Vitamins For Allergies

  • Ann Rose Joseph Doctor of Pharmacy - PharmD , Acharya and BM Reddy college of Pharmacy, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.

Introduction

Allergy is described as an excessive response from the body’s immune system to otherwise inert substances present in the environment. The response from the body’s immune system is described as a hypersensitivity reaction. Hypersensitivity is an inappropriate immune response which manifests from a minor (atopic dermatitis and rhinitis) to severe manifestations (anaphylaxis, anaphylactoid and asthma). The focus here will be anaphylaxis.1 Anaphylaxis affects between 0.5 and 2% of the general population, and the rate is growing. The lifetime prevalence is 1.6%.2

Vitamins are essential for maintaining general health and well-being, and they can also help with allergy management. While vitamins cannot heal allergies on their own, they can help boost the immune system and reduce the intensity of allergic reactions. A well-balanced diet rich in key vitamins might boost the body's ability to deal with allergens, thereby alleviating some of the suffering associated with allergies.3 Antioxidants,for example, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, and selenium, have been the most widely studied nutrients regarding allergic diseases. Antioxidants play a protective role in allergic disease because of their ability to scavenge free radicals generated by the inflammatory response which can exacerbate the disease process.4

Understanding allergies and immune response

When your body is hypersensitive to particular stimuli, the negative reaction can be divided into four types: anaphylactic, cytotoxic, immunocomplex, or cell-mediated. When a person who is allergic to a material, such as dust, mould, or pollen, comes into contact with it, the immune system overreacts by creating antibodies that "attack" the allergen. Wheezing, itching, runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, and other symptoms may result.5

Type I: This is also called Anaphylactic reactions. They are the most common allergic responses. Immunoglobulin E antibodies are produced by the immune system in response to allergens such as pollen, animal dander, insect bites, dust mites or certain foods. During this reaction, the body releases histamine and other chemicals that cause swelling and inflammation in the body. Examples of anaphylactic reactions can be:

Food allergy:  Food allergies can cause swelling of the mouth, face, lips, and throat, which can occur soon after eating or up to two hours later. Itching, hives, and nasal congestion are some of the other symptoms. Anaphylaxis is the most severe food allergy reaction, and it can cause difficulties breathing, an immediate drop in blood pressure, and shock.

Skin allergy: Skin allergies manifest as rashes and are classified as eczema or urticaria. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is defined by dry, red, itchy skin. Urticaria, often known as hives, is a rash that is red, itchy, and bumpy. It usually lasts a little longer than 24 hours. However, it can be extremely unpleasant. Hives can appear anywhere on your body and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Allergic rhinitis: Allergic rhinitis, often known as hay fever, develops when your immune system overreacts to an inhaled allergen (such as mould, pollen, dogs, or cats). A runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, and sneezing are common symptoms.

Asthma: When you inhale an allergen (such as tobacco smoke, pollen, dust mites, or strong scents), you get allergic asthma. This causes swelling inside the lungs' airways, making breathing harder.

Type II Reactions, often known as cytotoxic responses, occur when IgG or IgM antibodies attach to antigens on cell surfaces. This sets off a series of events that lead to cell death, with symptoms appearing minutes or hours after being exposed to the allergen. Type II reactions cause conditions like

  • Autoimmune hemolytic anaemia
  • Immune thrombocytopenia
  • Autoimmune neutropenia
  • Goodpasture syndrome
  • Graves’ disease
  • Myasthenia gravis

Type III also called immuno-complex reactions, are also linked to IgG and IgM antibodies. When these antibodies bind to antigens, immunocomplexes form in tissues and organs. The body's attempt to eliminate these compounds causes tissue damage. After several hours of exposure, symptoms appear. Examples of Type III allergic reactions include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Serum sickness

Type IV allergic reactions, also known as cell-mediated allergic reactions, are also known as delayed allergic reactions since symptoms appear at least 24 hours after exposure to the allergen. An allergic reaction may not appear for 48-72 hours following exposure. Type IV allergic reaction examples include Tuberculin reactions, chronic asthma, contact dermatitis and fungal infections.6

The impact of nutritional deficiencies on allergies

Inadequate nutrition can have a significant impact on the immune system, compromising its ability to defend the body against infections and diseases. The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to identify and eliminate harmful pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders. Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining the optimal functioning of the immune system.7 Vitamin D deficiency has been declared a public health problem for both adults and children worldwide. Vitamin D deficiency plays a major role in childhood asthma and other allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis and wheezing. Vitamin B12 also known as cobalamin, is an essential compound that plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells and the maintenance of nervous system health. B12 deficiency can impair these crucial functions. 8

Essential vitamins for allergy management

Vitamin C: Vitamin C, commonly known as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin found in some foods and accessible as a dietary supplement.9 Antioxidants prevent some of the harm caused by free radicals, such as DNA damage.10 Taking vitamin C during allergy season can help reduce your body's reactivity to environmental allergens by lowering histamine synthesis.11 The finest sources of vitamin C are fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato juice, and potatoes are high in vitamin C. Red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe are all good sources.9

Vitamin D: Vitamin D (also known as "calciferol") is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be obtained as a dietary supplement. Sunlight, meals, and supplements are all sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D also has additional roles in the body, such as reducing inflammation and modulating processes like cell development, neuromuscular and immunological function, and glucose metabolism. Among the finest sources are the flesh of fatty fish (such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils. Vitamin D is found in modest levels in beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese.  Mushrooms contain varying quantities of vitamin D.12

Vitamin E: The term "vitamin E" refers to a class of fat-soluble molecules with specific antioxidant properties. The only type identified to suit human needs is alpha- (or -) tocopherol. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that inhibits the formation of reactive oxygen species when fat is oxidized. Protein kinase C, an enzyme involved in cell proliferation and differentiation in smooth muscle cells, platelets, and monocytes, is inhibited by alpha-tocopherol. Alpha-tocopherol is found in high concentrations in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils, as well as in green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals.13

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is necessary for the health of mucous membranes throughout the body, particularly those in the respiratory and digestive tracts. Healthy mucous membranes operate as an allergen barrier, preventing allergens from entering the body and causing allergic reactions.14 In the human diet, vitamin A is available in two forms: preformed vitamin A (retinol and retinyl esters) and provitamin A carotenoids. Vitamin A can be found in animal products such as dairy products, eggs, salmon, and organic meats. Plant pigments that convert to vitamin A in the intestine are known as provitamin A carotenoids. Leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, fruits, and some vegetable oils provide the majority of dietary provitamin A.15

Additional nutrients and supplements for allergy relief

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), are critical components of the membranes that surround each cell in your body. EPA and DHA aid in the inhibition of numerous elements of inflammation, including leukocyte chemotaxis, prostaglandin and leukotriene synthesis, and the generation of inflammatory cytokines and T cell responsiveness.16 Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally found in some foods and are added to some fortified foods. You can obtain enough omega-3s by consuming a variety of foods, including the ones listed below:

  • Fish and seafood (particularly cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines).
  • Nuts and seeds (for example, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
  • Plant oils (for example flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
  • Fortified foods like certain brands of eggs, yoghurt, juices, milk, soy beverages, and infant formulas.17

Quercetin

Quercetin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. The anti-allergic mode of action of quercetin, which involves the inhibition of enzymes and inflammatory mediators, has also been widely researched. It is well understood that quercetin inhibits human mast cell activation by inhibiting Ca2+ influx, histamine, leukotrienes, and prostaglandin production.18 A few foods have high levels of quercetin, including onion, asparagus, and berries. Plant sources with lower levels include green leafy greens like spinach and kale, as well as herbs like dill, chives, and tarragon.19

Probiotics

Probiotics are "living microorganisms that may provide health benefits at certain doses." Probiotics have been postulated as modulators of the allergic response and promoted as therapeutic and preventive therapies for allergic illnesses because they impact phagocytosis and the creation of pro-inflammatory cytokines.20 A few suggestions for some of the probiotic-rich foods you can add to your diet such as, yoghurt, buttermilk, sourdough bread, cottage cheese, fermented pickles, kimchi and miso soup.21

Summary

Vitamins can play a valuable role in managing allergies by supporting the immune system and mitigating the severity of allergic reactions. While vitamins alone cannot cure allergies, they can contribute to overall immune health and reduce inflammation and histamine levels in the body. Some of the key vitamins associated with allergy management include:

Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant that can help reduce allergic symptoms by lowering inflammation and supporting immune function.

Vitamin D: Essential for regulating the immune system, and adequate levels may reduce the risk of allergies and asthma.

Vitamin E: Another antioxidant with potential anti-inflammatory properties that may alleviate allergic responses.

Vitamin A: Vital for maintaining healthy mucous membranes and acting as a barrier against allergens.

While incorporating these vitamins into the diet can be beneficial, it's essential to remember that individual responses to supplements can vary. Excessive intake of certain vitamins can have adverse effects, and vitamins should not replace proper medical treatment or allergy management plans.

If you suspect allergies or experience severe allergic reactions, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Combining a balanced diet with medical guidance can help individuals better manage their allergies and improve overall well-being. As research in this field continues, more insights may arise, enhancing our understanding of the relationship between vitamins and allergy management.

References

  1. Fischer D, Vander Leek TK, Ellis AK, Kim H. Anaphylaxis. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol [Internet]. 2018;14(Suppl 2):54. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13223-018-0283-4
  2. Lieberman P, Camargo CA, Bohlke K, Jick H, Miller RL, Sheikh A, Simons FE. Epidemiology of anaphylaxis: findings of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Epidemiology of Anaphylaxis Working Group. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2006 Nov;97(5):596-602. 
  3. Kristin Marmsjö and others, Use of multivitamin supplements in relation to allergic disease in 8-y-old children, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 90, Issue 6, December 2009, Pages 1693–1698, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.27963
  4. Webb AL, Villamor E. Update: effects of antioxidant and nonantioxidant vitamin supplementation on immune function. Nutr Rev 2007;65:181–217.
  5. Allergies and the immune system [Internet]. Hopkinsmedicine.org. 2021 [cited 2023 Jul 26]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/allergies-and-the-immune-system
  6. Menachof M. Four types of allergic reactions - causes, risks and treatments [Internet]. Advanced ENT & Allergy Center. 2021 [cited 2023 Jul 26]. Available from: https://www.advancedentdenver.com/blog/four-types-of-allergic-reactions/
  7. Nutrition and immunity [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2020 [cited 2023 Jul 27]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/
  8. Bener A, Ehlayel MS, Bener HZ, Hamid Q. The impact of Vitamin D deficiency on asthma, allergic rhinitis and wheezing in children: An emerging public health problem. J Family Community Med [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2023 Jul 27];21(3):154–61. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.4103/2230-8229.142967
  9. Vitamin C [Internet]. Nih.gov. [cited 2023 Jul 26]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
  10. Hashizume N. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Nihon Rinsho [Internet]. 1995 [cited 2023 Jul 26];53 Su Pt 1:709–11. Available from: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/vitamin-c-ascorbic-acid
  11. Patel P. How Vitamin C Helps with Seasonal Allergies, West Hartford & Wethersfield [Internet]. MedCare Express Urgent Care Clinic Serving Connecticut. MedCare Express; 2020 [cited 2023 Jul 26]. Available from: https://www.fastmedcare.com/how-vitamin-c-helps-with-seasonal-allergies/
  12. Vitamin D [Internet]. Nih.gov. [cited 2023 Jul 26]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
  13. Vitamin E [Internet]. Nih.gov. [cited 2023 Jul 26]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
  14. Huang Z, Liu Y, Qi G, Brand D, Zheng SG. Role of vitamin A in the immune system. J Clin Med [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2023 Jul 27];7(9):258. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/jcm7090258
  15. Vitamin A and carotenoids [Internet]. Nih.gov. [cited 2023 Jul 27]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
  16.  Pa-C DK. The benefits of fish oil to reduce inflammation [Internet]. Aircaremd.com. [cited 2023 Jul 28]. Available from: https://www.aircaremd.com/blog/the-benefits-of-fish-oil-to-reduce-inflammation.html
  17. Omega-3 fatty acids [Internet]. Nih.gov. [cited 2023 Jul 28]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
  18. Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. Quercetin and its anti-allergic immune response. Molecules [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2023 Jul 28];21(5):623. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/molecules21050623
  19. Dabeek WM, Marra MV. Dietary quercetin and kaempferol: Bioavailability and potential cardiovascular-related bioactivity in humans. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2023 Jul 28];11(10):2288. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu11102288
  20. Sestito S, D’Auria E, Baldassarre ME, Salvatore S, Tallarico V, Stefanelli E, et al. The role of prebiotics and probiotics in the prevention of allergic diseases in infants. Front Pediatr [Internet]. 2020;8. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fped.2020.583946
  21. Probiotics [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2023 Jul 28]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ann Rose Joseph

Doctor of Pharmacy - PharmD , Acharya and BM Reddy college of Pharmacy, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.

Ann Rose is a PharmD intern , showcasing an unwavering passion for healthcare field. With comprehensive knowledge regarding the principles and operational techniques of pharmacy in Healthcare settings.Equipped with a strong background in medication evaluation and clinical management of multiple chronic disease states.

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