Well-nourished humans usually contain not much more than 5 grams of vitamin C in their bodies. Unfortunately, the majority of people have far less ascorbate than this amount in their bodies and are at risk for many problems related to failure of metabolic processes dependent upon ascorbate. This condition is called CHRONIC SUBCLINICAL SCURVY (12).
If a disease is toxic enough to allow for the person's potential consumption of 100 grams of vitamin C, imagine what that disease must be doing to that possible 5 grams of ascorbate stored in the body. A condition of ACUTE INDUCED SCURVY is rapidly induced.
Some of this increased metabolic need for ascorbate undoubtedly occurs in areas of the body not primarily involved in the disease and can be accounted for by such functions as the adrenals producing more adrenaline and corticoids; the immune system producing more antibodies, interferon (19, 20), and other substances to fight the infection. The macrophages utilizing more ascorbate with their increased activity; and the production and protection of c-AMP and c-GMP with the subsequent increased activity of other endocrine glands (21), etc. Also, there must be a tremendous draw on ascorbate locally by increased metabolic rates in the primarily infected tissues. The infecting organisms themselves liberate toxins which are neutralized by ascorbate, but in the process destroy ascorbate. The levels of ascorbate in the nose, throat, eustachian tubes, and bronchial tubes locally infected by a 100 gram cold must be very low indeed. With this acute induced scurvy localized in these areas, it is small wonder that healing can be delayed and complications such as chronic sinusitis, otitis media, and bronchitis, etc. develop.
I had assumed that much of this ascorbate was used for functions somehow directly related to neutralizing the toxicity of viral and bacterial diseases. When ill, one has the internal sense that something of this nature is happening when bowel tolerance is approached. Recently, however, I had the personal experience of ingesting 48 grams in an hour and a half when I had a sudden hay fever reaction to roses. Upon withdrawal from the roses tolerance dropped rapidly to normal. This experience plus my experiences with many patients under emotional stress, would indicate that the adrenals are capable of utilizing large amounts of ascorbate with benefit if it is made available.
This draw on ascorbate, from whatever source, lowers the blood level of ascorbate to a negligible level. I have coined the term ANASCORBEMIA for this condition. If this anascorbemia is not rapidly rectified by the oral administration of bowel tolerance doses of ascorbic acid or by intravenous administration of ascorbate, the remainder of the body is rapidly depleted of ascorbate and put at risk for disorders of the metabolic processes dependent upon vitamin C.
The following problems should be expected with increased incidence with severe depletion of ascorbate: disorders of the immune system such as secondary infections, rheumatoid arthritis and other collagen diseases, allergic reactions to drugs, foods and other substances, chronic infections such as herpes, or sequelae of acute infections such as Guillain-Barre' and Reye's syndromes, rheumatic fever, or scarlet fever; disorders of the blood coagulation mechanisms such as hemorrhage, heart attacks, strokes, hemorrhoids, and other vascular thrombosis; failure to cope properly with stresses due to suppression of the adrenal functions such as phlebitis, other inflammatory disorders, asthma and other allergies; problems of disordered collagen formation such as impaired ability to heal, excessive scarring, bed sores, varicose veins, hernias, stretch marks, wrinkles, perhaps even wear of cartilage or degeneration of spinal discs; impaired function of the nervous system such as malaise, decreased pain tolerance, tendency to muscle spasms, even psychiatric disorders and senility; and cancer from the suppressed immune system and carcinogens not detoxified; etc. Note that I am not saying that ascorbate depletion is the only cause of these disorders, but I am pointing out that disorders of these systems would certainly predispose to these diseases and that these systems are known to be dependent upon ascorbate for their proper function.
Not only is there the theoretical probability that these types of complications associated with infections or stresses could result from ascorbate depletion, but there was a conspicuous decrease in the expected occurrence of complications in the thousands of patients treated with oral tolerance doses or intravenous doses of ascorbate. This impression of marked decrease in these problems is shared by physicians experienced with the use of ascorbate such as Klenner (8, 9) and Kalokerinos (22).