The Vitamin C Fix For Holiday Stress

By Richard Jensen, Ph.D., Nutritional Consultant

Dr. Jensen received a Ph.D. in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College, and has received a Nutritional Consultant Certificate (C.N.C.) from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC). He is currently practicing as a Holistic Health Counselor and Nutritional Consultant with an office in San Diego. Dr. Jensen has also written a doctoral dissertation on how Vitamin C can reduce stress and allergies via its antihistamine effect. (

March 17, 2010

Stress, Allergies, And The Immune System

Most people understand that having too much stress in their lives can make them sick. However, the opposite can also be true: a malfunctioning immune system can actually create stress. One of the most common of the immune system imbalances are allergic reactions, which can have profound effects on the body, including the nervous system. There have been several studies done that have concluded between 70-85% of people with depression have allergies.1,2

Histamine And Its Effects

One of the main chemicals involved in allergic reactions is the small molecule histamine. Besides the body, histamine is also found in the brain, and helps transmit signals to neurons. Too much brain histamine may cause anxiety in some people.3 Histamine is also associated with depression4,5, attention deficit disorder6, and the “fight or flight” response.7

The Antihistamine Effect Of Vitamin C

Vitamin C, a nutrient that is essential for many different processes in the body, destroys excess histamine.8 Increased histamine in the body results in increased vitamin C requirements9, suggesting that supplementation with vitamin C is important in people with allergies. Supplementation with 2000 mg/day of vitamin C dropped histamine levels 40% below the average value.7

Protective Functions Of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for proper brain function10, can act as a mood enhancer11,12, and may reduce both anxiety12 and depression11. Vitamin C counteracts oxidative damage to neuron cells13, and lowers stress-induced death in animals.14 In humans, high levels of vitamin C results in a 33% reduction in death rate.14

Vitamin C — An Essential Nutrient

Vitamin C is absolutely required for the livelihood of all animals. All animals can synthesize their own vitamin C except primates (including humans), guinea pigs, and some bats and birds.15 The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for humans is only 60-90 milligrams per day.

However, those animals that can make their own vitamin C (if adjusted for an average human’s weight) make 45-300 times the human RDA, which is 2,700-27,000 milligrams per day.16

Megadosing With Vitamin C — Safe Or Foolish?

The term megadosing in nutrition generally refers to taking at least ten times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of a certain vitamin or mineral, in this case more than 600 milligrams per day of vitamin C.
Many people have gastrointestinal problems with large doses of pure ascorbic acid, the form of vitamin C the body would make, in an immediate-release. Sustained-release forms act as a buffer and don’t cause the gastrointestinal problems that most people would experience from immediate-release ascorbic acid.
People who plan on megadosing with vitamin C should consult their physician if they have any of the following conditions, uses, or procedures: kidney stones, bladder problems, birth control pill users, tricyclic antidepressant users, or diabetes testing.

The Safety Profile Of Vitamin C

There have been several different claims made that megadosing with vitamin C can cause certain problems, including: rebound scurvy17 (vitamin C deficiency), free radical (oxidizer) formation18, oxalic acid production19,20, DNA mutations, iron overload21, vitamin B12 deficiency21, and uric acid buildup.21
However, there is no convincing evidence that any of the above problems are caused by vitamin C megadosing. But, people who already have iron overload or kidney stones should notify their physician before megadosing with vitamin C.

Overall, it has been found that any side effects from vitamin C supplementation are rare under 4000 milligrams per day.21

Vitamin C Used As A Stress Reliever

As mentioned above, vitamin C has many positive effects on both the immune system and the stress response. Its antihistamine effect can be used both as an allergy treatment and a general stress reducer. Vitamin C can even act as a bronchodilator, similar to the powerful drug Theophylline, but without the side effects.
In summary, vitamin C is both a safe and effective treatment at high doses for many different conditions, particularly for allergies and stress. Supplementation is usually needed to get to these levels, and a sustained-release is a great way to avoid gastrointestinal problems while still using the ascorbic acid form – the form of vitamin C the body would make.

Cited Sources:

  1. Firshein, R. (1996). Reversing asthma. New York: Warner Books, Inc.
  2. Ossofsky, H. (1976). Affective and atopic disorder and cyclic AMP. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 17, 335-346.
  3. Hasenohrl, R., Weth, K., & Huston, J. (1999). Intraventricular infusion of the histamine H(1) receptor antagonist chlorpheniramine improves maze performance and has anxiolytic-like effects in aged hybrid Fischer 344xBrown Norway rats. Experimental Brain Research, 128, 435-440.
  4. Arrigo-Reina, R. & Chiechio, S. (1998). Evidence of a key role for histamine from mast cells in the analgesic effect of Clomipramine in rats. Inflammation Research, 47, 44-48.
  5. Hurwitz, E., & Morgenstern, H. (2001). Immediate and long term effects of immune stimulation: hypothesis linking the immune response to subsequent physical and psychological well being. Medical Hypotheses, 56, 620-624.
  6. Passani, M., Bacciottini, L., Mannaioni, P., & Blandina, P. (2000). Central histaminergic system and cognition. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 24, 107-113.
  7. Johnston, C., Retrum, K., & Srilakshmi, J. (1992). Antihistamine effects and complications of supplemental vitamin C. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 92, 988-989.
  8. Subramanian, N. (1977). On the brain ascorbic acid and its importance in metabolism of biogenic amines. Life Sciences, 20, 1479-1484.
  9. Nandi, B., Subramanian, N., Majumder, A., & Chatterjee, I. (1974). Effect of ascorbic acid on detoxification of histamine under stress conditions. Biochemical Pharmacology, 23, 643-647.
  10. Mark, V., & Mark, J. (1989). Brain Power. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  11. Brody, S. (2002). High-dose ascorbic acid increases intercourse frequency and improves mood: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Biological Psychiatry, 52, 371-374.
  12. Balch, J., & Balch, P. (1997). Prescription for nutritional healing, 2nd Edition. Garden City Park: Avery Publishing Group.
  13. Hediger, M. (2002). New view at C. Nature Medicine, 8, 445-446.
  14. Boeing, H., & Rausch, E. (1996). Ascorbic acid and chronic diseases: how strong is the evidence? Subcellular Biochemistry, 25, 117-136.
  15. Banhegyi, G., Braun, L., Csala, M., Puskas, F., & Mandl, J. (1997). Ascorbate metabolism and its regulation in animals. Free Radical Biology & Medicine, 23, 793-803.
  16. Levine, M., & Morita, K. (1985). Ascorbic acid in endocrine systems. Vitamins and Hormones, 42, 1-65.
  17. Lieberman, S., & Bruning, N. (1997). The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book, 2nd Ed.. Honesdale: Paragon Press.
  18. Snodgrass, S. (1992). Vitamin neurotoxicity. Molecular Neurobiology, 92, 41-73.
  19. Rivers, J. (1987). Safety of high-level vitamin C ingestion. Annals New York Academy of Sciences, 496, 445-454.
  20. Traxer, O., Huet, B., Poindexter, J., Pak, C., & Pearle, M. (2003). Effect of ascorbic acid consumption on urinary stone risk formers. Journal of Urology, 170, 397-401.
  21. Meyers, D., Maloley, P., & Weeks, D. (1996). Safety of antioxidant vitamins. Archives of Internal Medicine, 13, 925-935.

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