Vitamin C: an essential “stress hormone” during sepsis
The stress response is a preserved evolutionary response that functions to enhance the survival of the species. In mammals, the stress response is characterized by activation of the HPA axis and sympathoadrenal system (SAS) as well as the increased synthesis and secretion of vitamin C. Cortisol, catecholamines, and vitamin C act synergistically to increase hemodynamic reserve, maintain immune function and protect the host against excessive oxidant injury. Humans (and anthropoid apes) have lost the ability to synthesize vitamin C and therefore have an impaired stress response. The inability to produce vitamin C has serious implications in septic humans. Treatment with vitamin C appears to restore the stress response and improve the survival of stressed humans.