Vitamin C, known also as ascorbic acid, can be found in citrus fruits, kiwis, red bell peppers and potatoes from Grant Park Farmers Market. It has many important functions, including strengthening the immune system, forming collagen, absorbing iron, healing wounds and maintaining bones, cartilage and teeth. It also may help with managing allergy symptoms. We review the research on this below.
What Causes Allergies?
Allergies are an immune response. The immune system’s job is to protect the body from diseases, viruses and infections, but for people with allergies, the immune system mistakes harmless substances for dangerous intruders and attacks.
During this attack, the immune system releases antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which tells the cells to produce the chemical histamine. Histamine production leads to symptoms such as:
- Red, itchy, watery eyes.
- Runny or stuffy nose.
- Itching or swelling.
- Rash or hives.
- Vomiting or diarrhea.
How Does Vitamin C Help?
There is evidence that vitamin C acts as a natural antihistamine and antioxidant and that it can help decrease inflammation and swelling at the site of an allergic reaction. However, it doesn’t work the same as an antihistamine medication; it reduces the amount of histamine you produce rather than blocking histamine receptors.
What the Research Shows
One 2013 study of 89 people with allergies or infection diseases found that those who received a 7.5-gram IV infusion of vitamin C had 50% less histamine in their blood than those who didn’t.
A more recent study, published in 2018, examined the effects of IV infusion of vitamin C among people with skin- or respiratory system-related allergy symptoms. It found that a 7.5-gram dose reduced allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itching, restlessness and sleep problems in 97% of people with allergies.
An older, but high-quality study from 1991 tested the effects of a vitamin C nasal spray in 60 people with allergies. The researchers found that it improved symptoms by 74%.
A Precautionary Note
If you have severe allergies, be sure to talk to an expert allergist rather than trying to manage your symptoms with vitamin C alone.
Experts consider vitamin C safe to use as a complementary therapy; however, it can interact with certain medications, including radiation, chemotherapy and cholesterol-lowering drugs. It can also enhance the absorption of iron, which can be problematic for people with a condition called hemochromatosis, and contribute to the formation of kidney stones.
For these reasons, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of taking vitamin C to help with allergies with your health care provider. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call ENT of Georgia today.