Do vitamins help with allergy symptoms?

Before you rush out to get these vitamins for your kids suffering from allergies, what you should know is that there isn’t much clinical evidence which demonstrates vitamins having a significant impact on allergies.

Some preliminary studies do suggest that certain vitamins may have effects on our immune systems, but we have to be careful not to be too eager to make the leap from what goes on in the lab to what happens in patients. The true effect of these substances in patients needs to be demonstrated using well designed, peer reviewed and reproducible clinical trials.

Here’s one example: In the 1960s, Linus Pauling, the famous chemist, became convinced that vitamin C could prevent the common cold. He advocated taking three grams of vitamin C every day for this purpose. He also promoted it as a cancer therapy, even writing a book about its curative properties. Later, rigorous clinical trials showed vitamin C had no effect in preventing colds or treating cancer. Yet even today, the notion persists that vitamin C will help to “ward off” a cold. The same is true of zinc. People swear it keeps them from getting a cold, yet there is no conclusive evidence that taking zinc benefits a cold or other immune system conditions.

Vitamins A, C and E have chemical antioxidant effects in the lab, meaning they block oxidation which can lead to the immune system malfunction that can potentially cause disease. But again, one should be cautious when extrapolating these findings to real life. 

Lately, vitamin D has become a fad treatment for people with allergies. A good deal of research was conducted in the lab showing that vitamin D prevents the production of certain allergy causing molecules. More studies were initiated to demonstrate its impact on asthma and eczema. Scientists took inflammatory cells from human skin, airways and gastrointestinal tracts and examined the impact of vitamin D on them. Although positive results have been generated in terms of vitamin D and these cells in the laboratory setting, the jury is still out as to its impact on a living being.

All this being said, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals have been linked to disease, such as pernicious anemia as a result of B12 deficiency, so it doesn’t hurt to take these vitamins. I advise that you follow the labeling instructions for the recommended 100 percent recommended daily allowance value (RDA) as prescribed by the FDA for vitamins and minerals. Most people with a well-balanced diet get enough of these trace nutrients to prevent illness resulting from excessively low levels. I also want to make clear that the real benefits of vitamins in preventing or treating allergies and immune system diseases are far from being proven.

Read more from the Healthy Kids blog »