20 Vitamins for Allergies, Asthma, and Modulating the Immune System
I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Allergies and Asthma seem IMPOSSIBLE to heal, change, or improve.
Or are they?
Well it turns out that you can dramatically decrease your allergy and asthma symptoms, along with IgE levels, by taking THE RIGHT VITAMINS.
And in today’s post, I’m going to show you the top 20 vitamins found to reduce allergies and asthma in SCIENTIFIC STUDIES.
My Quest For the Best Vitamins for Asthma and Allergies
In my research for supplements, I looked for a couple things that are associated with reducing Th2 skewing, aka asthma and allergies. I searched out vitamins and supplements that were shown to reduce IgE, increase IFN-y, increase IL-12, increase NK cell activity (natural killer cells), and/or reduce IL-10 (IL-10 tends to be associated with the Th2 arm of the immune system). And just a brief note, if you don’t already know this, Th1 is humoral immunity known to “fight viruses and other intracellular pathogens, eliminate cancerous cells, and stimulate delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) skin reactions” while Th2 is adaptive immunity via production of antibodies. Being skewed too heavily in either direction can result in diseases. Allergic problems and asthma tend to be invoked by an immune system that is Th2 skewed.
I spent several months laboring over this list, but here are supplements that have been found to reduce allergies – along with some supplements you’ll want to avoid because they increase allergies.
It has been found to Increase Interferon Gamma (IFN-y). In a mouse model it reduced IgE associated skin inflammation.
This is a propreitary extract produced from specially cultivated and hybridized mushrooms. It has been found to skew towards Th17, enhance NK cells, increase IL-6 and IFN-γ.
3. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Alpha Lipoic Acid is becoming a sung hero in the world of anti-oxidants. It has been found to chelate heavy metals, restore blood glutathione levels, act as a free radical scavenger… The key here to me is that it can enhance blood glutathione levels. Additionally, in mouse model of asthma it was found to lower lung hyper responsiveness, eosinophils, and IgE.
“Alpha-Lipoic acid inhibits airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness in a mouse model of asthma”
Buy Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Apigenin is flavone found in many fruits and vegetables. The highest sources include parsley, celery, celeriac and chamomile. It was found to reduce IgE, suppress Th2 cytokines.
According to Wikipedia, pinitol is a cyclitol, a cyclic polyol. It is a known anti-diabetic agent isolated from Sutherlandia frutescens leaves. Gall plant tannins can be differentiated by their content of pinitol. It was first identified in the sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana). It’s also apparently in leafy greens – and a component of inositol. In one mouse model study d-pinitol inhibited allergic asthma in sensitized mice. In another it impaired Th1 polarization.
“d-pinitol regulates Th1/Th2 balance via suppressing Th2 immune response in ovalbumin-induced asthma”
Obviously this isn’t a supplement. I contacted the person associated with this study about further details about the type of drumming that was done. He was unavailable for further questions. There was apparently an increase in NK cell activity post drumming.
Magnesium is sometimes delivered intravenously in the hospital for acute asthma attacks. It can “can induce bronchial smooth muscle relaxation…” I’ve heard from others who suffer from asthma, as well as read, that oral supplementation can also help reduce asthma symptoms as well as the amounts of emergency meds needed. Here is study done in children with asthma and oral magnesium supplementation. You’d need to purchase the study to see dosages, but another study that I read (which of course I cannot find now) had dosages of 340mg (given 2x day at 170 mg) for adults. What they found in the group of children was that the magnesium acted as an antioxidant and increase glutathione levels. Whether or not magnesium will help with allergic conditions is unclear to me. Although it has been found to decrease histamine levels, and would therefore be a valid supplement to experiment with.
“Effects of magnesium supplementation on the glutathione redox system in atopic asthmatic children“
8. Magnolia Flower and Gypsum Combination (Shin’iseihaito)
This is a mouse model. As several people have been quick to remind me, what works in mice doesn’t necessarily work in humans. At any rate they found that this Kampo (Japanese) or TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) herbal extract was able to reduce the eosinophil, serum IgE and interleukin (IL)-4 levels, while increased the interferon (IFN)-γ levels in allergic mice.
As far as buying this herbal remedy goes, I would recommend going to a reputable herbalist. You can find different sources on the internet, but for this one I personally would like to meet and see the person making/recommending this combination. There aren’t any reputable supplement companies that I can find that make this.
Melatonin is acts as an antioxidant, immune stimulant and sleep regulator. As a supplement, it’s a hormone that is either synthesized in a lab or derived from pig and cow brains (I of course steer clear of the later version). Melatonin is a mixed bag, so it demands some research and experimentation. Melatonin has been found in atopic dermatitis and allergic asthma to be associated with reduced IgE and IL-4. However, there was a study that found elevated blood melatonin levels associated with worsening nocturnal symptoms in people with asthma.
So if asthma is part of the package, it seems to make sense to tread slowly with melatonin.
Melatonin and Atopy: Role in Atopic Dermatitis and Asthma
Elevated serum melatonin is associated with the nocturnal worsening of asthma
Buy Melatonin (synthesized in lab – not animal brain derived).
Naturally occurring substances in and produced by plants. Found in fuits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. However the amounts you’d get when you consume plants is lower than if you take supplements containing sterols, stanols, and sterolins. Plant sterols, stanols, and sterolins are known to lower cholesterol and modulate the immune system.
One study in particular tracked asthma sufferers and vaccine titres vs a control group. Both groups consumed a soy based yogurt. The study group had added plant sterols, while the control group ate the yogurt without added sterols. And while the differences between the groups was not notable, the study group during the study time experienced decreased IgE and IL-13 indicating a shift from Th2 type immunity to Th1.
Interesting bonus on this supplement is that it supposedly has been found to increase hair health.
Dietary plant stanol ester consumption improves immune function in asthma patients: results of a randomized, double-blind clinical trial.
Beneficial Effects of Sitostanol on the Attenuated Immune Function in Asthma Patients: Results of an In Vitro Approach
All about Plant Sterols – Review article – Plant sterols: factors affecting their efficacy and safety as functional food ingredients
You’ll find lots of studies on pubmed.org citing it’s ability to stimulate Th1 type immunity in healthy subjects and mice via increased IFN-y and IL-12. We tried this supplement for awhile, I can’t say that it worked for us. We were, however, trying a bunch of stuff at once so it’s hard to tell. It’s also difficult to determine if we were taking a high enough dose. The other thing is that most of the studies done on HKLP-137 seem to be on non-atopic individuals and mice.
Reading these articles makes me want to give this supplement a try again.
Buy Immuno-LP 20
12. Probiotic: Lactobacillus Casei Shirota (in the states only found in Yakult)
Yakult is a dairy drink that is made from powdered milk and sugar. It’s available in stores around the US. Apparently, in Japan you can just buy the bacteria as a probiotic without the dairy and sugar that accompany the drink. At any rate, it has been found in an HIV infected population to lower IL-10, IL-12, IgE but raise IL-4.
13. Probiotic: Bifidobacterium Lactis HN019
I am somewhat on the fence on probiotics. I think that they, of all supplements demand massive organized experimentation. What do I mean by that? Well firstly, probiotics are extremely specific. If you read about a probiotic lactobacillus acidophilus 123 and desire similar effects, you must find that exact strain down to the 123. Also, for those suffering allergies and asthma, the probiotics could have a different effect than in non-allergic individuals AND heat killed probiotics may be more effective than live (again from memory of a study that I now cannot find). However, we still use probiotics. Although, we are not as organized as I would like to be. Ideally, we’d use single strains and track blood before and after. We don’t. So our approach is very hodge podge.
Also, I personally tend to steer clear of most bifidobacteria probiotics. From what I’ve read and retained, it seems that bifidobacteria are usually associated with increasing IL-10 levels. IL-10, while not totally Th2 skewing, is nonetheless a Th2 cytokine. However, this Bifidobacterium Lactis HN019 is associated with increasing NK (natural killer) cell activity. So, it’s on my list. And, we’ve taken these strains. I can’t say that we saw an improvement, we did not do blood tests, but we also didn’t see a worsening of any symptoms. Also, you cannot find either this strain or the L. Rhamnosus HN001 as single strains. Therefore, you can’t really see the effect of the single strain.
14. Probiotic: Lactobacillus Rhamnosus HN001
Increased NK cell activity in non-allergic individuals.
15. Rice Bran Exo-biopolymer, RBEP – known to contain arabinoxylan
In vivo study in humans, found to raise IFN-y levels. Interestingly, it did not effect any other cytokine levels. I’ve included “known to contain arabinoxylan” because I could not find this exact product. I’ve found other products that claim to activate NK-cell activity.
Dietary supplementation with rice bran fermented with Lentinus edodes increases interferon-γ activity without causing adverse effects: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study.
Buy Rice Bran Arabinoxylan Compound (We’ve taken this one. Again, we did not take blood work. So it’s hard to tell if it had an effect. We are considering returning to this supplement.)
Selenium is a potent anti-oxidant. It’s been found to enhance the Th1 side of the immune system: with increased viral immunity, NK activity and IFN-y. We regularly take it along with other trace minerals.
Selenium and asthma
I have written about vitamin C, especially in sodium ascorbate form, several times. It is a tent pole supplement in our routines. This study which followed three siblings over two years is the original study that turned me onto vitamin C. The study tracked a reduction in IgE using sodium ascorbate at 1000mg daily for two years. In our experience, we’ve found a similar IgE reducing effect. In fact, of all the supplements we’ve tried, sodium ascorbate made a huge and obvious impact that preceded confirmation via blood test. Basically my son’s asthma and seasonal allergy symptoms pretty much disappeared.
We stopped using it daily for several months. When we returned to vitamin C, we were not using sodium ascorbate because he hates the taste and texture. We have not had as amazing results using ascorbic acid. We do get some effect, but nothing as drastic as the 30% drop in IgE and essentially no asthma and seasonal allergy symptoms.
Also, a second issue with the sodium ascorbate that we were taking, I’m not in love with the nano-particle facet of it. I feel that that is something that has not been researched enough. So while we took it for about two years, we now take it much less.
Read about our experience using vitamin C for asthma and allergies. Currently, we’re not using sodium ascorbate, but are in the process of trying yet another vitamin C. It’s a fine balance between efficacy and taste/texture.
Sulforaphane is “a compound within the isothiocyanate group of organosulfur compounds. It is obtained from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cabbages. It is produced when the enzyme myrosinase transforms glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate, into sulforaphane upon damage to the plant (such as from chewing), which allows the two compounds to mix and react. ” Wikipedia
It’s been found that the highest levels of sulforaphane can be obtained from 3 day old broccoli sprouts. You can either buy sulphoraphane as a broccoli sprout extract supplement or grow your own sprouts. The key with sulphoraphane is that it’s created when glucoraphanin and myrosinase come together, as in chewing. So I prefer to eat the sprouts myself, because I doubt supplement efficacy for this compound for some reason. Although, keep in mind they are very strong tasting.
Sulforaphane inhibits the Th2 immune response in ovalbumin-induced asthma.
Buy seeds to sprout
19. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most widely discussed vitamins. Most recently a study found that it reduces asthma attack severity. But I have a hard time completely getting on the Vitamin D bandwagon. It’s not to say that it’s not valuable. Clearly it is, however there appears to be a sweet spot for Vitamin D. Levels above and below a certain threshold are linked to elevating IgE, while the sweet spot is in the middle. Another study found, that serum vitamin D was positively associated with logarithmic transformed total IgE with base of 10 (LogTIgE) (coefficient (B), 0.011; 95% confidence interval, 0.001-0.021).
I think the best approach with Vitamin D is to do a blood test and see the level. Then if you supplement track symptoms, and/or retest IgE levels along with Vitamin D level.
Whey supplementation is known to increase glutathione. What interests me the most though is the study that found that a month long whey supplementation protocol was able to reduce total IgE levels by 30%. For anyone who tracks IgE levels for allergies, you realize how amazing this is. We managed to reduce IgE levels by 30% over several months with daily sodium ascorbate – but that was several months vs one month.
Effect of whey protein to modulate immune response in children with atopic asthma.
Buy the whey from the study (Immunocal)
Further reading for the interested
Proinflammatory cytokines (IL-17, IL-6, IL-18 and IL-12) and Th cytokines (IFN-γ, IL-4, IL-10 and IL-13) in patients with allergic asthma
This s a great article that details the different cytokines and allergic asthma. This article informed my search for supplements: supplements that increase IL-12, IFN-y, NK cell activity… vs supplements that increase cytokines associated with skewing Th2 immunity via things like IL-10.
IL-10, a Th2 associated cytokine is a bit more complicated than simply being a Th2 cytokine and therefore something that allergic individuals want to avoid. While it can illicit differentiation between either IgE or IgG 4, that switch is timing based. This read if for the truly nerdy – and it’s a discussion of in vitro studies as opposed to in vivo.
Also please note that I do use affiliate links in this post and throughout the site. However, I only recommend supplements we’ve used and researched.