Can Vitamin C Upset Your Stomach?

upset stomach

Vitamin C is well known for providing many benefits, including shortening the duration of a cold, boosting the immune system and supporting the natural production of collagen.  But yes, taking high doses of traditional vitamin C – pills, powders, and capsules – can upset your stomach and then some…

Here’s why:

Most traditional vitamin C supplements contain straight ascorbic acid.  Ascorbic acid is recognized as the primary force behind the power of vitamin C, but it is an acid.  A moderate amount of acid in the gastric system helps to digest food and kill bacteria, but too much acid leads to heartburn, bloating, belching, and flatulence.

High quality vitamin C supplements use gentler, less-acidic types of vitamin C to help prevent this gastric upset.  These supplements typically include sodium ascorbate, ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids, ascorbyl palmitate, calcium ascorbate, or mineral forms of ascorbate.

The type of vitamin C you take, however, is only one part of the issue.  Because no matter what type of vitamin C you ingest, it’s primarily absorbed through an active transport system (unless it’s encapsulated in liposomes, but we’ll get to that later).

Active transport of vitamin C relies on sodium-dependent vitamin C co-transporters (SVCTs) to carry each vitamin C molecule through special doorways into the bloodstream, cell or tissue.  SVCTs can only carry one molecule of vitamin C through one door at a time.

This system works efficiently for a healthy person taking small doses of vitamin C, but when you take high doses of vitamin C, the absorption is severely restricted by the number of SVCTs and the number of open doors. If there aren’t enough SVCTs to carry all of the vitamin C into the blood, or all of the doors are closed, the vitamin C that was not absorbed is forced to exit the body.

This forced exit occurs because the most common forms of vitamin C are water soluble – meaning the vitamin C dissolves in water, and cannot be stored by the body for later use.  So when a large dose of water soluble vitamin C is taken and there are not enough SVCTs or open doors, all of the unabsorbed vitamin C is sent to the colon. Water is then drawn into the colon in order to dilute and excrete the vitamin C.  Then… straight to the bathroom.

Unless you are looking for a good cleanse, there are two ways to prevent these unpleasant experiences when taking high doses of vitamin C:

  • Take single doses of <500 mg of sodium ascorbate, several times a day.  Sodium ascorbate is recommended most by vitamin C experts, and it is commonly used in high dose intravenous (IV) infusions.
  • Take vitamin C encapsulated in liposomes.  Liposomes are tiny spheres that form a protective membrane around the vitamin C.  This prevents the vitamin C from being destroyed in the digestive system, while promoting delivery directly into the bloodstream and cells.  And because liposomes do not use the body’s active transport system, you can take high doses of liposomal vitamin C without worrying about where to find the nearest bathroom.


  • Li, Y. and Schellhorn, E. 2007. New developments and novel therapeutic perspectives for vitamin C. Journal of Nutrition. 137: 2171-2184
  • Hickey S., Roberts H, Miller N, (2008), “Pharmacokinetics of oral vitamin C” Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine July 31.

© 2014 LivOn Labs

11 Responses to Can Vitamin C Upset Your Stomach?

  1. katherine says:

    My husband is going to start taking 30 mg or Aatinib will the vit c interfere? He has lung cancer. I ordered 2 more boxes…the boxes I found that I brought to FL from KS exp 6/14 are they any good at all? to use before the ones come next week?

    • Felipe Gonzales says:

      We guarantee our Lypo-Spheric products to be 100% effective up until the expiration date. We are unsure how effective the products are after the expiration date, but there is nothing in the product that will harm you if it is taken after it has expired. We believe that the effectiveness gradually decreases past the expiration date.

  2. ANNA says:

    Intestinal cancer patient can take Lpyo-sepheric Victin C? Did operation on liver last week.

    • Felipe Gonzales says:

      In most cases, it is only people with hemochromatosis, hemolyticanemia, G6PD deficiency, known kidney insufficiency or failure, or those currently taking the blood thinner Warfarin (Coumadin), that must use Vitamin C under the guidance of a physician. However, we highly recommend that anyone undergoing medical treatment discuss supplementation with their healthcare provider.

  3. david says:

    hi i have episodes of IBS diarrhea would taking this product flair it up ?

    • Felipe Gonzales says:

      Hi David, It is possible to experience temporary gastric upset when taking Lypo-Spheric products for the first time. In most cases, taking the product with a light meal and only taking 1 packet per day will prevent gastric distress. You may even wish to start with ½ packet and increase your dosage slowly over the next several days.

  4. ann says:

    I drink 1g of ascorbic acid and I suffer from stomach pain and vomiting. What can I do to endure the pain? thanks alot.

    • Felipe Gonzales says:

      Hi Ann,

      So sorry to hear that. The product should be well-tolerated at dosages of 1-2 packets per day, but it is possible to experience gastric upset. This type of upset is typically short-lived, but can be uncomfortable. We recommend starting with a half a packet, and slowly increasing the dosage if desired. Seal the open packet and place it in the fridge. Consume it within 24 hours.

      Hope this helps and if the problem persists, please discontinue use and return the unused portion to us for a full refund.

      Felipe G
      Marketing Team

  5. Roger Lee says:

    It sounds as if Ann is not talking about Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C – which is sodium ascorbate – but about ascorbic acid, which should be diluted and sipped slowly to avoid stomach upset.
    I just put the Lypo-Spheric C on a spoon and take it directly, holding it in my mouth for a while to encourage absorption through the permeable gum tissue. I wonder is there are any disadvantages to this practice.

  6. Elizabeth Young says:

    Hi this is Elizabeth. When I take Vitamin C it gives me a bad case of diarrhoea. Even a cold and flu Medicine like Corenza C does the same thing. as far as I know I don’t have IBS.

    • Kaili Carpenter says:

      Hi Elizabeth,
      With pill, powder or tablet forms of Vitamin C, bowel tolerance issues are common. Liposome encapsulated Vitamin C (Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C) is one of the few forms that does not cause digestive issues. I hope this information is helpful!

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