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Scurvy is classified as “relatively rare”, however more and more people are presenting with scurvy symptoms which go away when vitamin C is administered. It is becoming so common in fact, that it’s predicted that everyone knows someone with scurvy or who has had scurvy at some point in their lives. Yet, no one is talking about it. The diagnosis of scurvy requires a diagnosis from a medical doctor. It used to be common to get scurvy, most common in early exploration sailors who were at sea for months upon months, having no access to fresh fruit and vegetables, a common source of food based vitamin C. This was most visibly seen in the early 1500s when sailors were navigating large oceans, sailors were getting restless in their normal behavior, suffering from exhaustion, bleeding gums, heavy bruising, weakness in their muscles and pain in their joints to the point that they had a difficult time working on the boat. They would reach shore, eat foods with vitamin C and recover. This was most evident in those circumnavigating the globe, land in The Keys, South of Miami, eat the abundant limes growing on the trees wild and become vibrant with health again. 


Some scientists look at molecules, and only molecules. They believe a chemical is a chemical, no matter the source. They say since our food is fortified with loads of vitamin C, it’s near impossible to acquire scurvy today. Yet we see absorption of synthetic vitamins at an all time low due to Intestinal Permeability, AKA Leaky Gut. Fruit is picked too early to accommodate shipping and display time, more and more chemicals and pesticides are incorporated into our foods, we have a serious situation of processed foods consumption, food items that look like food and poor health results. Eating dead food can not fill a person with life. Fruits picked early are higher in starch instead of nutrition. The greatest nutrient content in fruit happens when the fruit is left to ripen on the tree. The trouble with this is the fruit then goes rotten quickly. Fruit and vegetables are best grown at home, picked when ripe and eaten in season. 

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The symptoms of scurvy include:

Bleeding gums – Bright red gums, bleeding while flossing and bleeding while brushing all point to a vitamin C deficiency.

Excessive bleeding – If you cut yourself and it bleeds a lot, or if you are a woman who sees a lot of bleeding during her menstrual cycle, it could be a vitamin C deficiency. We are seeing more and more young women bleeding for much longer than they should during menstruation. We are also seeing more children with bloody noses and profuse bloody noses which are stopped after taking higher doses of vitamin C. Bleeding also includes things such as easy bruising and red spots below the skin.

Blood vessels and broken blood vessels in the sclera – The sclera is the white portion of the eyeball. If it is pink in tone, has broken blood vessels or just doesn’t appear clear, it’s reflective of the health of the body, pointing to something going on internally. We often see great clearing of this area with additional vitamin C.

Raised red bumps or swelling over the hair follicle with corkscrew hair growing out of the follicle is a vitamin C deficiency. 

Other symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency include lethargy, confusion, tooth loss, reduction in appetite, low grade fever, chest pain, slower wound healing, shortness of breath, sensitivity to bright lights, dry eyes, headaches as well as other symptoms.

Canadian Family Physician reported a case study of 47-year-old male who come to the hospital with lethargy, heavy bruising, anorexia, confusion and additional recent weight loss of 13 pounds. He was very thin. His diet was fairly consistent and what most folks would classify as on the healthier side as far as food goes. He drank coffee for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch of either egg salad, ham and cheese or peanut butter and banana along with a glass of 2% milk. For dinner he had some frozen lasagna or cooked himself some steak. He ate crackers for snacks and consumed 8 to 10 beers a day.

The journal reported, “Ascorbic acid plays an essential role in the hydroxylation of collagen. This crucial biochemical pathway enables each collagen fibril to form a uniform and flexible triple helix configuration in the body’s connective tissues. Some tissues such as skin, gums, mucus membranes, and bones contain a greater concentration of collagen and thus are more susceptible to deficiencies.”

They go on to say, “Humans are unable to synthesize ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid can be easily destroyed by heat; therefore, many foods can lose their ascorbic acid content because of cooking, storage, or oxidation. Ascorbic acid is absorbed from the intestinal tract and has a biological half-life of approximately 30 minutes. There is no storage site in the body; however, some tissues carry higher concentrations (white blood cells, adrenal glands, pituitary gland).”

Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings says scurvy is uncommon in the United States and, “Is often underdiagnosed.” They reported a case study of a 65-year-old man who ate a diet heavy in carbohydrates and was consistently under a physician’s care. He was diagnosed with scurvy due to great hemorrhages. He had a history of anxiety and depression. 

Neurology Clinical Practice presented a case study of a 3-year-old autistic boy who developed weakness in his foot which advanced to hip pain that prevented him from walking. He had extreme weakness, swollen gums, bad breath, a petechial rash and intense pain with light touch. Vitamin C was administered and symptoms improved. 

They reported another case study of a 19-year-old man who presented with upper back pain, fatigue, decreased concentration, vertigo, occipital headaches, and weakness. He had a tremor in his hand, was very thin and had lost more weight recently. They reported, “Ascorbic acid was deficient at 0.1 mg/dL. The patient started vitamin C supplements and the scapular winging, fatigue, and concentration improved.”

They further reported 7 more cases with similar situations. 

The Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma says, “Scurvy is caused by prolonged severe dietary deficiency of vitamin C. Being rare as compared to other nutritional deficiencies, it is seldom suspected and this frequently leads to delayed recognition of this disorder. Children with abnormal dietary habits, mental illness or physical disabilities are prone to develop this disease.”

The Journal of General Internal Medicine reported a case study of scurvy saying, “We report the case of a 57-year-old male who presented with a combined vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) and a Zinc deficiency.” They reported, since the man was 57 and single that it, “Demonstrates specific populations at risk: single adults and the elderly with deficient diets.”

The Journal of Surgical Case Reports showcased another case of scurvy in a 35-year-old rushed to the emergency room of a Level 1 trauma center with spontaneous bruising following the flu with subsequent lethargy so great he could not work.

They reported, “Nowadays, scurvy is not a common diagnosis in the civilized world, but this case report indicates that this old-fashioned disease is not extinct at all and still exists but in a different patient category.” One of their main points of discussion stated, “Scurvy should be considered in risk groups, e.g. singles, patients with eating disorder, students, elderly, alcohol abusers and patients after gastric surgery.”

Knowing that nutrient deficiencies, food intolerances, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBD, crohn’s disease, celiac disease, allergies, autism, ADHD and the other diseases which originate at the intestinal tract are at an all time high. In cases like these, it is common for people to not get the nutrients from their food. Secondary nutritional deficiencies, not getting the nutrition from the food you eat, are normal. Scurvy may be overlooked because we are so advanced in our society ways however, our own advances may be the source of a problem many are seeing in their daily lives but don’t know what is actually happening. 

On December 6, 2011, an 8-year-old boy from Wales died from scurvy. He had previously suffered pains that were determined to be growing pains and he was prescribed painkillers which didn’t benefit his suffering. After collapsing on December 6th, his parents called 999. The ambulance arrived at his home, paramedics reported him unconscious and not breathing. He had bruising on his ankle and knee and his legs were swollen. He was rushed to the hospital where he suffered from cardiac arrest. Doctors were unable to revive him. His parents were charged with neglect and as reported by BBC News, “Subject to an in-depth criminal investigation.” Nearly four years later, on January 29th, 2015, it was reported that, “The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue its case of neglect against his parents Glynn, 47, and Julie, 46. They were not present at the hearing.”

Foods that are unexpectedly very high in vitamin C are kraut juice, sauerkraut, strawberries and of course the usual lemons, oranges and limes. Other forms of high vitamin C can be sourced from rose hip tea, acerola cherry powder, L-ascorbic acidascorbic acid or camu camu. Clinically we are seeing people who consume lemons and limes regularly still have a vitamin C deficiency.

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Many people stretch their dollars by mixing acerola cherry powder with ascrobic acid to create a more palatable drink. 

Vitamin C deficiencies first present with mild symptoms, then progress to worse and worse symptoms until it can no longer be avoided, something is clearly wrong. It certainly doesn’t hurt to add vitamin C if you experience any of the above symptoms. If vitamin C isn’t needed, it passes through and out of the system. Too much vitamin C simply causes loose stools. 

Precursors to a scurvy diagnosis are usually things like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, psychiatric disorders, severe food allergies, Leaky Gut, crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and IBS. However just like we are seeing a lot of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease today, we are seeing alcoholic diseases like scurvy present with no alcohol use. 

*Nourishing Plot is written by Becky Plotner, ND, traditional naturopath, CGP, D.PSc. who sees clients in Rossville, Georgia. She is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor, through The American Naturopathic Medical Association and works as a Certified GAPS Practitioner who sees clients in her office, Skype and phone. She has been published in Wise Traditions, spoken at two Weston A. Price Conferences, Certified GAPS Practitioner Trainings, has been on many radio shows, television shows and writes for Nourishing Plot. Since her son was delivered from the effects of autism (Asperger’s syndrome), ADHD, bipolar disorder/manic depression, hypoglycemia and dyslexia, through food, she continued her education specializing in Leaky Gut and parasitology through Duke University, finishing with distinction. She is a Chapter Leader for The Weston A. Price Foundation. becky.nourishingplot@hotmail.com

“GAPS™ and Gut and Psychology Syndrome™ are the trademark and copyright of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The right of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988.

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