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Dear Dr Cannell: Allergies

Posted on: May 29, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD

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Dear Dr. Cannell:

I would like to request that you add allergies to your list of maladies associated with Vitamin D. I did not have issues with allergies as a younger adult, but after menopause, I started to suffer from springtime allergies and mouth allergies from orchard fruits like apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, nectarines, figs, etc. I saw an allergist who diagnosed a birch tree allergy as being responsible for both my seasonal allergy and my mouth allergy.

For ten years, I have suffered with seasonal allergies and experience hives every time I accidentally ingest apple cider vinegar or some other fruit product in a prepared food. Three years ago, I started taking vitamin D supplements after a vitamin D test showed a low level of 8 ng/ml. I started taking 2500 IU of vitamin D daily and over two years my tested levels improved to around 30 ng/ml. This winter I started taking 5000 IU of vitamin D once a week plus 2500 IU per day. By March, my tested levels were 50 ng/ml. This year I have had no problem with seasonal allergies, despite the fact that everyone around me is saying this is the worst allergy season they can remember.

Thanks for all you do. I understand that you do this full time now, trying to spread the word about vitamin D. You certainly helped me, thank you.

Mary, Wisconsin

Dear Mary:

You’re welcome. Yes, I retired from the hospital and work full-time at the Vitamin D Council, trying to spread the word and help as many people as we can.

I’m glad your allergies seemed to improve with vitamin D, not everyone’s does. This is the one field with lot’s of conflicting data. The paper below, which is free to download and read, explains how vitamin D works, when it does, in allergies, asthma, and atopic dermatitis. It is somewhat complicated, but vitamin D tends to prevent overreaction to allergens by the immune system. However, one study indicated vitamin D supplements, 2,000 IU/day, given to infants, actually made allergies worse down the road. In terms of life-threatening allergies, prescriptions for adrenalin are more common in the north than the south, suggesting the higher vitamin D levels in the south are protective against life-threatening allergic reactions.

Searing DA, Leung DY. Vitamin D in atopic dermatitis, asthma and allergic diseases. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2010 Aug;30(3):397-409. Review.

Personally, I don’t get atopic skin rashes in the winter anymore, but I do have a clear runny nose fairly often. I wonder if other readers have noted anything similar since starting vitamin D?

John Cannell, MD

6 Responses to Dear Dr Cannell: Allergies

  1. roger.rolfe@sympatico.ca

    Interesting post! Mary says she’s supplementing w/ 2500 mg per day. She obviously means 2500 IU per day. Not to be confused, since 1 mg of D3 = 40,000IU!!

    • Brant Cebulla

      Yeah, we should probably edit that to not confuse anyone. Thanks Roger.

  2. Heather

    I developed seasonal allergies as an adult. After optimizing my vitamin D (67), I haven’t experienced allergies for 3 allergy seasons so far. I also went gluten-free at the same time, so that muddies the waters. Each season I smile to myself that something I did actually worked!

  3. louis.truett@gmail.com

    Ever since I started taking 5,000 IU a day a few years ago, the allergy attacks seemed to be significantly lessened. I would get a little cold that goes away quickly without any problem (it may be allergy but who knows). The biggest benefit was no more dreadful yearly sinus infection every winter that seemed to take forever to get over. Another thing I noticed that I don’t get excessive dry cough that I typically get whenever I get sinus infection. My 7 years old kid barely ever get sick except for that strange illness that gave my kid high fever a few weeks ago; doctor didn’t even know what to say about it. Of course, she got over it rather quickly. It was on Friday so I took my kid to the doctor just in case.

    I wish I knew about vitamin D 30 years ago… that would have saved me a lot of suffering!

  4. jgath@blueyonder.co.uk

    Over the last few years I have taken vitamin D3 in increasing amounts. I was diagnosed with asthma 9 years ago, but most likely have had it since childhood. Since using the steroid preventor medication, I became very susceptible to colds, and found that they were turning into pneumonias or secondary infections to the lungs which took a long time to recover from.

    At about 5000 IU a day, the secondary infections eased, at 8000 IU a day they stopped and the colds decreased in number per year and severity. At 9000 IU a day, respiratory infections almost disappeared. If they did strike, they were easily shrugged off. At this time, my blood levels were 99 ng/ml.

    My blood calcium is a little over the high reference point (which worries my doctor) but bone scans show no sign of osteoporosis, and mineralisation is 115% of that expected for age.

    I stopped taking D3 for a few months to see what happens, and I’ve just recovered from a nasty cold, that went onto my chest, but fortunately not seriously. It lasted a while though, and gave me a vicious cough.

    So now I’m back on to 9000 IU a day.

  5. William

    At 10,000 IU/day I had a serum level of 62ng/ml and have since doubled that as my bone density tests continued to be poor.

    For several months I’ve had a sinus problem. Took an anti biotic and that eliminated the infection component but there continues to be a clear runny nose as Dr. Cannell mentioned.

    Don’t know if it is related to the D3 dosage but would hate to take the steps necessary to find out.

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