Immunity & Vitamin C
Histamine is an important part of human physiology. Normal levels act as neurotransmitters and may even play a role in regulating body weight. But stress, asthma, and allergic reactions can all trigger the immune (or mast) cells to release disproportionately high levels of histamine, causing many allergy and asthma sufferers to seek relief via pharmaceutical antihistamines. Instead of neutralizing the histamine, such drugs simply block specific histamine receptors. This means that, although the uncomfortable effects are lessened, an excessive amount of histamine is still wreaking havoc in the body.
Overproduction of histamine has been connected with depression, chronic fatigue, anxiety, fearfulness, insomnia, and psychiatric illness. The connection isn’t completely understood, but it appears that histamine can activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Chronic overstimulation of this major neuro-regulatory system can lead to depression and other mental challenges. Even the classic stress-induced “fight-or-flight” response is promoted by excessive histamine production.
With so many reasons to remove excess histamine, it’s encouraging to know that there is a natural way to regulate histamine levels - without the side effects of pharmaceutical antihistamines.
Vitamin C & your optimal health
Two weeks ago we learned that vitamin C is essential to life
and optimal levels of it promote optimal health
. This common vitamin is known for its positive role in mental health—improving mood and anxiety, inhibiting excessive cortisol release, and encouraging secretion of the “feel-good” hormone oxytocin. This essential nutrient also seems to be a powerful regulator of histamine in the body, detoxifying excess histamine by degradation. This effect happens equally with dietary and supplemental vitamin C.
Since humans, along with other primates, some birds and rodents, cannot synthesize vitamin C, we need to ingest a sufficient amount regularly. The body uses the amount it needs and excretes the rest. But finding the amount the body needs can be a challenge, as that amount can fluctuate dramatically.
According to Shari Lieberman and Nancy Bruning in The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book
, we can determine the amount our body needs by taking about two to six grams of vitamin C, spread throughout each day, and increasing the amount by one or two grams each week. Common sense dictates that if the body reacts with intestinal gas, bloating, or loose stools, reduce the dosage slightly until the symptoms are relieved. Continue watching for symptoms of too much vitamin C in the body.
"Interestingly,” Bruning adds, “it often appears that as someone gets better, their bowel tolerance decreases, and they need less vitamin C. When I have a cold or the flu, I can take as much as 10 grams of vitamin C a day, with no bowel intolerance symptoms. But when I’m well, this amount does cause symptoms."
The official Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is set at 60 milligrams of vitamin C for adults, but many experts feel that this is too low. Since there is no known toxicity level for this vitamin, dramatically increasing this amount to 1000 milligrams or more daily should cause no side effects for most people. However, Bruning cautions that “guidance of a qualified professional” is important when contemplating megadoses of vitamin C, especially for those who may have kidney problems and cannot excrete the excess.
Food sources of vitamin C include leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, most fruit, and berries.
Fresh fruit and vegetables lose their vitamin C content rapidly through exposure to heat, air, and light, but the fermentation process actually increases the amount of this essential nutrient. Although citrus fruits do not have the largest doses of vitamin C (and commercial bottles or cartons of juice have very little available by the time they reach the consumer), the bioflavonoids in the skin and pulp increase the amount of vitamin C that is absorbed.
For megadoses, Bruning recommends ascorbic acid or vitamin C supplements that include bioflavonoids for the same reason. Natural vitamin C, whether from food sources or from supplements, helps the body rid itself of unwanted toxins like excessive histamine, but there are emergency situations where the instant relief of antihistamines is a medical necessity. For most people, though, using vitamin C to help the body regulate histamine is a safer alternative.
"Vitamin C as a Natural Antihistamine Supplement and Mental Health Promoter” by Richard Jensen, found in the Winter 2006 issue of the Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing; and The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book by Nancy Bruning,
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