Things I'm afraid of: scurvy

Ahoy, mateys! While ye be sailing the high seas of life, nary a care in the world, I am down below deck, wracked with the morbs over fears of unseen threats. This week, me timbers be shivering o’er the great beast that plagues pirates and college students alike: scurvy.

When I was first getting ready to ship off to college, I was repeatedly bombarded with stories of poor, dumb freshmen plagued with scurvy. These legendary students would show up to the doctor with reports of feeling vaguely icky, lethargic, and perhaps some bone pains, and they’d come away with a scurvy diagnosis and a prescription for orange juice.

Scurvy is the official name for a severe vitamin C deficiency. It was extremely prevalent among 15th and 16th century explorers due to their diet consisting almost entirely of hardtack — not very rich in vitamin C. A sailor living off of this regimen of hardtack, beans, and ale would likely experience symptoms of malaise and lethargy in the beginning, followed by easy bruising and poor wound healing, bone aches, shortness of breath, as well as gum disease. In extreme cases, the symptoms can even go as far as jaundice, neuropathy, fever, and eventually death.

Vitamin C is extremely important to humans. It is a key player in forming blood vessels, muscles, and cartilage, as well as for general wound healing, hence the laundry list of spooky symptoms. Luckily, cases have become significantly rarer in wealthy countries these days, thanks to ease of access to foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

Despite my fears of scurvy being somewhat assuaged by the lack of recent cases, I remain slightly paranoid about it. This landlubber will continue to religiously seek out orange juice and bell peppers, and I recommend ye scurvy dogs do the same unless ye be wishing for an attack from that cruel mistress. Alternatively, if you just can’t stand the thought of a fruit or vegetable touching your lips, maybe consider a nice glass of TANG – with 60 mg of Vitamin C for all of your scurvy-preventing needs!