We’ve all been there…. You notice a bruise somewhere on your body and think to yourself “I don’t remember running into anything… Why do I have a bruise?”. If you are deficient in Vitamin C, you may find that happening more than you’d like.
A bruise occurs when small blood vessels break and leak their contents into the soft tissue beneath the skin.
So, what does Vitamin C have to do with it?
Vitamin C synthesizes collagen, a key protein in our connective tissues, cartilage and tendons. Collagen is essential to keeping blood vessels and skin strong; improving their abilities to withstand impact without breaking or leaking. When blood vessels are weak, even minor bumps can rupture underlying blood vessels, leading to bruising.1
The link between Vitamin C and weakened blood vessels and tissues has been acknowledged for centuries. Originally, when sailors and others deprived of fresh fruits and vegetables developed a disease called scurvy. Scurvy is a Vitamin C deficiency that causes blood vessels to become weak and squishy, resulting in bleeding gums, bruising, and slow or non-healing wounds.
Scurvy is widely known for its negative impact on gums and oral health, and inspecting the gums can be a way to tell what’s going on inside your body. Whereas in the rest of your body, the soft tissue and blood vessels are hidden by skin, your mouth provides a rare, up-close glimpse. If the blood vessels in your mouth are leaking and soft, chances are the blood vessels elsewhere in your body are, too.
Even with large doses of Vitamin C, bruises can still occur. But, with high blood levels of the vitamin, your body should be able to heal more quickly. A 2-month, double-blind study of 94 elderly people with marginal vitamin C deficiency found that vitamin C supplements decreased their tendency to bruise.2 Good news for the accident-prone!
- BMJ Case Reports 2009; doi:10.1136/bcr.08.2008.0750 Extensive bruising secondary to vitamin C deficiency
Authors: Ian Mark Fraser, Gosford Hospital, Holden Street, Gosford, New South Wales, 2250, Australia and Mark Dean
- Schorah CJ, Tormey WP, Brooks GH, et al. The effect of vitamin C supplements on body weight, serum proteins, and general health of an elderly population. Am J Clin Nutr . 1981;34:871-876.