Scurvy Mate

When winter hits and the temperature drops, the common cold begins to spread like wildfire. The common solution is to take medicine and to pump your body full of vitamin C to get your immune system back up. At least that’s what I do every time I get that faintest little cough or smallest sniffle. However, vitamin C intake is not just an essential ingredient to the cure for a simple common cold, but can also the prevention a horrendous disease called scurvy.

For a long time I thought “scurvy” was a term said by pirates in Hollywood movies that was some sort of slang for something. I had heard the term in pirate movies many times, but never took the time to look into what scurvy actual was.

So what actually is scurvy?


So let me break it down for you…

Scurvy is a disease that was extremely common in sailors during the 16th to 18th centuries (can include pirates). Scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C consistently in a person’s diet (Crosta) . The reason the disease was so common in sailors was because sailors would embark on long voyages, meaning they would need to bring food that could last for a very long time. Preserving fruits and vegetables without refrigeration was very hard to do that the time. So, sailors ate foods such as salted meats and bread (Crosta).

Now let’s translate that into what’s going on in the body

Humans cannot chemically create vitamin C on their own (Crosta). Therefore, it is necessary to obtain vitamin C from an external source (Crosta) . Vitamin C can be found in various fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, vitamin C is especially essential for pregnant women. A vitamin C deficiency can be extremely dangerous to the fetus and can cause an undeveloped brain in infants (Crosta).


What can happen

A victim of scurvy will generally experience the following symptoms: lack of appetite, diarrhea, lack of weight gain, rapid breathing, fever, irritability, swelling of the long bones, pain in legs, hemorrhaging, and feelings of paralysis (Crosta) .

As the disease gets worse the person can experience: bleeding gums, loosening and loss of teeth, bleeding from the eye, hyperkeratosis, sicca syndrome, and a protruding eye (Crosta).

Are we at risk of scurvy?

In my opinion: yes and no. Many of us are not going on long sea voyages with a lack of adequate food in tow. In the time we live in now, we have so much access to the foods that have vitamin C and we can preserve them well. Even if we don’t like to eat fruits and vegetables (for whatever reason), we can now get that nutrition in smoothies and juices. In the modern era, elderly people are more commonly victims of scurvy.


Scurvy can also be found in alcoholics, people who don’t eat enough fruits or vegetables, people on restrictive diets, people with food allergies, and people who are anorexic (Crosta).

So how do we all avoid getting scurvy?


My first suggestion as a college student would be to avoid the lifestyle of that one college kid from New Zealand that Andrew mentioned in class: Eat/drink more than beer and chips (Read)!!!

My second suggestion would be to make sure you eat foods that naturally produce vitamin C. In the morning before class, drink some orange juice. When you’re grabbing lunch at the HUB, throw some bell peppers, carrots, and tomatoes on your $10 salad. And for a snack, have an orange, some strawberries, or a papaya.

As a college kid, it is essential to have a balanced diet and to get all of your vitamins daily in order to live a happy and healthy life.

So basically…




Crosta, Peter, M.A. “Scurvy: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.” Medical News Today.

MediLexicon International, 30 June 2015. Web. 03 Sept. 2016.


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