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Most Common Symptoms of a Vitamin C Deficiency

6 min read

By Jeff Hayward

Medically Reviewed by Patty Weasler, RN

You know that vitamin C can help keep colds at bay and lessen their severity, but that’s definitely not the only reason you should be consuming this important antioxidant.

Not getting enough vitamin C can lead to a variety of health problems, from feeling tired all the time to oral bleeding without explanation. The good news is that eating an orange, drinking orange juice or taking supplements can usually remedy this deficiency pretty quickly. Let’s take a look at 12 signs you’re not getting enough C.

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Enflamed/Bleeding Gums

One of the biggest telltale signs you’re running low on vitamin C is having gums that bleed easily (especially when brushing or flossing). If you have any sores on your gums, low vitamin C means they won’t heal as quickly, adds Reader’s Digest.

Swollen gums are from inflammation, “a process that vitamin C helps prevent as an antioxidant,” it adds. Studies have shown that adequate vitamin C intake (the recommended amount is 65 to 90-mg a day) has been linked to better gum health, says the source.

Loose Teeth

Along with bleeding and sore gums, you might start to notice your teeth aren’t anchored as well as they should be, says “Weakness of bone, cartilage, teeth, and connective tissue can result in loose and decaying teeth and eventual tooth loss,” it adds.

The source also makes note of the swollen gums, which are tied to “defects in the oral epithelial basement membrane and periodontal collagen fiber synthesis.” In other words, unhealthy gums and other structural weaknesses due to vitamin C deficiency can make your teeth fall out.

Bleeding From The Nose

This can happen more often than not for some people and could be tied to high altitudes or dryness – but it can also signal that you need to boost your intake of vitamin C, notes Reader’s Digest.

Vessels in the nose rely on collagen for strength, and vitamin C is essential to the production of collagen. “Nosebleeds occur when the tiny blood vessels in the nose burst, so frequent nosebleeds are a sign of weak blood vessels in the nose,” it explains.

Dry and Rough Skin

Collagen is also responsible for keeping your skin elastic and younger-looking (which is why so many beauty products boast collagen content). So it’s no surprise that skimping on vitamin C will have a negative impact on the appearance and texture of your body’s biggest organ.

“The skin may become rough, brown, scaly and dry,” when you’re running low on this vitamin, explains Livestrong. This put simply is due to inhibited collagen production, it adds.

Splitting Hairs

A source called explains that splitting hair and even nails can signal a low level of vitamin C. “Because hair is a non-essential tissue, nutrients such as vitamin C are sent to more important organs and tissues first, before making their way to the hair,” it explains.

So while you may not have other signs of C deficiency, your body may start rationing it and this will keep you from having the shiny hair and strong nails you’ve been hoping for.

Mood Changes explains that while vitamin C is often touted for its ability to fight off physical ailments, it could be just as important to help avoid psychological issues as well. The source says a deficiency of vitamin C “can cause neurological damage and the addition of vitamin C to the diet can improve or reverse symptoms of anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.”

It backs up this claim by citing a study from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center that shows mice deprived of vitamin C caused “depressive and submissive behaviors” as well as an increased preference for sugar. The researchers measured lower levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brains of the subjects, 2-brain chemicals that have been linked to mood in humans, it adds.

Chronic Fatigue

A wide host of reasons can lead you to feeling chronically weak or tired, but vitamin C is 1-possible factor you won’t want to overlook. explains the initial symptoms “may include malaise, a general feeling of bodily discomfort or unease, and fatigue possibly resulting from impaired carnitine biosynthesis.”

The source explains that carnitine is a substance produced by the body that helps transport essential fatty acids to cells responsible for producing energy.

Gaining Weight

Wait, what? If you’re getting some exercise and eating well and still packing on pounds, then you might still be able to blame low vitamin C levels, explains Reader’s Digest.

Vitamin C helps support energy production from cells, and having low levels is also tied to a slower metabolism, it adds. “When your metabolism slows, you’re more likely to start adding pounds,” it explains. This effect from low vitamin C, not surprisingly, will coincide with feelings of fatigue, it adds.

Easily Bruising

Some people seem to get bruised just by leaving the house, and don’t remember how they possibly could’ve ended up with bruising on their legs or other parts of their body. Turns out there could be medical reasons behind this phenomenon, including having low levels of vitamin C, according to WebMD.

Other than aging, alcoholism, and side effects from some medicines, the reason for this problem can be traced to this vitamin deficiency, it adds. “This nutrient is essential for healing, so if you don’t get enough, you may bruise easily,” it explains.

Low Iron

Some vitamins, minerals, and elements rely on others to be properly used by the body, and that’s the case with vitamin C and iron, according to Reader’s Digest. It explains that your body absorbs 2-types of iron: heme and nonheme. While heme usually comes from animal sources and is easily absorbed, that’s not the case so much with nonheme iron, it adds.

The nonheme version usually comes from plants, and the body doesn’t absorb it as easily. “Vitamin C helps your body absorb nonheme iron more efficiently and has been shown to be a strong indicator of iron status,” explains the source. Iron and vitamin C deficiencies usually go hand-in-hand, it adds.

Swollen and Painful Joints

The Arthritis Foundation notes that the right amount of vitamin C “may help prevent some forms of arthritis,” while too much of it can be a problem. It says to follow the guidelines of 75-mg of vitamin C per day for women and 90-mg per day for men.

The source cites 2-studies that show results on both sides of the spectrum: 1-of them at Duke University shows animals receiving very high levels of this vitamin “triggered a protein that causes bone spurs, accelerating joint damage and pain in subjects who had OA (osteoarthritis).” Another study out of Great Britain shows people with low levels of vitamin C are three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than those with healthy levels of vitamin C.


This condition has been very uncommon since the days of pirates on the high seas, but if you don’t have any vitamin C in your body (or very little), you may experience signs of this all but forgotten disease. explains this condition linked to low vitamin C levels can result in many of the symptoms we’ve already covered, including exhaustion, spontaneous bleeding, and ulceration of the gums – but it can also cause pain and swelling in the limbs, it adds.


Patty is a freelance health writer and nurse (BSN, CCRN). She has worked as a critical care nurse for over 10 years and loves educating people about their health. When she's not working, Patty enjoys any outdoor activity that she can do with her husband and three kids.

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