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Can taking vitamin C help with your allergies?

Allergies, which impact a large portion of people worldwide, can lead to various discomforts and diminish quality of life.

While antihistamines and corticosteroids are standard treatments, there’s an increasing focus on alternative methods for managing allergies.Notably, vitamin C has emerged as a potential ally in this fight.

In this column, we’ll explore how vitamin C relates to allergies – examining its actions, benefits and relevance for those suffering from this chronic condition.

Reducing symptoms

Allergies arise when the immune system reacts excessively to generally harmless elements called allergens.

These allergens, such as pollen, pet fur, dust mites, certain foods and insect bites, prompt the immune system in sensitive people to release histamine and other inflammatory agents.

This leads to symptoms like sneezing, itching, runny eyes and skin irritations. Meanwhile, vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin renowned for its antioxidant capabilities.

It’s essential in various bodily functions, including supporting the immune system and aiding in collagen production. Multiple scientific studies have delved into the connection between vitamin C and allergies, with much research focusing on vitamin C’s ability to influence the immune response and lessen allergy symptoms.

Vitamin C exerts its effects on allergies through various mechanisms. Apart from its immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties, it also acts as a natural antihistamine by inhibiting the release of histamine from mast cells.

Histamine is a key mediator of allergic symptoms, and by reducing its release, vitamin C can help alleviate symptoms such as itching, sneezing and nasal congestion. This area of research is continuously evolving, but there are indications that taking vitamin C might help those suffering from allergies. The following are some more specific examples involving common conditions related to allergies:

Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is a prevalent allergic condition characterised by symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes. Several studies have investigated the role of vitamin C in managing allergic rhinitis symptoms.

While the results have been mixed, some research suggests that vitamin C supplementation may reduce the severity and duration of symptoms in allergic rhinitis patients.


Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition often associated with allergies. It is characterised by inflammation and narrowing of the airways in the lungs, as well as increased mucus production.

Vitamin C’s anti-inflammatory properties may help alleviate asthma symptoms by reducing airway inflammation and improving lung function.

However, the evidence on the effectiveness of vitamin C in asthma management is still limited, and further research is needed to establish its role.

Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB)

EIB is a condition in which physical activity triggers narrowing of the airways (i.e. bronchoconstriction), leading to coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Vitamin C supplementation has shown promise in reducing the severity of EIB symptoms and improving exercise tolerance. It is believed that vitamin C’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects contribute to these benefits by protecting against oxidative stress and reducing airway inflammation.

Notably, research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has shown that taking vitamin C supplements can decrease histamine levels and enhance lung functionality in people experiencing EIB, which is a common issue among asthma patients.

Reducing inflammation

Inflammation is a hallmark of allergic reactions. The antioxidant nature of vitamin C allows it to neutralise harmful free radicals and minimise oxidative stress, thereby curtailing the inflammatory process.

Additionally, vitamin C can hinder the production of inflammation-inducing molecules, enhancing its anti-inflammatory properties.

Enhancing barrier functions

The epithelial barrier, which lines the respiratory and digestive systems, serves as a primary defence against allergens. Vitamin C is vital in maintaining the strength and functionality of this barrier.

By fortifying the epithelial barrier, vitamin C may help prevent allergens from entering the body, potentially easing allergy symptoms.

How much vitamin C?

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a good natural source of vitamin C. —

Incorporating vitamin C into a regimen for managing allergies can be done either through food intake or supplements. Foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers and green leafy vegetables, are excellent natural sources.

Nevertheless, for individuals with severe allergies or those who have specific dietary limitations, supplementing with vitamin C may be a more effective way to ensure they receive a higher dosage.

Vitamin C can be used as an adjunct therapy alongside conventional treatments for allergies. It is important to note that while vitamin C may provide some relief, it is not a standalone solution and should be used in conjunction with prescribed medications or treatments.

Consulting with healthcare professionals is essential to ensure proper management and avoid any potential interactions or adverse effects. The optimal dosage of vitamin C for allergic management is still a matter of debate.

The recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for vitamin C vary depending on factors such as age, sex and specific health conditions.

For individuals with allergies, some experts suggest higher doses of vitamin C supplementation, typically ranging from 500 to 2,000 milligrammes per day. However, it is crucial to consult with healthcare professionals to determine the appropriate dosage based on individual needs and any underlying health considerations.

In addition to its role in allergic management, vitamin C offers a multitude of other health benefits. It supports immune function, enhances collagen synthesis, promotes wound healing and acts as a potent antioxidant.

Adequate vitamin C intake is essential for overall health and wellbeing, and it is recommended to obtain it primarily through a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and secondarily, as an oral supplement.

Talk to your doctor

Vitamin C shows considerable promise as a tool for managing allergies, thanks to its ability to modulate the immune system, reduce inflammation and strengthen the body’s barriers against allergens. However, the full extent of its effects and how it can be best utilised in therapy for allergies still requires more in-depth research.

Integrating vitamin C into a well-rounded strategy for allergy management might provide beneficial relief for those afflicted by allergic conditions. Nonetheless, it remains crucial for individuals to seek advice from healthcare experts to tailor a treatment plan that aligns with their specific health requirements and situations.

This approach ensures that the use of vitamin C, or any other intervention, is both safe and effective for each individual’s unique health profile.

By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar
Published in Star Newspaper, 26 Feb 2024

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