Advice from national dental associations advise that if your gums bleed, make sure to brush and floss twice a day because bleeding gums could be a sign of gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease.
And that might be true. If you are concerned, see your dentist.
However, a new review of research from the University of Washington suggests you should also check your intake of vitamin C, since a vitamin C deficiency is a possible cause of bleeding gums.
For the study, researchers analyzed 15 clinical trials in six countries, involving 1,140 predominantly healthy participants, and data from 8,210 U.S. residents surveyed in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The results showed that bleeding of the gums on gentle probing, or gingival bleeding tendency, and also bleeding in the eye, or retinal hemorrhaging, were associated with low vitamin C levels in the bloodstream.
And, the researchers found that increasing daily intake of vitamin C in those people with low vitamin C plasma levels helped to reverse these bleeding issues.
The results do suggest that current vitamin C recommendations designed primarily to protect against scurvy -- a deadly disease caused by extremely low vitamin C levels -- are too low, and that such a low vitamin C intake can lead to a bleeding tendency, which should not be treated with dental floss.
The association between gum bleeding and vitamin C levels was recognized more than 30 years ago. However, this connection somehow got lost in dental conversations around bleeding gums.
Missing the possible connection between gum bleeding and low levels of vitamin C has the potential to have serious health consequences.
Related: Scurvy Still Exists in Canada
What does vitamin C do in the body?
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals that we are exposed to in our environment. Vitamin C is also needed for the body to make collagen, which is a protein that helps with growth and repair of skin, bones, teeth and other tissues.
Vitamin C also helps to maintain the immune system so that it can work to protect us from diseases. And it improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods.
How much vitamin C?
You need to include vitamin C rich foods in your diet every day. It’s a water soluble vitamin meaning what your body doesn’t use, it excretes.
The official daily recommended intake for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. If you smoke, you need an extra 35 mg. This is the amount that’s needed to maintain a sufficient concentration of the vitamin in white blood cells.
However many experts recommend getting 200 mg of vitamin C each day to help reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Include at least 2 vitamin C-rich foods in your diet every day. Top sources include citrus fruit, kiwifruit, strawberries, mango, cantaloupe, pineapple, red and green bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and tomato juice.
People following a paleo or keto diet need to consider their vitamin C intake, the researchers advise.
Source: Nutrition Reviews, February 1, 2021.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.