Symptoms of Scurvy and How Low Vitamin C Leads to Chronic Disease

By Arturo Galindo, Cert. Nutritional Therapist

The classic symptoms of scurvy result from almost a complete lack of vitamin C in the body. 

But you can still have a vitamin c deficiency without showing any of the signs of classic scurvy.  

A chronic vitamin C deficiency in the body can lead to other chronic diseases.  This include allergies, infections, heart disease, and cancer

Symptoms of ScurvyThe not so obvious symptoms of scurvy

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Important:  Ascorbic acid or vitamin C is more than a vitamin.
Why? It regulates many functions in your body to make sure they're doing their best job in keeping you healthy!

What is Scurvy?

Scurvy is a life-threatening illness that results from almost a complete lack of vitamin C. It starts when the amount of vitamin C in your body is below the low official recommended amounts for all people.

In other words, the official recommended daily intakes of vitamin C exist to prevent people from dying of scurvy.  

Because of this, it’s considered a rare disease that it’s generally associated with malnutrition or poverty, since most people get some vitamin C in their diets.

What is Chronic Scurvy?

Chronic scurvy, on the other hand, is an ongoing vitamin C deficiency, in which there is enough vitamin C to prevent severe scurvy, but not enough to prevent disease in the long term.  

This less obvious chronic low vitamin C condition is also called hypoascorbemia. It starts to occur when your vitamin C levels are below the optimal amount that your body needs.

“There are more than ten thousand published scientific studies that make it quite clear that there is not one body process and not one disease or syndrome that is not influenced by Vitamin C”Emeritus Professor Emanuel Cheraskin, M.D. Ph.D.

Experts believe that the symptoms of scurvy also include most of the chronic diseases that plague us today such as allergies, infections, heart disease and cancer.

This means your chronic diseases are just symptoms of chronic scurvy, or a chronic deficiency of vitamin C amounts that your body needs.

History of Scurvy

Classic scurvy is known as the “Pirates disease” because of the devastating effects of scurvy during long voyages in the 18th century. Sailors quickly succumbed to scurvy due to inadequate diet, exposures to extreme weather conditions and unsanitary conditions.

During this time, Captain James Cook discovered that carrying a supply of fresh fruits and vegetables allowed him and his crew to take long voyages without a single death from scurvy.

Scurvy was first documented as far back as 1617 by English military surgeon John Woodall in The Surgeon’s Mate, and then published in 1753 by naval surgeon James Lind in A Treatise of Scurvy

Nearly 50 years later, it was finally accepted that an unknown substance in citrus fruits prevented people to die from scurvy. The unknown substance turned out to be ascorbic acid, or vitamin C.

This means that the cure for scurvy was ignored by the medical profession for nearly 200 years after it was discovered.

Symptoms of Scurvy

The classic symptoms of scurvy that are more obvious may include the following:

  • Failure of strength 
  • Depression
  • Restlessness 
  • Rapid exhaustion on making an effort. 
  • Skin becomes shallow or dusky
  • Face looks haggard
  • Teeth drop out 
  • Breadth is fetid. 

And there are many other symptoms of scurvy that are associated with its more classic and obvious form.

On the other hand, experts believe that the not-so-obvious symptoms of scurvy, or a chronic deficiency,  most likely include many of the chronic diseases that plague us today, such as:

  • Allergies
  • Infections
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

There are many shades or degrees of scurvy. It can vary from a mild “not feeling well” to many chronic diseases like the ones mentioned above.  

Many experts believe the primary symptom of chronic scurvy is atherosclerosis, or heart disease.

Causes of Scurvy

Scurvy, or severe vitamin C deficiency is caused by poor diet or malnutrition. The vitamin C amounts obtained through food are not enough to meet the minimum demands of the body.

Only 10mg (milligrams) of vitamin C will prevent scurvy in humans, which results in the long-held idea that ascorbic acid is a vitamin that is only required in small amounts.

On the other hand, chronic scurvy start to develop when you have some vitamin C in your food to prevent severe scurvy, but you don’t have enough based on what your body needs to function in an optimal way.

This chronic form of vitamin C deficiency can exist without showing the signs of scurvy, the more severe form. 

Scurvy treatment

Severe or acute scurvy can be treated by introducing foods that are rich in vitamin C as well as vitamin C supplements.

The amounts of vitamin C that you need to supplement depend on the severity of your chronic vitamin C deficiency and your body needs.

The great news is that once you supply your body with the ascorbate amounts that it needs, you empower your body to heal and protect you from disease, stop infections and delay again.

Scurvy Awareness

Most people think that scurvy is a condition of the past, but chronic scurvy is still common

A study by researchers at Arizona State University discovered that scurvy is prevalent today and mostly undiagnosed

“Overall, we found, 12 percent of Americans had a vitamin C deficiency. Normally, doctors and other health professionals think of scurvy as a condition of the past, but our research has shown that this really isn’t true.”J.s. Hampl

This ongoing vitamin C deficiency could be a leading cause of many of the chronic diseases that plague us today.

"Scurvy, or vitamin C deficiency, is associated with low grade inflammation, fatigue, limping, gum bleeding, or swollen extremities. Vitamin C depletion can also lead to a multitude of other health problems and disease." – Hampl, et al., 2004



  • Stone, I. (1972) The Healing Factor, Vitamin C Against Disease
  • Fonorow, O. (2008) Practicing Medicine Without a License, The Story of the Linus Pauling Therapy for Heart Disease

By Arturo Galindo
Certified Nutritional Therapist

I have used vitamin C and nutrition for over 10 years to end my chronic diseases and help my family stay healthy. Learn about our story.

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