Vitamin D is the first supplement I would suggest for allergies. Unless you live where there is an abundant amount of sunshine and can be outside daily, chances are your vitamin D levels are low. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread even in areas where there is plenty of sunshine.
Simply taking some vitamin D could improve your allergies within a few weeks. It may take longer if your level of vitamin D is low. While waiting for vitamin D levels to rise look into quercetin and bromelain for some faster relief.
Taking Vitamin D for Allergies – How it Helps
There are vitamin D receptors in nearly all the cells that make up the immune system. For your immune system to work properly vitamin D is critical.
With vitamin D you are not boosting your immune system (the immune system is already overactive with allergies) but helping to regulate it and work as it should. It becomes more efficient and better able to recognize what is actually a threat and what is harmless and getting relief from allergy symptoms. (1)
With high enough vitamin D levels inflammation is decreased. The best results were at 50ng/ml and above. (2)
Taking vitamin D could help prevent asthma flair-ups. (3)
There are several studies that show people with low vitamin D levels have improvements when given a supplement. If you have any reason to believe you have low levels of vitamin D or have a lab test show low results a supplement may be helpful. (4)
What Causes Low Vitamin D
Many people these days are low on vitamin D. There are some pretty common causes for low vitamin D and if any of these apply to you it may be a good idea to get your vitamin D checked.
- You live far away from the equator – During the winter there are fewer hours of sunlight and the rays from the sun aren’t as direct. When the body receives very little sunlight it doesn’t make much vitamin D.
- Dark skin – The more of the pigment melanin the darker the skin. Melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D.
- Wearing sunscreen or having the majority of skin covered by clothing – Sunscreen and clothing (also windows) block the rays needed for the skin to produce vitamin D.
- Working inside – Being trapped inside when it’s sunny out makes it difficult to enjoy the sunshine and let your body make vitamin D.
- Getting older – The kidneys don’t convert vitamin D to its active form as well as we get older.
- Digestive disorder – Any disease that hurts the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients can cause low vitamin D levels.
- Being overweight – Those with a BMI over 30 are at risk for low vitamin D. Fat cells take the vitamin D out of the blood causing a lower vitamin D level.
It is always a good idea to get vitamin D tested to know for sure. Most doctors are willing to check vitamin D levels if you ask them.
What Should my Vitamin D levels be?
The best way to know if you are getting the right amount is to get tested. Make sure to ask for the results if you get tested. Lab tests usually consider anything over 25ng/ml to be normal, but optimal is above 50ng/ml. Depending on where you live it may take closer to 1,000IU to 4,000IU daily to get you to a good level of vitamin D.
Above 50ng/ml is what is shown to improve inflammation the most. There is also anecdotal evidence of people stating improved health problems once their vitamin D reached this level. Having decreased inflammation may be what helps or there could be other health benefits happening too.
Sunshine is the best source of vitamin D
Getting outside without sunscreen for a little while each day allows your body to make vitamin D. The amount of vitamin D your body makes varies based on the color of your skin. It can be a little tricky to know how much sunshine you need. For fair to medium skin 10-20 minutes, a day without sunscreen should give you a good amount of vitamin D. For those with darker skin 40 to an hour outside is preferable.
The further away from the equator, you live the sun’s rays are less direct and it can take more to make the vitamin D you need. In places, with cold winters it may be unreasonable to get vitamin D from sunshine. Even if the sun is shining in the middle of winter frostbite may happen before getting enough vitamin D. To save your fingers and nose from frostbite a supplement in winter may be a better idea.
To prevent overexposing some areas to the sun put sunscreen on your face and hands but giving your limbs some sun exposure to create the vitamin D.
The main sources are fish and fortified foods. There aren’t many great food sources and the ones there are vary quite a bit in the amount of vitamin D they actually contain.
- Wild-caught salmon 3.5 oz – between 360 to 700IU. The amounts in salmon (and many foods) can vary greatly. Farm-raised salmon has about 25% less vitamin D than wild-caught, so opting for wild-caught salmon whenever possible is the best choice.
- Mackeral 3 oz – about 300IU
- Tuna fish 3 oz – about 150IU
- Fortified Milk – 124IU
- Eggs 1 large – 20-40 IU. Chickens that have access to outside and sunshine produce eggs with 3-4 times the vitamin D as those without outdoor access.
Other foods contain some vitamin D but not in large amounts. Even foods high in the vitamin may not be enough to get someone to an optimal amount of vitamin D in their body.
Cod liver oil is a good supplement to use for vitamin D and it also has vitamin A. There have been a few people to claim they got their vitamin D levels up better with cod liver oil than a supplement alone. The cod liver oil may help the absorption of vitamin D due to the fat content. This was just anecdotal evidence, But if you are looking to add some omega 3 and vitamin A to your diet it could be a great option.
Doctors typically recommend 400IU to 2,000IU if D levels are low. It can take a year or two with this dose (depending on your response to the supplement) before levels are in the optimal range.
This dose may not be enough for some people and may require larger dose supplements. Some people do mega doses of 20,000IU to 50,000IU for a few days or weeks to attempt to get their levels up. This could be a fast way to increase your vitamin D levels. Most doctors will probably be opposed to this approach but if you are going to do it I am sure most will order labs to help you do it safely.
I would recommend 2,000IU to 3,000IU for the average person. If you live in a seasonal place and work inside it is going to be hard to overdose on that amount and your vitamin D levels should slowly start to rise. Also, try to get a little extra sunshine when possible to help keep those numbers up.
Vitamin D Toxicity
Vitamin D takes time to increase and toxicity is rare. For most people who have limited exposure to sunlight, a dose of 2,000IU to 4,000IU shouldn’t cause a problem. When taking any vitamin if you begin to feel worse stop taking it.
Toxicity typically starts to show around 125ng/ml to 150ng/ml. For most, it takes high doses for months to get there. If you are taking large doses make sure you are being monitored by a doctor and having levels checked. Keeping your level between 50ng/ml to 80ng/ml is a good range to aim for.
Vitamin D is fat-soluble. If you are taking the supplement alone take it with a meal that has some fat in it for better absorption.
Vitamin D is what I recommend first when looking for natural ways to help with allergies. Since most people are deficient a big improvement can be seen quickly.
Having optimum levels of vitamin D will not only help symptoms it could be helping to fix the problem. The goal is to not mask the symptoms but to fix the root issue. I believe vitamin D is a key part of helping to fix some of the underlying problems when it comes to allergies.