Scurvy

Scurvy is a disease caused by vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency. This disease derives its name from the Latin term 'scorbutus' and it is known to humans since the days of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Generally, this disease is associated with explorers, especially sailors, during the period between 16th and 18th centuries that went on long voyages and went without sufficient vitamin C owing to the absence of fresh vegetables and fruits in their diet. Although, scurvy is rare in contemporary time, the sailors who were affected by the disease often succumbed to their condition.

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The disease finds mention in the writings of Greek philosopher Hippocrates, who specified his familiarity with the disease and noted that the disease proved to be a grave problem among the seamen as well as the people traveling by ships during the 'Age of Exploration'. Much later, during 1700s, a scientist called James Lind ascertained a connection between eating citrus fruits and diminishing in scurvy. In fact, Lind proved that consuming citrus fruits eventually led to a drastic decline in scurvy. The findings of the researcher, in effect, gave rise to the jargon 'limey' denoting a 'seaman'. This actually meant that the sailors of the day consumed plenty of fresh limes to prevent scurvy.

Possibly, scurvy is the first disease caused by insufficiency of essential substances that is known to man. Children are very susceptible to this medical condition and it is frequently gaffed for rickets (characterized by softening of the bones), rheumatism (any disorder of the extremities or back, characterized by pain and stiffness) or paralysis (a loss or impairment of voluntary movement in a body part). As discussed earlier, the disease is caused owing to insufficiency of vitamin C or ascorbic acid. Scarce consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits, is likely to cause the disease.

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In addition to vitamin C, stress or tension is said to be another reason for developing scurvy. Stress is responsible for the disease as this condition uses up the vitamin C or ascorbic acid in the body. Scurvy actually develops or commences gradually, but steadily. When an individual develops scurvy, usually he or she initially experiences fatigue and ordinary debility. However, later on, when the disease sets in, the patient experiences profuse bleeding from the gums owing to insufficiency of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) that renders the capillaries breakable and they usually rip open. Such a situation is likely to result in hemorrhage (depletion of blood).

As discussed above, scarcity of vitamin C or ascorbic acid is the reason behind development of scurvy in the system and the disease is especially widespread among children. While the disease was widespread among the sailors during the Victorian Age, today it is found in some children. In the earlier days, seamen acquired the disease as they went on long voyages without having sufficient amounts of vitamin C in their diets and once this was established, they were provided with provisions like limes and lemons to suck with a view to help them avoid the medical condition. In addition, foods rich in vitamin C content were also added to their diet to enable them to overcome this grave problem. Interestingly, the basic means to ward off as well as heal the disease remains the same even to this day - people need to consume enough food containing vitamin C or ascorbic acid. Doing so would not only help them to maintain a sound health, but also avoid any disease owing to deficiency of vitamin C.

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Also referred to as 'scorbutus', this disease may prove to be life-threatening if a patient does not seek medical help. This medical condition is very easy to treat since only consumption of sufficient amounts of vitamin C is enough to treat the disease. In the present times, scurvy is comparatively rare and this is primarily owing to the extensive knowledge about the disease as well as the awareness regarding the fact that consumption of vitamin C helps in preventing as well as alleviating this medical condition. Nevertheless, the disease may still occur in people who suffer from malnourishment, newborn babies as well as elderly individuals.

People who just acquire the disease experience symptoms like exhaustion and joint aches. In case the patient does not seek medical attention, the disease will soon result in characteristic rash on the legs, bleeding from the mucus membranes, and acute debility of the muscles and if there had been any bone fracture earlier, it will break open again. In fact, vitamin C deficiency enables the body's connective tissues basically to disintegrate resulting in harming of the muscles provided the medical condition is not diagnosed in time.

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It may be mentioned here that consumption of approximately seven to ten mg of vitamin C or food containing ascorbic acid is sufficient to help one avoid scurvy. In other words, this means consuming a whole orange encloses around four times the daily requirement of vitamin C needed to put off this medical condition. In fact, the only cure for scurvy involves consumption of lots of foods and supplements containing vitamin C and this is possible by ingesting plenty of vegetables and fruits containing this essential vitamin. Here, it is important to mention that assimilation of vitamin C alone by the body may often be hard and hence, it is advisable to mix it in the diet and also dispensing the doses of vitamin C in a number of meals to ascertain that the body is able to assimilate maximum amount of this essential substance.

It is interesting to note that many a times, newborn babies are susceptible to scurvy when they are given formula, as pasteurized milk fed to them has a deficiency of vitamin C. On the other hand, aged people are also susceptible of acquiring scurvy as they often lack vitamin C in their diet. In fact, 'widower's scurvy' may be found in elderly men who are not able to cook meals for themselves. In addition, individuals enduring anorexia (loss of appetite) or other eating problems may also get scurvy as well as other medical conditions that are associated with nutritional insufficiency.

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Although this disease rarely occurs in present times, scurvy can still be found in some people - more often than not in alcoholics, aged people as well as individuals who consume very small amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits. Likewise, newborn babies and children who are fed special or inferior diets owing to several financial or social reasons are susceptible to this medical condition.

As discussed earlier, the main reason for developing the medical condition scurvy is lack of adequate consumption of vitamin C or ascorbic acid. And the vitamin C insufficiency may be owing to a host of reasons - famine, loss of appetite, unawareness and even limited diets due to food allergies and others. In addition, problems in consuming food orally may also result in vitamin C deficiency and hence, scurvy.

The usual initial symptoms of scurvy (besides the above ones) may also include diarrhea, fever, fast breathing, touchiness, and poor weight gain, loss of appetite, as well as uneasiness and swelling above the long bones. Patients suffering from this medical condition are also likely to experience bleeding and a sensation of paralysis or immobility. With the development of the sickness, patients enduring scurvy are also likely to experience bleeding from the gums, slackened off teeth, bleeding in the eye and petechial (or pertaining to serous membrane) bleeding of the skin and mucous membranes with minute isolate red marks. In addition, the disease may cause hyperkeratosis (a malady of the skin), corkscrew hair, constochondral beading (cartilage globules formed between the joints) and sicca syndrome (a self immune ailment influencing the connective tissues).

Newborn babies affected with this medical condition are likely to experience uneasiness, nervousness and increasing irritation. In most cases, such scurvy patients are likely to take up the frog leg pose for get relieve when they are hit with stimulated paralysis. In most cases, infants having scurvy will have sub-periosteal blood loss - a type of bleeding that happens at the lower ends of the long bones.

When an individual is suspected to have developed scurvy, initially the doctors will carry out a physical examination to find out the symptoms of the disease discussed above. The precise intensity of vitamin C present in the individual's system can be got by making use of laboratory examinations that investigate the levels of serum ascorbic acid or the concentration of ascorbic acid in the white blood cells. Occasionally, physicians also recommend radiological course of action with a view to diagnose the extent of harm already caused by the disease in the patient.

Apart from lack of sufficient consumption of vegetables and fruits containing vitamin C and taking other supplements that are rich in vitamin C content, stress or trauma is another major reason for the development of scurvy in any individual. The reason behind this is easy to comprehend. When an individual is burdened with stress or anxiety, the negative venoms discharged by the system hinders the facility of the body to produce vitamin C. As a result, the entire system inside the body suffers considerably and this helps in the development of scurvy.

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical science, offers a clear and general way to fight stress and trauma. According to the ancient Ayurvedic teachings, regular practice of yoga - meditation and deep breathing, helps one to have a control over his or her body and systems and, thereby helps to prevent as well as alleviate stress. In addition to this, undertaking habitual physical activities like walking, cycling, swimming and others are not only very effective in busting stress, but also helps an individual to remain in the best of health, which, in turn, prevents occurrence of several diseases, including scurvy. Besides, generally, inhaling the fresh air outdoors also does wonderful things to boost your feeling of being well as well as tones up your physical and mental health enabling you to resist several ailments.

Supplements and herbs

Several herbs as well as dietary enhancements containing sufficient amounts of vitamin C or ascorbic acid are beneficial for preventing as well as treating scurvy. For instance, lime and lemon are very effective in this case. As both lime and lemon posses rich contents of vitamin C, they are considered to be foods with extraordinary remedial worth for scurvy as well as many other diseases. In fact, patients suffering from scurvy would benefit immensely if they consume the juice of a whole lemon or lime blended in a glass of tepid water and a teaspoonful of honey. This will help to treat the disease like nothing else. In fact, using lime and lemon has proved to be effective in saving the lives of numerous seamen working on ships voyaging across oceans, by preventing them from developing scurvy. They have gained much vis-à-vis scurvy by taking the juice of just one lime or lemon blended with a teaspoon of honey in a glass of water. Even the Indian gooseberry is rich in vitamin C content. In order to use this herb for scurvy treatment, blend one kg of dried and powdered Indian gooseberry with two cups of  sugar. Administer one teaspoon of this mixture to the scurvy patient three times every day with a glass of hot milk to get rid of the disease.

Aamchur or powdered dry green mangoes, a widely used element of diet in many Indian homes, is another effective therapy for scurvy. Aamchur is prepared by cutting skinned, stoned green mangoes into small parts, dried in the sun and subsequently pulverizing them. In fact, 15 grams of aamchur is considered to be equal to 30 grams of superior quality lime vis-à-vis their vitamin C or ascorbic acid content.

Similarly, potato is also considered to be a useful food that is effective in curing scurvy as they contain a relatively high amount of vitamin C. In fact, 100 mg of potato encloses approximately 17 mg of vitamin C. It is interesting to note that scurvy has become a rare medical condition in Europe since people there began to cultivate potato extensively and only occurs at times when the crop fails in the continent.

Among numerous herbal remedies for scurvy, the jaundice berry is very effective in curing this medical condition. In fact, the leaves of the jaundice berry plants possess anti-scurvy or anti-scorbutic properties and a decoction prepared from these leaves help to prevent as well as treat the disease. In order to prepare the decoction with jaundice berry leaves, first boil 15 grams of dehydrated leaves in around 500 ml of water till the liquid reduces to one-third of the original amount. Administer approximately 150 ml to 175 ml of the decoction to the scurvy patients in single doses. In addition, the juice extracted from the jaundice berries is also effective in curing the ailment and may be administered in dosages of 2 ml to 4 ml daily.

Aromatherapy

Commonly used essential oils for scurvy:

Additional things you may do

If you desire to avoid developing scurvy, it is essential that you change your dietary habits and change to a good nourishing, well-adjusted and comprehensive intake regularly. The key necessity for your body to maintain a good health comprises intake of a superior-quality combination of fresh vegetables and fruits, pulses, grains, nuts and seeds regularly. In addition, enhance the value of these foods by ingesting substances like milk, honey and vegetable oils that have a rich content of the necessary key nourishments. Besides these, always eat wholesomely. For instance, continue taking whole meals instead of white bread.

It may be noted here that in order to maintain a good health, the usually suggested consumption of vitamin C ranges between 10 mg and 20 mg every day. It is important that you continue taking this dose of vitamin C. Again while it is always desirable that one should always eat adequately with a view to consume sufficient amounts of vitamin C, in case some people are not able to eat the right meal, they may take any of the assortment of tablets and herbal dietary enhancements that are readily available in the market. These tablets and herbal supplements will fulfill the requirement for the necessary amount of vitamin C that one should ingest every day.

Amla (biological name: Phyllanthus emblica) better known as the Indian gooseberry in the West is perhaps the most imperative and essential fruit available to fight scurvy. The Amla is said to be a storehouse of vitamin C and other stimulating properties that are essential to prevent and treat this disease. Especially, the strength of this fruit augments when it is removed from the farthest place from the plant's actual roots. In order to avail the optimum benefits offered by Amla, you may drink the juice extracted from the fruit directly or dehydrate and powder it and combine it with any other drink. This valuable fruit may be consumed in several ways. While you may ingest a teaspoon of the powder of the fruit blending it with an identical amount of sugar in a glass of milk thrice every day, some people may also prefer the capsule containing the fruit powder and known as Morpheme Amakiki supplement.

In addition to Morpheme Amakiki supplement, the following Ayurvedic herbal medications also enclose different proportions of the Indian Gooseberry:

  • Chyawanprash
  • Kabz care
  • Amalaki Rasayan
  • Amla Taila (an essential oil extracted from the fruit)

The basic point is that though scurvy may prove to be fatal if it is untreated, this medical condition can be prevented without much effort if you simply stick to a superior-quality, well-adjusted, comprehensive diet that is rich in vitamin C or ascorbic acid content. In addition, following the teaching of Ayurveda, such as regular practice of yoga, will help you to keep off this ailment.

Adequate and wholesome food is the most important aspect in preventing as well treating scurvy. In this regard, it is essential that all children ought to be breast fed every time possible. This is because mother's milk is not only pure, but encloses all the key nourishments in the right amounts that are essential for the growth and progress of an infant. However, if breast-feeding a baby is not possible for any reason, the child may be given cow's milk or any other milk formula available in the market. When the baby attains the age of one year, in addition to milk, he or she may be given vegetable and fruit juices along with infrequent feedings of whole meal bread. And when the child is two years old, he or she may start taking a properly balanced and wholesome diet containing adequate amounts of steamed vegetables, fruits, milk and wholegrain cereals.

As discussed a number of times earlier, ingestion of a proper and well-balance diet is crucial for preventing as well as treating scurvy in adults. In fact, it is essential for all scurvy patients to consume a properly balanced diet comprising nutrients like vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. In addition, the diet of such patients needs to be enhanced by taking some specific foods like milk, honey and vegetable oils. Moreover, scurvy patients should be provided with foods that contain sufficient amounts of vitamin C or ascorbic acid that are present in high amounts in fresh vegetables and fruits. In fact, the scurvy patients need to intake a dose of vitamin C ranging between 10 mg and 20 mg every day. If they are unable to consume the requisite foods, the patients may make up their daily vitamin C requirements by taking it in the form of tablets or capsules.

In addition to fulfilling the dietary requirements, it is essential for scurvy patients to embark on outdoor physical activities, such as walking, cycling and swimming. It would be best if they also practiced yoga regularly adhering the doctrines of Ayurvedic teachings. Moreover, it is important that a scurvy patient sleeps in a properly ventilated room and spends plenty of time outdoors to take the benefits of fresh air.

Other beneficial herbs

Since, scurvy is caused by vitamin C or ascorbic acid deficiency, this disease may be healed by administering the vitamin either by oral means or through injection. While orange juice is generally effectual in curing the disease when taken as a dietary treatment, there are a number of vitamin supplements that have also proved to be helpful in healing the medical condition. In other words, scurvy can be treated by ingesting sufficient amount of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) both in the diet and also as dietary enhancements, especially herbs. Some fruits that are rich in vitamin C content comprise lemons, oranges, guava, blackcurrants, papaya, kiwifruit and strawberries. Vegetables that are important in preventing as well as healing scurvy include potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, paprika and bell peppers. Hence, consuming these fruits and vegetables in sufficient amounts will not only help to prevent scurvy, but also treat the medical condition.

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