Summary: Most forms of Vitamin C are Ascorbic Acid. Many patients have a tough time tolerating this acidic form of Vitamin C so manufacturers may ‘buffer’ it by adding calcium, magnesium and potassium. Some patients do much better on an alkaline form of Vitamin C like Sodium Ascorbate.
Dear Curtis: I went into the local pharmacy the other day after my doctor told me to take Vitamin C. But she told me to make sure it is ‘buffered’ Vitamin C. The only problem is, I didn’t see any. What does buffered actually mean? Is there really any difference between that and the other ‘regular’ Vitamin C products. I just don’t want to pay more than I have to if there really isn’t any difference.
I’d be interested to know why your doctor wants you to take a buffered form of Vitamin C. Is it from her personal experience with Vitamin C and it causing side effects? Do you have anything like stomach ulcers? I only ask this because some providers, in my experience, are a bit misinformed about Vitamin C in general.
A Way To Tell if Vitamin C is Buffered
Regarding the ‘buffering’ of Vitamin C, try this. When you go into the store and start looking at all the Vitamin C preparations you’ll usually find the words “Buffered” on the front label. But, as you said, you don’t see any.
However, turn each of the bottles around and look for the ingredient label.
Start looking for Vitamin C that has calcium, potassium or even magnesium in it. Or, look for another form of Vitamin C called Sodium Ascorbate.
In short, when Vitamin C is buffered it means it has been ‘chemically altered’ – for lack of a better term – to make it easier on the stomach. Most popular forms of Vitamin C are Ascorbic Acid. In it’s crystalline form Ascorbic Acid, as the name implies, is very bitter and can be hard for a lot of patients to tolerate.
It’s pretty well known that a lot of patients experience stomach discomfort when taking Vitamin C. Especially Ascorbic Acid. So the buffering process is an attempt to make the Vitamin C more alkaline, rather than acidic.
A Theory About The Side Effects of Vitamin C
However, there is a theory out there that most patients who have a tough time with Vitamin C do so because they have poor gut flora – not because the product is acidic. Meaning, rather than having a healthy proportion of good bacteria in your stomach and intestines, it may be overrun with bad bugs like Candida Albicans. When that happens taking Vitamin C becomes difficult – leading to side effects like gas, cramping and diarrhea.
I’m not sure how much weight to place on this theory. But, I can say that from personal experience after I switched to my healthy eating style I never have problems with taking Vitamin C in it’s acidic form. So take that for what it’s worth.
A downside of buffered Vitamin C is that it will likely cost more and you have to decide if the extra cost is worth it. A popular form of buffered Vitamin C that I have had good feedback about is Ester-C®.