Sometimes we become so focused on the “latest and greatest” health trends that we lose sight of some of the basic health practices that can help us stay well during cold and flu season. Vitamin C is a prime example of that. For decades, vitamin C has been considered one of the best defenses against colds, flu and other illnesses.

Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is loaded with antioxidants that have been scientifically proven to boost the immune system. Maintaining healthy vitamin C levels during cold and flu season can keep you healthier at a time of year when the immune system tends to be weaker. Taking vitamin C at the onset of a cold can reduce the duration and severity of the symptoms.

Vitamin C also plays a key role in the growth, development and repair of body tissues and is essential to numerous bodily functions including the growth of collagen, the absorption of iron and the maintenance of bones and teeth. Vitamin C affects brain function by aiding in the synthesis of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. Recent research suggests it might even lower cholesterol.

The classic example of vitamin C deficiency is the disease called scurvy that is rarely seen today. Scurvy causes bleeding and inflamed gums, loose teeth, easy bruising, joint pain, muscle wasting and many other problems. Deficiencies are most likely to occur in the elderly and in people who have a history of alcohol abuse. People who smoke and women who use oral contraceptives are also prone to have lower than normal blood levels of vitamin C. High doses of aspirin taken over a long period of time can interfere with vitamin C absorption and may cause a deficiency.

Vitamin C can be found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits, green peppers, strawberries, tomatoes broccoli, cabbage, winter squash and dark leafy greens. Unfortunately most of us don’t get enough vitamin C in our diets so it is a good idea to add vitamin C supplements to our health regimen, especially during the fall and winter months.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control are predicting a long and difficult flu season this year. It will be more important than ever to keep our immune systems strong. Make sure your body has the vitamin C it needs to stay healthy during the coming months.

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