Improve and Protect Sperm Health
Vitamin C has been shown to improve sperm quality and protect sperm from DNA damage; helping to reduce the chance of miscarriage and chromosomal defects. Vitamin C protects sperm from oxidative damage due to free radicals.
Studies show that vitamin C deficiency has been linked to low sperm count, poor sperm motility and morphology. Vitamin C is necessary to not only ensure healthy sperm, but to support them in getting where they need to go.
One study showed a marked improvement in sperm health in men who had previously failed fertility treatments due to sperm a high number of sperm with DNA fragmentation. The researchers found that just 2 months of supplementation with both vitamin C and E at one gram a day of each lead to decreased DNA fragmentation in sperm and improved implantation and successful pregnancy rates.
A study performed in 1991 showed that ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) levels are much higher in seminal fluid compared to other fluids in the human body, including blood. The study also showed that in healthy male subjects, reduction in vitamin C levels can be detrimental to sperm health. When dietary vitamin C was reduced from 250mg to just 5mg a day, ascorbic acid levels in the male subjects seminal fluid reduced by 50%, and the number of sperm that had damage to their DNA increased by 91%. These results indicate the importance of dietary vitamin C in preventing infertility in men.
That isn’t all, vitamin C supplementation has also been shown to increase the quality of sperm in smokers and reduce sperm agglutination (when they clump together), making them more motile.
Vitamin C Plays A Role In Ovulation And Egg Health
Researchers have shown that ascorbic acid plays an important role in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and ovarian function. Ascorbic acid excretion is increased and declines immediately prior to ovulation, and then immediately increases again just after temperature rises post-ovulation. Researchers speculate this reflects uptake of ascorbic acid in the preovulatory ovary, which then facilitates proper ovulation. These ascorbic acid levels are stimulatory to the hormones progesterone and oxytocin, and have been found in high concentrations in the corpus luteum.
High levels of ascorbic acid present in the ovaries may be responsible for collagen synthesis, which is required for follicle and corpus luteum growth, as well as repair of the ovary post-ovulation. Problems with this function may contribute to the development of ovarian cyst.
Ascorbic acid has also been shown in animal studies to greatly impact the integrity of the follicle membrane and wall. Other research has shown a correlation between serum ascorbic acid levels and follicular fluid levels in women undergoing IVF at the time of oocyte recovery. To me this clearly shows that adequate intake of vitamin C is essential for maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle and maintaining or improving egg health.
Increased Pregnancy Rate for Women With Luteal Phase Defect
According to a study published in Fertility and Sterility (2003;80:459–61) vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women with luteal phase defect.
150 women with luteal phase defect were enrolled in the study. The participants were given 750mg of vitamin C per day or no treatment at all.
Results showed that the group receiving vitamin C had an increase in progesterone levels. While the women receiving no treatment had no change in progesterone.
The rate of pregnancy was significantly higher in the vitamin C group: 25% within six months, while only 11% of the untreated women became pregnant in the same time period.
Other Female Reproductive Health Issues That May Benefit From Vitamin C Supplementation
Reduction In Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to help reduce heavy menstrual bleeding by improving the strength of the capillaries. One study showed that heavy menstrual bleeding was reduced in 87% women who regularly supplemented with higher doses of vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for iron absorption to help prevent iron-deficiency anemia caused by heavy menstrual bleeding.
Dr. Tori Hudson, ND suggests a therapeutic dose of 2000-4000mg per day to help curb heavy menstrual bleeding.
Support for Endometriosis and Uterine Fibroids
Studies show that vitamin C increases cellular immunity and decreases autoimmune progression and fatigue. This may help slow the spread and growth of endometriosis and uterine fibroids. Vitamin C enhances immunity, strengthens the capillaries, and may inhibit tumor growth, all of which are important aspects for health management of these conditions.
Vitamin C Is Necessary for a Healthy Pregnancy
Vitamin C supplementation, in addition to a healthy, vitamin C rich diet has been shown to reduce the likelihood of preeclampsia and premature rupture of the membranes in pregnancy. Large quantities of ascorbic acid is utilized by the female during conception and are necessary to formation and integrity of the fetal membranes. Research suggests vitamin C supplementation may also help prevent birth defects.
How to Get Enough Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a nutrient that is sensitive to cooking, processing and exposure to air, so it important to get it from eating fresh, raw foods. Did you know that as soon as you cut into foods rich in vitamin C they begin to rapidly lose their vitamin C content? Eat foods rich in vitamin C as quickly as possible to ensure you are receiving optimum levels of vitamin C. If you don’t believe me, consider these examples: Research shows that a sliced cucumber left standing for 3 hours loses 41 to 49% of its vitamin C content. A sliced cantaloupe left uncovered in the refrigerator loses 35% of its vitamin C content in less than a 24 hour period.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Antioxidants work like a defense system, disarming free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cell structures. In order for individual antioxidants to do their job, they rely on “sister” antioxidants to help revive them. Antioxidants “quench” free radicals, so they are not able to spread and cause damage to cells. When an antioxidant finds a free radical, it engulfs it and melds into its molecular structure. This creates a weakened free radical, not strong enough to do any harm. At this point that particular antioxidant is sacrificed unless its “sister” antioxidant comes along and revives it. Vitamin C is regenerated by vitamin E, CoQ10 and Lipoic Acid.
Foods rich in vitamin C (and should be eaten raw) are: Acerola cherries, guava, mustard greens, parsley, persimmons, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, oranges, kiwifruit, cauliflower, kale, elderberries, spinach, red cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruit.
In addition to eating raw foods rich in vitamin C it is important to consider taking a nutritional supplement that includes vitamin C such as an antioxidant blend and whole food multivitamin.
Suggested daily supplementation: 500mg a day in addition to a healthy whole foods diet rich in vitamin C.
– Cohen, J Rubin H. “Functional menorrhagia: treatment with bioflavonoids and vitamin C.” Curr Therap Res 1960; 2 (11): 539
– Anderson R. “The immunostimulatory, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties of ascorbate.” Adv Nut Res 1984; 6:19-45
– Greco E, Iacobelli M, et al. “Reduction of the incidence of sperm DNA fragmentation by oral antioxidant treatment.” J Androl 2005 May-Jun; 26 (3): 349-53.
– Fraga C, et al., “Ascorbic acid protects against endogenous oxidative DNA damage in human sperm.” Proc Natl Acad Sci 88, 11003-11006, 1991
– Luck, Martin R., Jeyaseelan, Indira, Scholes, Rachel A., “Minireview Ascorbic Acid and Fertility.” Biology of Reproduction 52, 262-266, 1995
– Henmi, H., Endo, T., Kitajima, Y., Manase, K., Hata, H., & Kudo, R. (2003). Effects of ascorbic acid supplementation on serum progesterone levels in patients with a luteal phase defect. Fertility and sterility, 80(2), 459-461.
– Murray, N.D., Michael T., Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Three Rivers Press, 59-79, 1996
– Hudson, N.D. Tori, Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. McGraw Hill, 2008