Vitamin C: The Essential Weapon In Your Anti-Pollution Armoury

There are times when you just have to make peace with whatever is not right, but you can always choose to guard yourself. Pollution is obviously not going anywhere! The only thing you can do is fortify yourself in a way that the damage on your body may be minimised.

Also Read: How Effective Are Anti-Pollution Skin and Haircare Products?

The Risk Factors

Pollution is known to cause and exacerbate a number of chronic respiratory diseases. The World Health Organisation has placed air pollution as the world’s largest environmental health risk factor.

The role of diet and anti-oxidants in mitigating the effects of pollution has been gaining public interest off late and experts are recommending modifications in diet such as including vitamin supplementation to reduce the effects of pollution on asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases.

Geetu Reddy, Hyderabad-based nutritionist“Pollution, specifically air pollution, tends to deplete the body of antioxidants - which are primarily vitamin C and E.”

“These antioxidants are helpful in protecting against the damage caused by particulate matter (PM). The effect of which is not just felt inside our bodies, but also on our looks,” She adds.

Delhi-based dermatologist, Dr B L Jangid, of SkinQure, agrees, " Your skin and hair are the first parts of our body to be exposed to air pollution. Pollution can generate free radicals on the skin. These are highly unstable molecules that react very quickly with other compounds and can have a destructive effect on your skin support structure to accelerate skin ageing."

" Apart from minor ailments such as headaches, fatigue, irritation of the eyes and throat, air pollution is also a major environmental risk factor in the incidence and progression of diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, anxiety, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, autism, retinopathy, foetal growth, and low birth weight, and the list goes on!" informs Prof. Arvind Rajwanshi, Dean, Research at PGI, Chandigarh.

Ozone gas, the main chemical in smog, affects millions of people all over the globe, and several studies have shown that this highly active gas leads to decreases in lung function.

"There are at least two possible mechanisms by which air pollution can harm parts of the body besides the nasal cavity and lungs. The first has to do with inflammation, which is the body’s way of repairing itself after an injury or illness,” says Sydney-based pulmonologist, Dr Mahesh Atre.

Dr Mahesh Atre, Pulmonologist“Some toxic particles can escape the lungs and enter the bloodstream.”

Since the destructive effects are believed to be due to harmful types of oxygen (via oxidation), researchers then set out to see if antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, could save our lungs.

Also Read: Air Pollution Crisis: Docs Explain What’s Happening to Your Body

The Case For Vitamin C

We are barraged with toxic air, heavily loaded with dust, matter, lead, smoke, nickel, ammonia, arsenic and hydrocarbon compounds from industrial facilities, agricultural runoff, pesticide-laced foods, and emissions from trucks, cars, and planes.

Dr Mahesh Atre“Our body needs vitamin C to make collagen, a protein required to help wounds heal.”

Vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body.

“In addition, vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body from disease," He added.

"It is used to form an important protein used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. It also helps heal Heal wounds and form scar tissue, while repairing and maintaining cartilage, bones and teeth. Besides, it helps the body absorb iron," informs Geetu Reddy.

Antioxidants, including Vitamin C, are nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals, the buildup of which over time is largely responsible for the aging process.

Not Even Your Tresses Are Spared

Externally, soot, dirt, dust and gases can cause scalp irritation, dryness, breakage and even premature baldness.

Specialists in the hair transplant industry have seen an increase in their services, especially in urban environments where air quality is worse and has a greater adverse effect on the body.

Dr B L Jangid, Delhi-based dermitologist“Air pollution affects the hair just as much as it does the skin due to the microscopic nature of PM 2.5 which can infiltrate the lungs and get lodged in the scalp.”

“ The reason behind this is, toxic content present in air enter into skin of scalp and hinder the capability of hair to generate fibre. Toxic content present in air also get entered in blood stream and hinder the growth of hair," adds Dr B L Jangid.

Vitamin C has been found to work together to help protect the body against oxidative stress caused by air pollution.

In addition to this, In 2001, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers found that vitamin C supplements seemed to protect lungs against ozone, as reported by WebMD.

Vitamin C also helps the body to better absorb a type of iron we get from plant foods such as beans, spinach and quinoa.

To get this benefit, combine vitamin C-rich foods with iron-rich plant foods in the same meal. Combine kidney beans and salsa or create a scrumptious spinach salad with strawberries and mandarin oranges.

The case for including more Vitamin C in our diets only gets stronger.

Also Read: Vitamin C Doses May Shorten ICU Stay: Study

How to Add The Extra C

Vitamin C is perhaps the most effective antioxidant for our body, this is perhaps because this water soluble vitamin is present throughout our body.

Adequate vitamin C in our daily diets is crucial for maintaining its level in the lungs. Adults need 40mg of this vitamin/day.

“Citrus fruits, broccoli, and spinach, for example, are good sources of Vitamin C," informs Geetu Reddy.

Dr Chitra, Ayurvedic doctor at Kairali The Healing Village says that, "Vegetables like coriander leaves, chaulai ka saag, drumsticks, parsley, cabbage and turnip greens are good sources that you should load up on.”

Dr Chitra, Ayurvedic doctor at Kairali The Healing Village“But the easiest way to get your daily dose of vitamin C is to include the juice of 2 lemons in your daily diet.”

Also Read: ‘Death by Delhi’: An 18 Year Old Writes on Air Pollution 

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