As a child I learned the dramatic story of scurvy being reversed with lemons or limes in the kegs of water aboard 18th century sailing ships. Some mystery ingredient in citrus fruits spared vast numbers of sailors from a painful death at sea between ports.
Well, it turns out that was just the British version of the story: according to the Dutch, they figured it out somewhat earlier, when they sent farmers (Boers) to plant gardens near South African ports in order to supply Dutch ships with produce on their long voyages to the East Indies. The Dutch knew their sailors couldn’t make it all the way around Africa without fruit or vegetables; scurvy would kill them.
The French say they knew before the Dutch: in 1535, the Iroquois saved explorer Jacques Cartier’s men, dying of scurvy as they sat stranded on the frozen St. Lawrence River by Quebec, with a tea made of ground needles from a tree.
And with the limitations of how history is recorded, I’m quite certain that many generations of mothers long before these men already told their children they had to eat their vegetables in order to be healthy; mothers usually know first.
And so it was that in 1970, when Linus Pauling first brought the science of vitamin C into the public awareness, my own mother bought a copy of his book, Vitamin C and the Common Cold. For by then the lifesaving mystery ingredient had been isolated and named. From that day on vitamin C tablets were on our breakfast table.
Over the twentieth century, medical science went on to confirm that vitamin C serves many functions in the body, first as a powerful antioxidant. Since cell oxidation is a primary mechanism of all disease, this means it’s vitally important to our health. Vitamin C is also an antihistamine, antitoxin, and antibiotic with antiviral properties. Essentially, it’s against everything we’re against.
More recently, some researchers have begun to recognize diseases as “focal scurvies”, in which certain tissues break down for lack of vitamin C. And osteoporosis is one of those! Our bones need vitamin C to activate the bone-building cells – the osteoblasts – as well as for collagen formation. Dr. Tom Levy, a cardiologist and attorney, explains much more in his 2002 book, Curing the Incurable, and on his website.
So…can he be right? I have scurvy that’s localized in my bones, rather than generalized in my body? If so, what can I do about it?
Not surprisingly, the solution is consistent with what my mother believed in: more fruit and vegetables, and extra vitamin C. But since my diet has always contained these, there must be more involved in the absorption or retention of vitamin C in the appropriate parts of the body, or perhaps a higher dosage needed for optimal health. For now I’m working at increasing my intake of vitamin C to bowel tolerance, following guidelines set by Dr. Robert Cathcart and further explained by Dr. Andrew Saul on his website, in That Vitamin Movie, and in various lectures. Bowel tolerance allows the individual’s body to dictate how much it can use. And the amount a person needs when sick is much much more than what’s needed when healthy.
At first I was alarmed at the megadoses these experts recommend; yet vitamin C is entirely safe – water soluble and with no toxic limit – and there is a century’s worth of evidence of that it can cure serious diseases. So what’s to lose? In That Vitamin Movie Dr. Saul takes 17 or 18 g of vitamin C – his daily dose – on camera, while also explaining that your needs or mine are likely different. There are many forms of vitamin C supplements, but Dr. Saul recommends the cheapest that we will actually take, and of course a diet rich in fruits and vegetables must always be our starting point.
I love a good experiment, so on a day I was well and working at home I spread out 12 g of vitamin C over the day and that proved to be slightly too much. My bowel tolerance seems to be more like 10 g most days. Without burdening you with T.M.I., I’ll mention that in a later experiment I fully cured a UTI without antibiotics by taking 75 g of vitamin C three days in a row. The only challenge was remembering to take all those capsules, and counting them as I did; my bowels didn’t make a single complaint. I’m quite likely to experiment further if I have future infections, and meantime I’m getting at least 6 g of supplemental C each day.
So what do my bones think of this? Of course most victories are hidden inside at the cellular level, so I don’t get to see the immediate results. And when those early sailors headed off across vast oceans, they devoted themselves to long weeks and months using their best navigational tools in order to one day reach land. In the same way, building and maintaining my bones is my longterm quest.