5 Nutrients for Allergies: Vitamin C, Omega 3, and More
Do you find yourself explaining away your swollen eyes and dripping nose to convince your friends that you haven’t lost your favorite uncle or Lucy, the family labradoodle? Tired of scratching, sniffling and sneezing? It’s hard to believe that a bit of vitamin C or E or a dose of omega 3 fatty acids may help.
Allergies, an over-reaction to things like pet dander, dust, pollen, certain food proteins, and medicines, affect 54.6 percent or forty to fifty million Americans. If matcha powder and molybdenum cause you to scratch your head…if you’d rather pull dandelion greens from your garden than eat them…or if rosehips simply create a bad visual…then it might be time to reach for foods with nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Our bodies are made to protect us from harm. They do this by getting rid of viruses and bacteria at the cellular level. Antibodies called IgE sit on our mast cells, cells that touch our blood vessels and nerves, and touch tissues that come into contact with the environment. In some people, these IgE cells think things like pollen, foods, plants, or dyes are harmful, and attack them. This causes the mast cells to release a substance called histamine, which is what reddens your nose and puffs those welts. Because of their potential effect on histamine, many natural nutrients, like vitamin C, vitamin E, omega 3, probiotic bacteria, and quercetin may help.
High levels of vitamin C can lower levels of histamine in the body, and help break it down faster.* This may reduce allergy symptoms such as swelling, sneezing, and a runny nose.* Vitamin C works best when it is taken along with vitamin E. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables, including broccoli and citrus fruits. Studies suggest taking at least 60-90 mg per day, with some saying 400-1000mg per day in divided doses for the best health. Although vitamin C is in many foods, studies show that most people don’t get enough vitamins from food, especially ones that are heat-sensitive such as vitamin C. A supplement can therefore be very helpful.
Studies show that Vitamin E lowers levels of IgE,* which release the histamine that makes us sniff and scratch. Studies show that a one milligram increase in vitamin E lowered blood IgE levels by five percent! Vitamin E has many antioxidant benefits, such as lowering the harmful effects of free radicals* (unstable cells that cause illness and aging). Vitamin E is used by our bodies as alpha-tocopherol, which is in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals. Recommended daily intake of Vitamin E is 15 milligrams for adults. Since vitamin E is stored in the fat, we must be careful to not store too much, as too much can cause toxicity.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in cold water fish, flax seed, walnuts, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and soybeans, and are thought to help allergies with their anti-swelling effects.* Omega 3 fatty acids help with brain function, heart health, and with skin, hair and bone growth.* Though the evidence is not yet conclusive, supportive research suggests Omega 3s may also help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.* Omega 3 fatty acids are crucial for our health, but we must find them in foods because our bodies don’t make them. We must also work to balance our omega 6 fatty acid intake with our omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in oils like corn and safflower oils. Raising omega 3 fatty acids and lowering omega 6 fatty acids in our diet will help our hearts and may help battle our allergies.
Studies suggest that quercetin plays a big role in helping to reduce allergy symptoms by stopping the release of histamine, the substance that produces hives, runny nose, watery eyes and itchy skin. Quercetin is found in the pigment of plants, called flavonoids. Studies show that quercetin’s antioxidant effect can help prevent heart disease, cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more by “cleaning up” unstable cells that cause swelling and cell death. You will know you’ve found quercetin when you spot those deep jewel tones in the fruit and vegetable aisle–citrus fruits, grapes, dark cherries, red-skinned apples, blueberries, blackberries, and bilberries–as well as onions, parsley, sage, tea, and even red wine! While quercetin studies have only been performed in test tubes, the belief remains that humans can derive the same benefits. Dosages of quercetin vary according to what’s being treated.
Probiotic bacteria like Lactobacillusacidophilus (L. acidophilus) is a friendly bacteria that works to kick out unhealthy bacteria in the gut. Probiotics help keep the balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut to keep it working well. It helps with pollen allergies and to reduce swelling. You will find probiotics in milk and yogurt with added acidophilus, and in miso, tempeh, natto, and kefir.
It’s time to surface from your allergy fog, save your tears and nose wiping for life’s serious highs and lows, and give your kindhearted friends a break!