Deficiency Diseases After a Collapse: Scurvy


Regardless of what you are preparing for, and regardless of what stage you are at on the preparedness journey, something that will never change is that people get sick.

Although many people have a medical kit that an accident and emergency department would be proud to own, that alone will not be enough.

You need to have a basic working knowledge of the medical problems that can occur from nothing more complicated than everyday life, especially when that life is lived under conditions that are so very different from those we are used to.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are not the most riveting subject but a working knowledge of the most common, and some of the most dangerous deficiency diseases is an absolute must for those trying to survive in a world without medical assistance.

Eating a restricted diet can induce all of them. The kind of diet many of us will be eating after a societal collapse.


I am sure most of you know why us Brits are called Limeys, for those that don’t, allow me to enlighten you.

Way back in the early 1800s James Lind, a doctor, discovered that citrus fruit prevented sailors on long voyages dying of scurvy. Some time later, the British Navy started carrying thousands of lemons and limes for the sailors to consume during the voyage, hence the nickname Limey.

All I can say is I am glad whoever coined the phrase preferred green to yellow, I could have spent my life being called a lemon and that just doesn’t do it for me.

Moving on, scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C, a vitamin that is not readily stored in the body and needs to be topped up on a daily basis. Lack of it causes a whole shed load of problems, from bleeding gums and tooth loss, spots, sores, ulcers, fatigue, muscle loss, heart problems and death.

Scurvy is almost unheard of these days, there was one case in the UK in 2008, in a child who was a fussy eater and lived on bread and jam. (Jelly)

Vitamin C is required to build collagen in the body. Collagen is a type of protein and it needs to be replaced regularly, without vitamin C this is impossible. Scurvy has never been eradicated; it is not that kind of disease. It is a condition that’s caused by a diet consistently short of this essential vitamin. It does not occur over night, but a period of three weeks without adequate vitamin C will start to see the symptoms appearing.

Small red dots appear often on the shins where the hairs grow from the skin, they continue to appear until patches of dots are formed. The hairs on the shins break easily and have a twisted appearance. Sometimes the patches of red dots join up forming large dark areas that ulcerate readily. Muscle pains in the legs start and fatigue sets in. The patient will experience severe shortness of breath particularly after exercise, blurring of vision and a damp sticky feeling around the eyes. The muscle pains get worse and the pain may become more generalized before it reaches the heart. If it does reach the heart, the muscles of the heart enlarge and bleed which leads to death.

There is no treatment for scurvy other than taking vitamin C, either from fruit and vegetables or in a supplement. Adults and children are equally susceptible and nursing infants more so due to the fact that they take nothing but milk from their mother. If the mother is lacking in the vitamin, her body will use up available supplies leaving none for the infant. Baby formula usually has vitamins added to make it as similar to breast milk as possible; it is advisable to check the ingredients list on formula you are storing to make sure.

Even a poor stored food diet that has no access to canned fruits etc. will contain some vitamin C, but not enough to prevent scurvy on an on-going basis. Many dried fruits, particularly berries, contain more than enough vitamin C to keep a person healthy and storing them is highly recommended. In addition supplemental vitamin C should be stored in quantity. Like all preparations it loses efficiency over time, but doubling up the dose of older tablets would not cause any harm as the excess is excreted without issues.

Knowing where to find berries in the wild or planting a few bushes can ensure your and your families health on an on-going basis, allowing you to hold onto your stored dried fruits until you have absolutely no choice but to use them.

Scurvy should present few problems to those who have prepared, even at a low level, for a crisis situation. Should that crisis continue for a period of years however, and access to fresh fruit and vegetables has not been secured, then it is more likely than not that there will be a resurgence of cases of this debilitating, and if untreated, fatal condition.


Many deficiency diseases will be very difficult to avoid in a long-term collapse. Humans need a wide variety of foods, from all food groups in order to sustain themselves.

Great care should be taken now to plan and procure as wide a variety of foodstuffs as you can in order to avoid these debilitating and in some cases life limiting conditions.

Without exception the addition of fresh foods to our diet is the best way to ensure we are not deficient in vitamins and minerals in the long term.

Take Care


7 thoughts on “Deficiency Diseases After a Collapse: Scurvy”

  1. I searched “vitamin C in fermented cabbage” and found links that say that sauerkraut has more vitamin C and B vitamins than fresh cabbage as a byproduct of fermentation. It was mentioned that Captain James Cook had some 8000 pounds of sauerkraut on his ship Endeavor among other experimental foods when he sailed for the South Pacific in 1768. Sorry I don’t know how to attach links.

    1. Hi Howard

      Thanks for the info. Cabbage should be able to be raised in a fairly wide area of the continent. Turning it into sauerkraut would be a bonus. Time to get some crocks. I’ve got a recipe for sauerkraut that would fit into a 1 quart (approx. 1 litre) mason jar. Guess I need to get my arse into gear and try it out.


  2. Liz

    Thanks for the article. It’s a great reminder that we need to pay attention to what we store. I know that I’ve read that rose hips contain vitamin C. The first nations people here in North America used pine needles to brew a tea for their vitamin C. For the life of me can’t remember which pine trees are the ones to use. The other problem for me would be to accurately identify them.

    Got 2 pines on our property and the area around us is full of pines. I’ve killed every rose bush I’ve ever owned so I really have to get those pines identified. In the meantime, I have some vitamin C tablets stored up.


    1. Thanks for reminding us of rose hips. Here in the Copper Basin of Alaska we have wild roses all over. We have the same problem with domestic ones as you do.

  3. I can not document this but in the back of my head I seem to remember that some of the New England Whalers carried barrels of saurkraut to stave off scurvy. I know cabbage is high in vitamin C and it should carry over no problem in “kraut”. I also can a recipe for a kind of pickled cabbage (amish coleslaw) which stays crunchy in the can. This stuff requires sugar and vinegar which could eventually run out. Saurkraut only needs salt . Any one who is prepping should be storing lots of plain salt as it has many uses in preserving.

    1. Morning Howard,

      I recall hearing something similar now you mention it. Totally agree on the salt.

      Take Care

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