Taking a daily multivitamin not only benefits your overall health but it can have some surprising effects on your fertility and reproductive health, too.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is famous for its immune boosting benefits and healing properties. But aside from keeping colds and flus at bay, what’s less well known is that it may play a role in helping support fertility, managing stress and more!
Its documented benefits include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.
A potent antioxidant, Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, spinach, peppers, berries and broccoli.
While the first prize is always to try to get adequate nutrients from foods, many people opt for a supplement containing Vitamin C - that’s because, as an essential vitamin, the body can’t produce it on its own.
So can adding Vitamin C to your daily diet or supplements regime improve fertility for both men and women? And, if so, in what quantities should you consume it?
Let's take a look at what the science says…
What You Need to Know
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that needs to be replenished on a daily basis
For some women, especially those with insufficient progesterone levels, increased Vitamin C appears to boost fertility
Vitamin C can also help to regulate your menstrual cycle and ovulation
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to infertility, and to complications during pregnancy
Vitamin C promotes iron absorption and production of the fertility-critical hormone progesterone, and helps to trigger ovulation
Vitamin C has also been shown to boost sperm count
There is also evidence to suggest Vitamin C plays a key role in mood disorders like anxiety and depression, and supplementation may help alleviate symptoms
According to US Dietary guidelines, Vitamin C is one of the seven nutrients that Americans are commonly not getting in sufficient amounts
Vitamin C levels are dependent on diet, as the body cannot produce it alone
Signs of Vitamin C deficiency include;
Rough and bumpy skin, this is because Vitamin C is a role player in the production of collagen.
If you bruise very easily, this might also be a sign of vitamin C deficiency, look out for small purple dots in your bruises, this is a sure sign of deficiency.
Two of the clearest signs of vitamin c deficiency are fatigue and moodiness - these symptoms may appear with only a mild deficiency
Foods high in Vitamin C begin to deteriorate as soon as they are cut, so you should aim to consume them as quickly as possible after preparation
Although a diet filled with Vitamin C rich foods should give adequate amounts to healthy people, supplementation can play a role
Vitamin C and Fertility
Most studies into the effects of Vitamin C on fertility have also involved a blend of other supplements, rather than this antioxidant on its own.
What that means is that it’s hard to isolate any positive benefits as being caused by Vitamin C alone.
However, with that caveat in mind, we do know that several studies have shown that Vitamin C supplementation has potential to counteract aspects of ovarian aging, resulting in more, higher quality eggs.
That means if you are trying to get pregnant, ensuring you have adequate levels of Vitamin C in your diet or through an additional supplement may help improve the chances of conception.
This could be particularly useful for anyone with reproductive health struggles: one study found that two months of Vitamin C supplementation (1000mg daily) improved both egg and embryo quality in women with endometriosis.
And Vitamin C is not only potentially beneficial for women - the addition of a certain food source of multivitamin has been shown to have benefits to sperm health and sperm mobility.
Vitamin C and Stress
Vitamin C is already the go-to when we are looking to ward off the common cold, but did you know that it could also help aid in stress prevention and stress management?
Some evidence shows that Vitamin C helps reduce the phycological and physical effects of stress in our bodies.
Not only that, but,some scientists believe that people with higher levels of Vitamin C measured in their blood are more likely to bounce back quicker from stressful situations.
While the link between stress and fertility is not yet crystal clear, a growing body of evidence shows a link between levels of alpha-amylase (a marker of stress) in the blood and problems conceiving - and researchers believe reproductive potential might be affected by hormonal changes via something called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is a complex neuroendocrine mechanism in our bodies that regulates many physiological processes.
More studies into the link between stress and fertility are needed, but what most doctors and scientists agree on is that moderating stress levels preventatively is a great idea if you are trying to conceive or optimize your fertility.
What’s the case for supplementation?
If there was one pill that would deliver all the sustenance needed for quality eggs (whilst keeping us at a fertility-friendly weight, with a healthy gut etc. etc...) we’d be all over it.
Alas, life isn’t that simple!
For the most part, the nutrients derived from food are simply superior to their synthetic cousins.
When you eat real food, you’re not consuming single nutrients, but rather a whole range of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, carotenoids, flavonoids and antioxidants that enable optimal use by the body.
For example, the antioxidant activity in a small apple is equivalent to what you would get from a huge slew of vitamin C (like, 1500 mg), despite the fact that the apple contains a smaller amount (5.7 mg) of the vitamin.
That’s because nearly all of the antioxidant power from apples is derived from a variety of other surrounding compounds or phytochemicals that work to enhance vitamin C’s effect
There are varying views on how much Vitamin C we should be optimally consuming. The current formal recommended daily allowance (RDA) guideline is between 75-90 milligrams for adults (this was actually established many years ago in the prevention of scurvy).
However, It is believed that up to 2000mg per day is safe for an adult. It is possible to overdose on vitamins, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, so experts recommend not exceeding this amount.
Sometimes it is not practical for people to consume the required servings of fruits and vegetables needed (to reach ~1000mg) on a consistent basis, whereas taking a once-daily supplement is safe, effective, and easy to do.
That’s why including a dietary supplement or multivitamin that contains Vitamin C is a beneficial option for many people.
Signs of Vitamin C Deficiency
Vitamin C deficiency is relatively rare in developed countries but still affects more than 1 in 20 people. In part, that’s because our bodies cannot store it and we must continually replenish supplies through diet or supplementation.
Common signs of Vitamin C deficiency include:
Rough, bumpy skin
Bright red hair follicles
Spoon shaped fingernails
Painful swollen joints
Bleeding gums and tooth loss
If you are concerned that you may be deficient in any nutrients, seeking medical advice from your primary care provider, your fertility specialist or other care provider is a great first step.
They may request some blood work to be done and ask medical history questions to build up a picture of your health, and then advise you on the best way forward!
Where to find Vitamin C in food
The highest natural concentration of Vitamin C is commonly found in fruits and vegetables.
Citrus fruits such as berries tend to have higher levels of vitamin C. This vitamin helps maintain healthy connective tissue and is also important for wound healing and proper immune function.
Some common foods that contain vitamin C:
While certain vitamins and nutrients are undeniably necessary for fertility, it's always a good idea to talk to your provider to go over your individual needs before beginning to take supplements.
Some supplements don’t mix with prescription medications, and it is possible to overdose on some vitamins and minerals. Your doctor can help you determine whether any deficiencies can be improved by taking a supplement, or by simply making changes in your diet.