Obvious answer is no but...

I quickly see a difference when I don't get much fruit (or fruit-juice) for a few weeks, my gums start bleeding more easily and get a bit painful - known consequences of a vitamin C deficiency, among other possible causes of course.

It quickly gets better if I drink much more fruit-juice for a week or two.

I know it does not seem related to vegetarian diet, but it never happened to me before and I was not eating healthily at all.

Is there any side-effect of the veggie-diet that could make me more prone to vitamin C deficiency?

Could it be some other vitamin that used to compensate for a lack of vitamin C but that I get less of now as a vegetarian (for almost 2 years)?

I have been a bit low on B12 for example, could this destabilize the way I process or store the vitamin C?

Or as even more unlikely reason, could a lack of sun make a difference here? I moved to a not-sunny country.

Edit: Interesting point in @Panther's link :

Vitamin C can also increase your body's absorption of iron from plant-based foods.

So as a vegetarian you may get less iron from your plant-based food if you don't get enough Vitamin C?

  • The answer to the question in your edit is yes. It's recommended to eat iron rich foods alongside something high in vitamin C, not just to generally get more vitamin C in order to improve iron uptake, so I think the vitamin C actually binds to the iron somehow to help absorption. I am really interested in your main question. Can you think of any other confounding factors? You use more vitamin C when you are stressed or working physically harder
    – Zanna
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 8:00
  • @Zanna I did not know you are using more vitamin C when you are stressed, this could be a factor as well actually ! I will keep that in mind next time I go through a long stressing period.
    – ymoreau
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 8:09
  • oh hmm... that could be it as it's quite a strong factor. Seems more likely to me than vegetarian diet. I was unable to come up with any nutritional factors that might indicate increased likelihood of vitamin-C deficiency symptoms and I have never heard of this before, but I am still interested. If I have time to do some research next week, I will try to write an answer (feel free to ping me and remind me if I haven't!)
    – Zanna
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 8:21
  • @Zanna it is indeed weird but the thing is I never had these symptoms before (gums bleeding that much), and I had higher stress periods, worst unhealthy diets etc. Maybe it is all just a coincidence.
    – ymoreau
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 8:59
  • Are you including eggs and/or dairy in your vegetarian diet?
    – Nic
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 4:49

4 Answers 4


It sounds like you have an iron deficiency [bleeding gums is a common symptom], not a vitamin C deficiency.

You probably feel better when eating a lot of fruit because, to many people's surprise, many fruits have some iron. In addition, vitamin C found in fruit helps you absorb iron found in other plant based food. Here is some things you can do

  1. When you eat a salad with Spinach or Kale etc. Use lemon or lime juice [instead of vinegar] as part of a dressing, and add fruit or vitamin C rich vegetables to the salad too [e.g. red peppers, tomatoes, etc]. This will help you absorb the iron found in the greens.

  2. Eat sweet potatoes. They have a ton of vitamin C and go great with iron rich foods [like broccoli] [they even have a bit of iron in them themselves!]

  3. some fruits have both iron and vitamin C, such as strawberries, watermelon, and raisins

  4. Most bread has iron. If you have a sandwich add some tomato and other vitamin C rich foods to absorb the iron

  5. Other iron rich foods include lentils, beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, dried apricots and figs, quinoa, and most commercial breakfast cereals.

  6. avoid drinking coffee and tea with meals as these things have the opposite effect of vitamin C and actually cause you to absorb less iron.

In general, a vegetarian or vegan diet will never be the direct cause of a vitamin C deficiency, because vitamin C is not in meat products. However, it can absolutely lead to iron deficiency if you don't eat a variety of foods rich in iron along with foods rich in vitamin C to aid iron absorbtion.

  • 2
    This is the conclusion I reached after some research, I wish I could test my iron and vitamin many times to collect some data and confirm this. Thank you for the detailed answer and the tips. One question though, do you know about how long it takes to the body to use the iron you have ? Because I was tested like 1 month before this and had a bit too much iron (so no deficiency at all).
    – ymoreau
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 8:16

Meat and animal protein is not a source of Vitamin C nor is sun exposure a source of Vitamin C.

Fruits and Vegetables are the primary source of Vitamin C and neither a Vegetarian or Vegan diet are a cause of Vitamin C deficiency.

From your question, perhaps you are thinking of Vitamin D?

For sources of vitamin C, you can have a look here. You might also be interested in healthy vegetarian diet in general.

Vitamin C deficiency is rare and is also a rare cause of teeth or gums problem; perhaps seek dental or medical advice before concluding you are Vitamin C deficient.

  • 1
    Indeed, there is no direct link here and I looked as much as possible before asking. It does not make sense but on the other hand I really feel the difference when I do not get much fruits and when I do. Which sounds normal, but I never did feel that before. Oh and I already saw a doctor, got a blood check, and also saw a dentist don't worry, it's really just curiosity about my observations here.
    – ymoreau
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 8:31

Lack of sun will probably not really contribute to this issue.

Vitamin-C could be but also a lack of protein or iron for that matter. Being a vegetarian will not cause this directly but it is important to have a good stable diet.

Leaving meat aside, which has a good amount of protein and iron, one needs to make sure that you still get enough of those in. Green vegetables have a lot of iron in them. Broccoli, spinach, green cabbage and so on, tend to have a serious amount of that, and other vitamins of course as well.

Also, try using nuts for protein enhancement, in salads for example. Cashews, walnuts, sesame, there are so many different varieties. A home made pesto contains pine nuts for example.

Do eat a good amount of fruit. I would, however, be amazed that this would be an issue after leaving meat at the sidelines. Switch up the things you cook and try new stuff.

Everyone's body is different, of course. If nothing seems to help, or this remains a point of concern, I would urge you to go see a doctor and have your blood checked.

I do so every year, just in case, but never had any problems with vitamins or iron or protein or anything really.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    I had a check a few months ago and beside a low level of B12 (but not an actual deficiency) it was all good, iron was actually above the normal range. I'm already aware of these things and I was more looking for an indirect cause to vitamin C deficiency but thanks !
    – ymoreau
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 8:22
  • 1
    Interesting point in @Panther's link though : Vitamin C can also increase your body's absorption of iron from plant-based foods. so as a vegetarian you may get less iron from your plant-based food if you don't get enough Vitamin C ?
    – ymoreau
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 10:02

I agree with wetlabstudent, you have an iron deficiency, not vitamin C. Bleeding gums and similar things are almost always a sign of iron deficiency. Veganism does not lead to a vitamin C deficiency, the vitamin C does not bind to the iron to convert it, the vegetable iron converts to useful iron just in its presence because it's sour, this doesn't affect the vitamin.

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