Suffering during allergy season? Me too! As a dietitian, I often get questions about how nutrients help with various health conditions, like does vitamin C help with allergies?
Allergies can be frustrating and uncomfortable, with symptoms ranging from runny nose and watery eyes to more severe reactions (don’t you know it!). And sometimes antihistamine medications can have unpleasant side effects.
If you’re looking for natural alternatives, or you’ve ever wondered whether vitamin C can help with allergies, you’re in the right place. So fellow allergy sufferers, join us as we uncover the truth on how this essential nutrient may contribute to managing allergic symptoms effectively.
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What Are Allergies?
Allergies are like your immune system being a little too overprotective, like a security guard on high alert. Our immune system is designed to defend our bodies against harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses.
But sometimes it can mistakenly think harmless things (allergens) are dangerous. Now, most people can go about their lives without a care in the world when it comes to these allergens. But for us allergy-prone folks, it’s a different story.
Our allergy cells (or mast cells) are like tiny alarm systems, constantly on the lookout for potential threats or allergens. While mast cells are important for protecting us against harmful substances, some can have an overactive response.
For those of us with allergies, when our mast cells come into contact with an allergen, such as pollen, they rev up histamine production, which can cause allergy symptoms like a stuffy nose or itchy eyes.
You might even experience more severe allergic reactions like hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing. These symptoms can also cause an upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting.
Causes of Allergies
Now, everyone’s allergy triggers can be different. For some, it’s pollen during springtime (hay fever). Others might react to dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, or certain foods like peanuts or shellfish. Some people even have allergies to insect venom, medications, or latex.
It’s like our immune systems have their own quirky “naughty list.”
But fear not! There are ways to handle allergies. You can try to avoid those pesky allergens as much as possible, take medications to ease the symptoms, or even consider allergy shots to help train your immune system.
If you suspect you have allergies or need help navigating through them, it’s always a good idea to seek guidance from a healthcare professional. They can help you identify your specific triggers and develop a personalized plan to keep those sneezes and sniffles at bay.
So where does vitamin C fit in? Let’s investigate!
The Role of Vitamin C in Immune Health
You’ve probably heard that Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) can fight off the common cold. But how? Its superpower lies in its ability to boost your immune system.
Imagine your immune system as an army of defenders, working tirelessly to keep you in the pink of health and ward off unwelcome intruders. Vitamin C equips your immune soldiers with the energy they need to fend off any unwanted guests.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals. It not only enhances your immune function but also supports the production of white blood cells – the frontline warriors of your immune system.
But what role does vitamin C play in allergies?
Vitamin C for Allergies: The Current Research
Are you curious if vitamin C can provide relief for allergies? While vitamin C won’t magically cure your allergies, it could offer some support and relief for certain symptoms. Famous for its antioxidant powers, Vitamin C helps combat inflammation and oxidative stress in our bodies.
When it comes to allergies, our immune system goes into overdrive, triggering inflammation and the release of histamines. Here’s where vitamin C comes in as a potential ally, reducing histamine levels and supporting our immune system’s functioning (1).
Now, keep in mind that everyone’s response to vitamin C can vary, and more research is needed to fully grasp its relationship with allergies. However, as part of an overall allergy management plan, vitamin C can be a valuable addition.
So you may be thinking, sounds great, but how much do I need?
How Much Vitamin C For Allergies?
The RDA for vitamin C is 75 mg/day for women and 90 mg/day for men (2). However, this is the amount just to prevent disease. Most research has looked at doses much higher for treating allergies.
If you want to try upping your vitamin C levels to fight your allergy symptoms, recommendations are to keep your total intake to no more than 2000 mg/day (2). Doses above this amount can cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
And what is the best way to get more vitamin C? Vitamin C-rich foods!
Vitamin C Rich Foods
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. This means it washes out of the body easily and needs to be replenished often. It is an essential nutrient that our bodies cannot produce on their own so we must obtain it through our diet or supplements.
One of the best ways to incorporate vitamin C into your diet is by eating foods that are rich in this essential nutrient. Some of the best sources of vitamin C include:
When you add these foods to your diet, you can naturally boost your vitamin C intake and help alleviate allergy symptoms.
Pro-tip: To preserve the highest level of vitamin C in your foods, handle it with care! Protect it from air, light, and heat by storing your vitamin C-rich foods in cool, dark areas. Avoid overcooking or exposing them to high temperatures for extended periods.
But what if you aren’t getting enough vitamin C in your diet?
Vitamin C Supplements for Allergy Relief
Are you concerned that you aren’t eating enough vitamin C-rich foods? You may consider supplements to boost your intake, especially if you are trying to reach a higher dose to fight allergy symptoms.
Vitamin C supplements come in many forms, including tablets, capsules, and powders.
When choosing a vitamin C supplement, it’s important to look for one that is bioavailable. This means that it can be easily absorbed and used by the body. Some of the best forms of vitamin C supplements include (3):
Ascorbic acid. This is the most common and well-studied form of vitamin C. It is easily absorbed by the body.
Calcium ascorbate. Calcium ascorbate contains both calcium and vitamin C and is considered a buffered form of vitamin C, meaning that it is less acidic and may be easier on the stomach.
Sodium ascorbate. This form of vitamin C is a buffered form also. It is well-absorbed and a good option for those with sensitive stomachs. Because these supplements contain sodium, they may not be the best option for those trying to reduce sodium intake.
Liposomal vitamin C. Liposomal vitamin C is encapsulated in liposomes, which are tiny fat-soluble spheres. This form enhances absorption and may result in higher levels of vitamin C in the bloodstream.
It’s important to speak with your healthcare professional before starting any new supplements, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or are taking medication.
Now you may be wondering, are there other natural ways to reduce my allergy symptoms?
Other Natural Remedies for Allergies
What other natural treatments can you use for allergies?
Quercetin for Allergies
Quercetin is a polyphenol (a plant compound) that can be anti-allergic and reduce histamine (4). Quercetin is also a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that can be beneficial to long-term health in addition to helping with allergies.
Vitamin D for Allergies
Vitamin D plays a critical role in immune response and gut health, which may reduce allergic reactions and inflammation (5).
Plus, vitamin D has so many other important roles in our body, including bone and muscle strength, blood pressure, and even mood!
Make sure to get plenty of vitamin D-rich foods, including fatty fish, egg yolks, and dairy. Not only could it help with your allergies, your bones will thank you too!
Does Vitamin C Help With Allergies?
Good news! Vitamin C holds potential in managing allergies and providing relief from their bothersome symptoms.
By harnessing its antioxidant power and immune-boosting properties, vitamin C becomes a valuable ally in combating inflammation and oxidative damage, and bolstering your body’s defense mechanisms.
When you incorporate vitamin C-rich foods and supplements into your daily routine, you may experience a reprieve from those pesky allergy symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion, and itchy eyes.
It’s important to remember, though, that while vitamin C can offer relief, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for allergies.
Each person’s allergies are unique, and a comprehensive approach that combines vitamin C with other proven strategies, such as avoiding triggers and maintaining good hygiene, is essential for effective allergy management.
So, let’s embrace the power of vitamin C in our daily lives! Prioritize a healthy diet filled with vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C can be a valuable tool in your allergy-fighting arsenal. Goodbye to constant sneezing and hello to natural relief.
Kate is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified yoga instructor with a Master’s in Public Health. She loves to share what she has learned about nutrition and yoga to help people live healthier, more balanced lives. When not working on this blog or teaching yoga, Kate is usually spending time with family and friends or reading a good book.