Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and helping the immune system. It may not always be thought of as helpful for allergies but there are good reasons to take vitamin C for allergies.
How vitamin C Helps Allergies
Vitamin C helps allergies by breaking down and getting rid of excess histamine. Histamine is part of the allergy process that causes a runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing.
Vitamin C can help strengthen the immune system but allergies aren’t a sign of a weak immune system. It is more of an overactive, misguided immune system. Vitamin C can help the immune system become more efficient, this can help the body stop attacking harmless allergens. It not only helps white blood cells (cells that help fight infections) become more efficient as it helps protect them from damage.
Vitamin C deficiencies
There is a good chance you won’t see the average person developing symptoms of scurvy today. To become life-threatening deficient in vitamin C it takes a month or more of very low to no vitamin C intake. Health conditions such as some types of cancer, malabsorption disorder or severe kidney disease can cause deficiencies.
Smokers and those exposed to second-hand smoke need increased amounts. About 35mg more daily to help combat the free radical damage and tissue repair needed due to smoking. For nonsmoking women the recommended daily amount is 75mg and for men it is 90mg.
Signs of a major deficiency are fatigue, swollen red gums, joint pain, wounds that heal slowly, or petechiae (small red or purple spots on the skin).
The signs for a minor deficiency of vitamin C are similar but not as sever. Signs can include easy bruising, having a wound that heals slow, inflamed gums that bleed easily, skin that is dry rough or red, weak immune system, painful joints, fatigue or depression. All of these symptoms are not caused by vitamin C deficiency alone and can have other causes or factors that contribute to the problem.
Sources of Vitamin C
Citrus fruits are a great source. Juices do have vitamin C but if you drink only the juice it is similar to getting a large dose of sugar and leaving out important nutrients. Eating the whole fruit is much healthier.
Sources high in vitamin C include kiwi, oranges, papaya, pineapple, grapefruit, mango, bell peppers (red and green), strawberries, broccoli, kale, parsley, brussels sprouts, peas, and cauliflower.
How Much Vitamin C Should I Take for Allergies
Those under stress (emotion, physical, illness, wounds or diseases) may require more vitamin C than someone who doesn’t have any of those stresses. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that means it is not stored in the body when it is taken the extra is typically removed from the body within several hours.
Some people have claimed to have cured their allergies with large doses. A warning too much can cause diarrhea, and as always whenever making a change or starting a new supplement discuss it with your healthcare provider first.
Find a supplement with vitamin C and bioflavonoids (these work well together) make sure it is from a natural source and not synthetic. Take several times throughout the day, most extra is removed from the body in 3-4 hours. A 500mg supplement taken 4 times a day, as long as there is no diarrhea, can be a great starting point.
Increase the dose 500mg-1000mg daily until bowel tolerance (the point just before diarrhea). If it is going to help symptoms should start to improve within a couple of days and within a month should improve drastically. I wouldn’t recommend taking high doses for more than a month or two. Vitamins and minerals all work together and high doses of one nutrient for an extended period of time could eventually disrupt other nutrients in the body.
You may prefer to take a smaller dose if your stomach can’t handle the large doses (or just don’t want to try the mega doses) try taking a smaller dose 2 times a day or when allergy symptoms start to get worse. Eating more vitamin C rich foods can help along with the vitamins and minerals that go along with those foods.
Vitamin E for Allergies
Vitamin E may help allergies by helping stabilize mast cells. Mast cells may play a roll in the initiation of the allergic response. They produce many proinflammatory factors and can cause chronic inflammation.
Vitamin E Deficiencies
This vitamin is fat soluble meaning it can be stored in the body. Eating a diet very low in vitamin E could lead to a deficiency over time. Symptoms may include digestive problems, muscle weakness, loss of balance, mental decline.
A health condition or medication that prevents absorption of fats can put someone at a higher risk for deficiency.
How Much Vitamin E for Allergies
It is best to get it from food sources. Be cautious about taking a supplement since the body stores vitamin E it is possible to get too much.
For adults 15mg daily is recommended. Increasing your daily intake through food sources has minimal risk (and many benefits), taking supplements may cause a problem. There is an increased risk for bleeding and one study had higher rates of prostate cancer in men taking vitamin E and multivitamin increased.
Too much can also cause digestive symptoms nausea, diarrhea, or stomach cramps. Feeling fatigued having headaches or bruising easy can be a symptom of excess vitamin E.
If you want to increase vitamin E without the risk associated with supplements try wheat germ oil. One tablespoon contains about 20mg. Sunflower seeds and almonds are also good sources along with spinach and avocados.
Make sure to eat all vitamin E sources with a little fat to help absorption. Be sure to eat 15mg or more of vitamin E daily to help allergies.
If you’re looking for more ways vitamins help allergies read how vitamin D and vitamin A help allergies.