The Vitamin C Illusion

Most people know that, if you start a course of antibiotics for a bacterial infection, you mustn’t skip a dose or stop the course too early. The same is true for vitamin C (and zinc) in relation to colds and flu.

When sceptics says that taking vitamin C, according to meta-analyses of studies, doesn’t reduce the risk of getting a cold this is true. However, these studies of studies do show shorter colds, less severe symptoms and a dose effect. In studies comparing 4 to 6 to 8 grams in 24 hours the higher the dose the more people become ‘symptom-free’ within 24 hours. Also, the more rapidly vitamin C is started from the first signs or symptoms the better.

Those experienced in the use of vitamin C know that you have to start fast, and keep the dose high, as in 1 gram an hour or 2 grams every two hours, with a loading dose of 3+ grams, the goal being to get blood levels of vitamin C high and most importantly keep them continuously high until the symptoms abate.

I had direct experience of this a few weeks ago. Many family members had picked up the type A flu that is going around, and suffered for days, often ending up with a hacking cough, and some then needing antibiotics for a secondary chest infection. Some had dabbled with vitamin C, sometimes taking it, sometimes not, perhaps stopping for several hours, sometimes due to feeling a bit ‘stomachy’, which can happen with high dose vitamin C.

I had the feeling that a virus was ‘nibbling’ at me and kept vitamin C levels, perhaps at 4 to 6 grams a day. Then, when the flu hit hard – headache, blocked sinuses, aching muscles – I went strictly into ‘attack’ mode with 1 gram of my vitamin C (which also contains zinc and black elderberry) an hour, or 2 every two hours, or my vitamin C powder as a drink (4.5 grams a scoop) with zinc, magnesium and berry extracts, which I added to a shot of Cherry Active and ginger juice plus hot water, every 3 or so hours. During the night, when I woke up, I’d take a couple of vitamin C tablets. As almost always happens, I was symptom free within 24 hours.

Unfortunately, no-one has ever done a study on this protocol, which is also what Linus Pauling recommended. The logic is simple – any virus struggles to survive if blood levels of vitamin C are high enough. The quicker you start the lesser the viral load the faster the recovery. If you wait a day or two, or stop taking vitamin C for more than a couple of hours, it just doesn’t work so well.

As vitamin C absorption channels become more saturated (the body laps it up when you need it) you can get more vitamin C in the lower intestines, which can make you loose and a bit gassy or stomachy, but this won’t harm you. Once the infection is over you’ll know you’re taking too much because of excessive loose bowels. Then it’s a sign to lower the daily dose. This is called taking vitamin C up to ‘bowel tolerance’ level.