Vitamin C Intake Reduces Post-Surgical Bleeding
People who have normal blood clotting, but experience excessive bleeding, may be deficient in vitamin C, according to a new report in Surgery.1 While severe vitamin C depletion (known as scurvy) is rarely seen in the United States, this new report suggests subtle vitamin C deficiency may be more common than previously believed.
Over a 12-month period, researchers identified 12 nonsmoking people between 46 and 90 years old with abnormally low blood levels of vitamin C who had experienced abnormal bleeding while being treated on a hospital surgical unit. In most of the participants, the excessive bleeding followed a surgical procedure, but some had not had surgery. Blood tests that measure clotting were normal in all 12 people, demonstrating the abnormal bleeding incidents were not due to hemophilia or any other medical condition that causes bleeding.
After vitamin C levels had been determined, all 12 people were given 250 to 1,000 mg of oral supplemental vitamin C. Within 24 hours of taking vitamin C, the abnormal bleeding subsided. Those who had been receiving blood transfusions to maintain normal red blood cell counts no longer required them. These findings suggest that vitamin C supplementation may rapidly reverse the effects of vitamin C deficiency, including bleeding. The authors recommend a supplement of 500 to 1,000 mg per day of vitamin C for at least a month following surgery and perhaps longer if dietary intake of vitamin C is not sufficient.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient for maintaining the integrity of blood vessel walls and plays a role in the production of collagen, the main protein component of connective tissue. When vitamin C becomes depleted or diminished, collagen does not form properly and becomes unstable and weak, leading to blood vessels that break easily and an increased tendency to bleed. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 60 mg per day for adults and 100 mg per day for smokers and pregnant women. Higher intakes may be necessary for those with specific conditions that may deplete or inhibit absorption of vitamin C.
Those most at risk of developing vitamin C deficiency include the elderly, smokers, heavy alcohol consumers, chronically ill people, fad dieters, or those who eat a diet low in fruits and vegetables, which are rich sources of vitamin C. The authors mention one study that found 20 to 30% of all adult Americans consume less than the RDA of vitamin C. Good dietary sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, green vegetables, peppers, tomatoes, and berries.
The need for vitamin C likely increases during surgery due to increased demand to help heal wounds, fight infection (as vitamin C supports immune function), and possibly assist in metabolizing anesthetics. Although chronic illness may increase the need for vitamin C, it is important to note that not everyone who undergoes surgery is chronically ill and may therefore have different requirements for daily vitamin C intake.
1. Blee TH, Cogbill TH, Lambert PJ. Hemorrhage associated with vitamin C deficiency in surgical patients. Surgery 2002;131:408–12.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of Garlic and Cholesterol: Everything You Need to Know (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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