It had been a few years since I’d had a typical blood test done. I was going back and forth between pregnancy and breastfeeding for about five years, so any weariness I was feeling I naturally attributed to those factors.
Not to mention, prenatal vitamins are packed with extra vitamins and minerals of all kinds. So if I was to test my blood at the time, my natural levels wouldn’t be reflected, anyway. However, years later, I found myself feeling more and more drained without a solid clue as to why.
So off I went to the doctor and received a full blood test—much to my surprise, my vitamin C levels were exceptionally low. I had joined the whopping 42% of the U.S. adult population1 that has insufficient vitamin C levels (not a fun club you want to be part of), even though I prioritized daily fruit intake. Once I learned the science behind how vitamin C is absorbed through food, though, I can’t say I was too shocked.
See, the form of vitamin C found in foods (and many supplements) is a form called ascorbic acid. Your body can handle around 300 to 400 milligrams of purely ascorbic acid at a time, which is a useful lower dose found in foods, multivitamins, and other multi-ingredient complexes. But I learned that if you are consuming ascorbic acid in high doses, it can be hard to actually absorb more than your body can handle. And because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, your body won’t store that excess for later use (unlike its fat-soluble cousins vitamins D, E, A, and K). It simply gets flushed out, which is a major bummer.
To say the very least, getting enough vitamin C was much more complicated than I thought.