Arrrrrrrr…. Scurvy happens not only in pirates

Remember how in grade school we learned that pirates — and legitimate sailors as well — would get a disease called scurvy on long trips in the open seas? This was because they were limited to foods that had to keep for a long time and did not have access to foods with vitamin C (e.g. citrus fruits, veggies…). So, as a result, they got scurvy.

Well, these days, we don’t really think about pirates when we think about nutritional deficiencies. (At least, I don’t over here in Boston.) However, there are groups of individuals who are predisposed to nutritional deficiencies, and in particular, to scurvy.

These individuals include young kids, people with limited diets, alcoholics, people without access to diverse diets or food, and folks who have diseases of the gut that can prevent them from absorbing Vitamin C (e.g. malabsorption, inflammatory bowel disease).

So what did the pirates or sailors get when they got scurvy? Well, not that I’ve met any of them, but signs of scurvy include bleeding (around hairs, in the gums, or just into the skin — causing bruises), hairs shaped like corkscrews(!), swollen gums, weakness, joint pains, eye problems, and problems with the blood cells, just to name a few.

So, remember to include enough Vitamin C in your diet (most of us do without thinking about it)!