compromised in the process. If you engage in stress-reducing activities and some R&R, you will help save some of your progesterone.
  4. Catch enough Zzzz’s. Getting enough sleep will also lower your cortisol levels and keep your body regulated and in homeostasis. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep/night, with no one being an exception to how they operate or seem to succeed off less. Sleep is when our brains detoxify, our muscles recover, and our body rests and resets for the following day.

Foods For Estrogen Metabolism:

Here is a list of foods that can help metabolize estrogen and balance out your levels with progesterone. Estrogen is mainly metabolized in the liver and is then excreted through urine and feces.

  • Cruciferous vegetables (Wait a minute…I thought this was on the list for foods to eat for LOW ESTROGEN. Interestingly enough, cruciferous veggies can help those with low estrogen and those with high estrogen, as they act as both phytoestrogens and help estrogen metabolizers. Crazy paradox, right?). Here are some examples of cruciferous veggies.
    • broccoli
    • cauliflower
    • kale
    • arugula
    • watercress
    • cabbage
    • Brussel sprouts
  • ¬†Mushrooms
  • Red grapes
  • Red wine!
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Green tea
  • Pomegrantes¬†¬≤
  • Seaweed (nori) ¬≥
  • Shellfish
  • Coffee ‚Āī

Still confused whether you have low or high levels of estrogen? I get it, the signs and symptoms are very similar. Once again, it’s a great idea to get checked out before assuming; However, positive lifestyle changes such as getting more sleep, stress reduction and management, avoiding xenoestrogens, and exercising more can’t hurt. ūüėČ and don’t forget my favorite part- the foods you can add to your diet! I want you to focus on what you can add to benefit your health and energy levels rather than restricting anything. Let me know if you have any general questions.

P.S. I started my internship today, so only 952 hours until I’m through! haha and that much closer to being able to counsel you on a personal and customized level. Woohoo!

Next Up…

“Women Produce Testosterone Too”

References

  1. Healthline. 2020. Signs And Symptoms Of High Estrogen: Diagnosis, Treatment, And More. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/high-estrogen#causes&gt; [Accessed 20 July 2020].
  2. Healthline. 2020. 7 Foods For Lowering Estrogen Levels In Men. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/anti-estrogen-diet-men&gt; [Accessed 20 July 2020].
  3. Jane Teas, Thomas G. Hurley, James R. Hebert, Adrian A. Franke, Daniel W. Sepkovic, Mindy S. Kurzer, Dietary Seaweed Modifies Estrogen and Phytoestrogen Metabolism in Healthy Postmenopausal Women,¬†The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 139, Issue 5, May 2009, Pages 939‚Äď944,¬†https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.108.100834
  4. Sisti JS, Hankinson SE, Caporaso NE, et al. Caffeine, coffee, and tea intake and urinary estrogens and estrogen metabolites in premenopausal women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015;24(8):1174-1183. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0246

COVID-19 & Vitamin C

COVID-19 & Vitamin C

Moving on to another hot topic regarding COVID and nutrition- today I’m telling all about vitamin C! Nope, not the infamous graduation song singer. The vitamin. (bad joke, I know). ūüėČ

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is utilized primarily as an antioxidant. Antioxidants fight free radicals, toxins and stress that oxidize and damage cellular function. Vitamin C is considered an essential micronutrient because our bodies don’t produce it. Instead, we must rely on our diet or oral supplementation for our daily dose.

Dietary sources of vitamin C:

  • Citrus fruits (such as lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges)
  • ¬†Berries
  • Papaya
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach¬Ļ

*If you are not consuming enough of these foods, a multivitamin should do the trick. The DRI (Daily Recommended Intake) for men is 90 mg, while the DRI for women is 75 mg.¬Ļ Just double check your multi-vit label.

Many of us have heard to take vitamin C when we feel like we’re coming down with something. Whether it’s drinking OJ or chugging Emergen-C, this is luckily a common knowledge remedy. And it’s true! Science has shown that vitamin C consumption does work as a weak antihistamine, relieving flu and cold-like symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose, and congestion or swollen nasal cavities.¬≤ But vitamin C does much more than fight off foreign invaders…

The functions of this vitamin include:

  • Acts as an antioxidant
  • “Recharges” enzymes
  • Collagen synthesis
  • Precursor to hormone production and secretion
  • Needed for formation of blood vessels, cartilage, and muscles
  • Essential for wound healing
  • Neurotransmitter
  • Hormone synthesis
  • Aids in iron absorption and storage
  • Anti-carcinogen
  • Protects against heart disease¬Ļ

As far as COVID prevention is concerned…

Different studies showed that ascorbic acid (vitaminC) positively affects the development and maturation of T-lymphocytes, in particular NK (Natural Killer) cells involved in the immune response to viral agents. It also contributes to the inhibition of ROS production and to the remodulation of the cytokine network typical of systemic inflammatory syndrome.²

While vitamin C cannot outright prevent contracting COVID-19, it has a significant influence on how your immune system responds to and fights the virus cells if you do become infected.

The classic symptoms of COVID-19 thus far are fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, a myriad of other signs and symptoms have been reported around the world. According to the CDC, these symptoms include, but are not limited to chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and loss of taste and smell. Critical illness complications are not typically discussed, but The National Institute of Health has an entire page on these, two relative conditions being sepsis and pneumonia.

Septic shock develops due to an infection. It displays itself as low blood pressure and organ failure. “It is estimated that 40% of critically ill patients with septic shock have serum vitamin C levels that suggest scurvy (<11.3 őľmol/l).” Therefore, vitamin C supplementation could be beneficial for this group.¬≤

But what does this have to do with COVID? Good question. COVID-19 is a viral strain that causes an upper and/or lower respiratory infection, among other signs and symptoms. Sepsis develops due to infection, so it is quite possible for COVID patients who are in critical condition can develop sepsis and display vitamin C deficiency.

The University of Palermo in Sicily, Italy has decided to treat their COVID patients by administering 10 grams of vitamin C in 250 ml of saline to infuse at a rate of 60 drops/minute. This was decided after a preliminary double-blind study was conducted on 167 patients with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome back in October of 2019. The trial treated randomized patients with COVID pneumonia with 50 mg/kg every 6 h of high dose intravenous vitamin C (HDIVC) for 4 days versus placebo. By day 28, 46.3% of the placebo cases resulted in fatal conclusions, while 29.8% represented the mortality rate for those treated with vitamin C.² Those treated with vitamin C had a 36% lower rate of mortality.

Other studies have implemented similar doses with the addition of a glucocorticoid to fight inflammation and carb-restricted diet (usually parenterally administered, or through an IV).³

Vitamin C Supplementation Risks

Vitamin C toxicity is unlikely because it is not stored in the body; however excessive vitamin C dosing can lead to cramping, diarrhea, nausea, and even kidney stones in some long-term cases.

Possible food and drug interactions include the following:

  • Aluminum, found in phosphate binders, that could be harmful to dialysis patients
  • Chemotherapy
  • Estrogen
  • Protease inhibitors
  • Statins and niacin
  • Warfarin (aka Coumadin)¬Ļ

*Please consult with your physician before taking vitamin C.

Summary

While vitamin C has traditionally been used to ward off the onset of mild cold and flu symptoms, it has not been proven to prevent contracting COVID-19. However, vitamin C has been shown to increase the amount of T-lymphocytes and Natural Killer cells, which both assist the innate immune system in attacking viral-infected cells. Vitamin C also attenuates oxidative stress and inflammation. Lastly, in terms of prevention, this powerhouse helps modulate cell signaling by improving cytokine (hormone-like protein involved in the immune response) production and function.

Further studies are currently underway in the midst of this global pandemic, with many hospitals actively treating their COVID patients intravenously with vitamin C along with other biomedical treatments. So far, the results indicate that vitamin C can lower mortality rates for critically-ill patients.

Does this mean that you should dose with vitamin C? Nope! While it doesn’t hurt in suggested amounts, you can simply incorporate more foods and beverages that contain vitamin C or get your daily fix through a multivitamin.

Photo by Bruna Branco on Unsplash

References

  1. Vitamin C. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-c/art-20363932. Published October 18, 2017. Accessed May 20, 2020.
  2. Rossetti CA, Real JP, Palma SD. High Dose Of Ascorbic Acid Used In Sars Covid-19 Treatment: Scientific And Clinical Support For Its Therapeutic Implementation. Ars Pharmaceutica. 2020;61(2):145-148. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.30827/ars.v61i2.15164
  3. Erol A. High-dose intravenous vitamin C treatment for COVID-19. Erol Project Development House for the disorders of energy metabolism. 2020. doi:10.31219/osf.io/p7ex8