Vitamin D Could Help Seasonal Allergy Sufferers

The pollen is upon us causing sneezing, wheezing, itchy, watery eyes - seasonal allergies. A preliminary study of inner city children ages six to 12-years-old indicates that those who suffer from allergies and asthma were also found to have a vitamin D deficiency. The research was done at Allegheny General Hospital.

"Vitamin D has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory or anti-swelling chemical. So it's been shown to decrease many diseases, or improve many diseases that are involved in inflammation including allergy and asthma," says Dr. Deborah Gentile, one of the researchers. Vitamin D has already been getting attention for boosting the immune system to fight osteoporosis and Seasonal Affective Disorder and now it may help to ease symptoms of allergies and asthma.

"Basically, in children as well as adults who have allergy and asthma, their immune systems tend to make certain chemicals that drive those reactions. These are chemicals that are called cytokines," Dr. Gentile explained. "Basically what vitamin D does is control the regulation of these cytokines so that less of the allergy and asthma-like cytokines are being made."

The best source of vitamin D is 15 minutes of reasonable sun exposure two to three times a week - not always possible in Pittsburgh. Vitamin D is also found naturally in oily fish, cod liver oil and egg yolks. Other products like cereal, milk and other dairy items can be fortified with vitamin D. If using supplements, researchers are still trying to find the ideal therapeutic dosage of vitamin D.

"It depends on your age," Gentile said. "Typically, if you get a supplement, look at the label and see. I probably wouldn't go more than a 1,000 to 1,500 units per day." But, like most everything else, don't overdo it. "Even though vitamin D is something good for our immune systems and good for our health in general, you can still get too much of it and cause problems," Gentile said. Multi-city clinical trials are scheduled. Pittsburgh is one of the sites. Inner city kids will be given supplemental vitamin D to see how it affects their allergy and asthma outcomes.