What do man and monkey have in common with guinea pigs? This not a trick question, so don't wrack your brain for the clever answer.
The answer is easier than ABC. In fact, it's just C.
Guinea pigs and primates are the only mammals known that do not manufacture vitamin C in their gut. Other mammals not only manufacture vitamin C (ascorbic acid), but do it on an as-needed basis. For daily maintenance they manufacture what would be equivalent to a 150-pound man taking 5 to 50 grams a day. Under the stress of disease or injury animals will put out the equivalent of hundreds of grams a day. Using these figures many doctors have argued in favor of mega-doses of vitamin C for all infectious diseases and cancer.
The established standard is that we need 60 to 95 milligrams per day until we get sick with a cold or flu, then we can have 250 mgs per day. Alternative doctors view those numbers as keeping us on the borderline of scurvy and cite bleeding gums and arteriosclerosis, easy bruising and susceptibility to colds and infections as proof.
Vitamin C works within the body's cells to make the precursor of collagen, a fiber in connective tissue giving strength to bones, teeth, ligaments, tendons, fascia supporting the organs and the tissue between cells. With scurvy, teeth fall out, bones are easily fractured, joints are painful and bruising happens with a touch as the connective tissue breaks down.
If you want to know whether you have adequate amounts of vitamin C for health, there are C-strips, blue strips of paper that turn white when exposed to vitamin C. They test the amount in the urine or in the tissue. Having vitamin C in the urine is not considered a waste, as its proponents say that it keeps the urinary system healthy. The minimum amount of vitamin C in urine should be 100 mg per 100 grams of urine. Below this amount, the experts recommend taking vitamin C. One has about 24 hours before coming down with something if there is no C in the urine. C-strips are available from Wholesale Nutrition, 800-325-2664 or nutri.com/strips .
There is an ongoing controversy over the amount of vitamin C needed. The advantages of the vitamin are that the side effects are minimal and can be corrected by taking less. One healthy man came down with diarrhea after taking 5 grams a day. Because he did not know this is the effect of being saturated with vitamin C, he took a lot of medications to cure it. When he finally reduced the amount of C, he was cured. When someone is under a lot of stress or has an infection or injury, large amounts of vitamin C will be used by the body. One person sprained his ankle very badly. Usually he would wrap it and go around on crutches for days. Staying off his feet and taking 1 gram of vitamin C every 45 minutes helped healed it within 36 hours.
Linus Pauling, famous chemist and Nobel laureate, wrote the popular book: "Vitamin C and the Common Cold," wherein he suggested everyone take 1 gram of C an hour at the first signs of cold or flu. Different studies have shown that it usually lessens the severity and duration of a cold. Since there is such a great variety of people, lifestyles and amounts of stress, it is difficult to make hard and fast rules.
My family doctor, Dr. William Coda Martin of New York City, made a small study with Dr. Morton Biskind on their patients. Using capsules containing equal parts ascorbic acid and citrus flavonoids on their patients, they found doses of 200 mg three times a day would clear up fevers and everything associated with them (except thick mucous) in 48 hours or less. This study appeared in The American Journal of Digestive Diseases, July 1954. It would seem that the bioflavonoids are synergistic with ascorbic acid.
There is so much more material on vitamin C both online and in books that it would take several columns to even make a dent. Norman Cousin's "Anatomy of an Illness" is a literary and philosophical take on alternative medicine illustrated with true, heart-warming stories, including his own healing based on humor and mega-doses of vitamin C.