Liposomal Vitamin C and the Bladder

Liposomal Vitamin C and the Bladder

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of taking megadoses of vitamin C during times of stress or following exposure to viruses since I first discovered the work of nutritionist Patrick Holford over a decade ago. He advocates taking 3g of vitamin C every four hours at the onset of a cold, until all symptoms are gone. Plenty of other nutritionists and complementary healthcare providers support this view, with an article on even advising doses in excess of 100g a day for some conditions. While I have never reached (or felt the need to try to reach!) these dizzy heights, I have on several occasions exceeded 10g per day, usually when I have been in the throes of a cold.

The problem is that achieving megadoses using mineral ascorbate forms of vitamin C is tricky. One must be careful not to overdose on the mineral of choice and, obviously, drastically increasing intake of one mineral may upset the balance of other minerals. I use magnesium ascorbate as my daily vitamin C, as I like to get both magnesium and vitamin C in one product.  However, it is difficult to properly megadose with because an excess of magnesium produces laxative effects before bowel tolerance of the vitamin C itself might otherwise be reached.  This means that if I am unwell, I have to make a choice between having an upset tummy and allowing my cold to worsen!  Higher doses of vitamin C can be achieved more easily (and cheaply) using the ascorbic acid form. However, I, like many interstitial cystitis sufferers, cannot tolerate ascorbic acid. What to do then?

I was recently exposed to a cold virus and while attempting to research a satisfactory answer to this question, I read about liposomal vitamin C.  I learned that liposomal technology involves packing a drug or nutrient into a tiny phospholipid shell.  This shell provides protection for the drug or nutrient and enables it to be carried through the gut wall and into the bloodstream more efficiently.  The phospholipid shell then helps the drug or supplement to be carried into the relevant body cell where it can be put to use carrying out its intended function.  In this way, liposomes allow for greater absorption and fewer side effects.  How marvellous! 

Would the better absorption of liposomal vitamin C mean that its irritating effects on the bladder would be bypassed? I could find no answer to this one way or the other, but after some reading around, I concluded that there were logical bases for argument in either direction. I therefore decided to purchase some and give it a try. I went with Dr Mercola’s Liposomal Vitamin C, because I have used several of his products before and consider his supplements to be some of the best on the market. I also regularly read his articles and hold him in high esteem regarding most issues pertaining to health and wellbeing.

Since I originally wrote this blog post, I have seen certain allegations being made about Dr Mercola’s Liposomal Vitamin C.  In order not to mislead readers, I have edited parts of this post since its first publication.  I do not know whether the allegations are true or not, so I will not repeat them here.  I cannot remember exactly what the product description said on the day I purchased the product, but I would not purchase it again today.  I do still visit Dr Mercola’s website occasionally to keep up to date with his opinions on nutritional matters.

The liposomal vitamin C was encapsulated in 500mg dosages and was in an ascorbic acid form. I was almost certain that I would be fine with liposomal ascorbic acid and thought that if not, any adverse bladder symptoms would present quickly and would vanish upon ceasing the supplement. I hoped its unusual and superior absorption would mean less excretion via the urine, thus avoiding any bladder irritation.

I was very wrong. At first all seemed well – I took only a gram a day in divided doses and had expected that any reaction would come within the first two days. It seemed not to – I felt a touch more sensitive than usual, but was also just coming off my period, which often has a similar effect. About four days in, I knew I was in trouble. I stopped taking it, drank lots of water, took some extra aloe vera capsules, and hoped everything would settle down. However, by the following evening, I had a full-blown cystitis attack to deal with. It was sufficiently severe to prevent me from sleeping, to resist painkillers and to have me sitting in a tub of cool water at 3am. I had not become dehydrated and I had not used or done anything differently apart from introducing the liposomal vitamin C.

Days after stopping the supplement, I am still experiencing cystitis symptoms. I improved slightly for a couple of days, but as soon as I relaxed my treatment protocol, it came back with a vengeance. I therefore still need to keep my urine alkaline, drink plenty of fluids, and maintain a supplement and medicine regime to soothe the pain. I think this will have to continue for a number of weeks, which is obviously inconvenient, costly and stressful. Having had almost a year of persistent genital arousal disorder to contend with after my last bout of cystitis, I am also worried that I will be paying the price for my experimentation for a considerable period of time.

I’m really looking after myself at the moment and am going to be very careful until I feel like my bladder has properly healed. I am therefore confident that I will soon be better and will recover much quickly and with fewer complications than after my last cystitis episode. It is however very frustrating and I am really cross with myself for taking that kind of risk with an ascorbic acid supplement! On the other hand, up until now I’ve never had a full-on bladder flare up that was not bacterial in nature; I just thought ascorbic acid made me a bit niggly and uncomfortable. If I were a ‘proper’ interstitial cystitis sufferer I may have exercised more caution, but I honestly did not know that my bladder was quite so sensitive until it was too late!

I just wanted to write this experience up as a blog post so that anyone with a temperamental bladder can make a more informed decision about whether to try liposomal ascorbic acid or not. Further Googling after the event has thrown up a sodium ascorbate form of liposomal vitamin C, which, with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, would have been a much safer option! Perhaps at some stage in the future I will give that a try. For now, however, I will stick with my trusty mineral ascorbates in their normal tablet/capsule form – it’s not as if I want to megadose most of the time anyway!

To conclude: while everyone responds to things differently, I would not recommend liposomal ascorbic acid to people who have a known bladder sensitivity to ordinary ascorbic acid!

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