What Are Antioxidants & Why Should I Take Vitamin C & E?

Dr. Doni examines the importance of key antioxidants, Vitamins C & E. She explains how they work together to reduce oxidative stress and improve our health.

Part 11 of Dr. Doni’s Series on Oxidative Stress

antioxidants, free radicals, oxidative stress, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, ascorbate, glutathione, citrus, tomatoes, nuts, broccoliThis week, I have decided to write about vitamins C and E. I want to show you how these simple nutrients relate to oxidative stress and make sure you know the best forms to take to get the full benefit.

You may have heard of vitamins C and E as being antioxidants. In fact, they are the most commonly known antioxidants, and for good reason. I’ll get to that, but first I really want you to understand how vitamin C and E work, and how they are related to glutathione – our most important antioxidant.

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbate) is naturally found in fruits and vegetables (broccoli, citrus fruits, tomatoes, avocados, and many more). Unlike most other animals, humans don’t make vitamin C in our bodies – we must get it from our diets. Vitamin C is water soluble and is quickly metabolized and eliminated in the urine. It is also estimated that the body can use approximately 500mg of vitamin C at a time, so it is better to take it frequently through the day instead of taking a large amount all at once (which could result in loose stools). The best way to get your vitamin C is from eating actual fruits and vegetables rather than drinking fortified juices, which often contain unwanted sugars. However, you can also get vitamin C from supplements. Although “Ester” and “buffered” vitamin C are the most commonly used, I find that patients get the best results from “liposomal” vitamin C because it is better absorbed. Click here to see the liposomal C that I recommend.

Dosage – 50 to 1000mg per day or, for clinical purposes, 500 mg four times per day. For children, you can use the rule of 100 mg per year of age (for example, 500mg a day for a 5 year old child).

Note: Beware of sugars and sweeteners in chewable forms of vitamin C.

Vitamin E (which consists of eight different forms) has been mentioned in the media quite a bit recently because there are so many inadequate formulas on the market. In contrast to vitamin C, vitamin E is fat soluble and remains in the walls of your cells where it protects your cells from oxidative stress. You can get vitamin E from avocados, nuts and seeds, as well as from supplements too. Just be sure to buy a product that has natural “mixed tocopherols” (gamma, delta and alpha) to ensure you are getting a good balance of all the forms of vitamin E. You don’t want a product that contains synthetic alpha-tocopherol, which has been associated with negative outcomes in research. Click here to see the vitamin E that I recommend.

Dosage – The common dosage is 30iu to 1500iu per day (children under four years old should take no more than 10 iu a day).

Now that you have a sense of how vitamin C and vitamin E work individually, I want to show you how they work together to reduce oxidative stress and protect us from a whole range of health concerns – from the common cold through to strokes and cancer.

Vitamins C & E and Oxidative Stress

Remember (as we discussed in this article) that free radicals and oxidative stress are created through normal processes in the body as well as due to exposure to toxins, stress, and/or inflammation.

Vitamin E prevents ‘lipid peroxidation’, or oxidative damage in fat. This is important because our cells walls are made up of fats (called phospholipids) and, if they are not healthy, we don’t feel well. That’s because cells walls prevent toxins from getting in and ensure that our healthy nutrients stay in the cells where they are needed. For example, mitochondria, which are the energy producers inside each cell, require nutrients in order to make energy, but if toxins get in or nutrients don’t get into the cell due to unhealthy cell walls, then mitochondria can’t do their job. I’ll be writing more about mitochondria in an upcoming post, or you learn more here.

So the important reason to take vitamin E is that it protects your cell walls. Each time a free radical comes along, vitamin E uses up its antioxidant capacity to neutralize it, preventing damage to the cell wall.

Vitamin C on the other hand, participates in what is known as REDOX, which means it reduces oxidized substances throughout your body and around your cells back to a reduced form, reversing the effects of oxidative stress. The reduced form is what you want. Vitamin C does this for vitamin E, restoring the antioxidant capacity of vitamin E, ensuring it can continue doing its job of protecting our cells and tissues properly.

Not only this, but after vitamin C activates vitamin E, its antioxidant capacity is then restored by glutathione. This is just one example of why glutathione is the most important anti-oxidant produced by our bodies. It helps protect and activate the other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E.

Now, it makes more sense as to why vitamins C and E are so well known (and important). In fact, research shows that they each—both individually and together—decrease our risk of colds, infections, heart disease, strokes, cancer, diabetes, and more.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin C & E?

Look at your multivitamin now and see whether it contains vitamins C and E to ensure you are getting a daily dose of these important antioxidants to protect your cells from the toxins and stress you are exposed to every day. Click here for the one-a-day multivitamin that I recommend to my patients.

If you are not feeling well—if you are more tired than usual, achy, inflamed, and/or dealing with recurrent infections—you likely need more vitamin C and E than is in your multivitamin.

You can find the vitamin C and vitamin E supplements* (including oils and creams) that I recommend at DrDoniStore.com. In fact, you can browse the entire category of antioxidants here.

That’s a really good first step—to make sure you are swallowing antioxidants each day—but to truly heal, you need to get to the bottom of why your oxidative stress is so high and aim to eliminate that issue. Then you’ll need to go through steps to help your body heal from oxidative stress, including healing leaky gut, optimizing adrenal and thyroid function, and restoring your nutrient levels. For all that, it’s going to help to have a naturopathic doctor to guide you. You can find a qualified ND at naturopathic.org.

In an effort to help organize a strategy for you, and others, who need to reduce oxidative stress, I have planned out an Oxidative Stress Solutions Consultation and Testing Package.

Next week, I will write more about how oxidative stress relates to aging and what we can do about it. To receive that article in your inbox, you can sign up for my e-newsletter here.

–Dr. Doni
31st March, 2016


*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.

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