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April 7, 2017

By Susan Callahan,  Contributing Columnist

A funny thing happened this month that has not happened
for over 20 years?  Or, I should say, a funny thing didn't
happen --- I didn't suffer from seasonal allergies. When
spring arrives, it signals the start of suffering for me:
burning in my eyes, sneezing, congestion so bad I wake
up in the middle of the night to clear my nose so I can
breathe from one side at least.

This year, quite by accident, I started taking Vitamin C to
boost my immune system. At the time, I was not thinking
of my allergies at all. I simply wanted to feel a bit more
energetic, so I started eating more iron-rich foods. I knew
that Vitamin boosts iron absorption, so that was my sole
goal in taking more of it.

Lo and behold, the trees started blooming and of course I
waited for the misery to begin. I had long ago sworn off
over the counter drugs to fight my allergies because they
all worked just for awhile before they inevitably produced
a "rebound effect", making the symptoms even worse.

But the misery never came.  Did Vitamin C actually block
my allergy symptoms?  

Vitamin C Lowers Histamine Levels in Your Body

Histamine plays a major role in the body's reaction to
allergens. When it is not in use, histamine is stored in mast
cells and basophils.  That quiet state changes when you
encounter anything that you are allergic to.  The body
reacts to allergens as foreign invaders, triggering the
release of histamine from mast cells, according to a 1990
study by Dr. M.V. White of the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.

The 5 main symptoms of seasonal allergies  --- called
"allergic rhinitis" --- are severe itching (pruritus), stuffy
nose (mucosal edema), sneezing, mucus secretion, and
late-phase inflammatory reactions.  Of these five main
symptoms, histamine is involved in the first three.

As a 2002 study from Georgetown University observed,
histamine is a potent "vasoactive agent, bronchial smooth
muscle constrictor, and stimulant of nociceptive itch

Scientists have found that Vitamin C significantly lowers
levels of histamine.

In 1992, Dr. C.S. Johnston of Arizona State University
made a startling discovery.  He set out to understand how
taking Vitamin C affects blood levels of histamine and the
movement of white blood cells called neutrophils.
Neutrophils move toward a foreign invader when it enters
your body, a process scientists call, appropriately enough "
chemotaxis" because the chemicals are being taxied
around your body.  

Dr. Johnston examined 10 people and for six weeks gave
them either a placebo or
Vitamin C, in the form of
l-ascorbate. After taking Vitamin C, blood levels of
histamine fell by 38%.

The activity of chemotaxis rose by 19% at the same time.
To the doctor, this indicated that Vitamin C has two
effects. It raises the level of immune response white blood
cells circulating in your body while at the same time it
literally "neutralizes" histamine.  That's a powerful
one-two punch against seasonal allergies.

How Much Vitamin C Should You Take to Reduce Allergies?

The amount of Vitamin C taken by participants in the
Arizona study was 2 grams (2000 milligrams) per day.

That's many multiples of the 90 mg per day currently
recommended by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board of the
Institute of Medicine for men and 75 milligrams per day for

However, though the 2000 milligrams per day is over the
recommended daily amount, there are no studies that
suggest that taking this amount is toxic to your health.

That said, many of the studies on the use of Vitamin C use
500 milligrams as a therapeutic starting point. Some
studies suggest that your body cannot absorb more than
1000 milligrams of Vitamin C at one time.

Your body is only able to absorb a certain maximum
amount of Vitamin C.  If you take between and 30 and 180
milligrams per day, you can absorb between 70% and
90%, according to the National Institutes of Health.

If you take 1000 milligrams of Vitamin C, your body*s
absorption rate falls to just below 50%, which suggests
that 500 milligrams per day is optimal for most purposes.  
By the way, 500 milligrams is the amount I took which
stopped my allergy symptoms.

Indeed, some studies suggest that taking 2000 milligrams
per day increases your excretion of oxalate, a small form
of kidney stones.

Taking the 500 milligrams per day of Vitamin C as
l-ascorbate is also preferable, in my case, to trying to get
the Vitamin C from food alone, at least during allergy
season. The highest concentration of Vitamin C in fruits
and vegetables is found in red bell peppers, which have
152 milligrams per medium sized pepper.  It would thus
take eating more than 3 red bell peppers per day to reach
500 milligrams.

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Vitamin C helps to neutralize
histamine in your blood stream.
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