Nature’s Antihistamine: The Orange

Nature’s Antihistamine: The Orange

Ah… spring has finally arrived. The snow has melted, the sun is warm, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, the trees are blossoming, the grasses are growing, and – ACHOO! Looks like it’s time to grab one of those mouth-drying,
dizziness-inducing, nausea-causing, appetite-suppressing, drowsiness-producing
antihistamine products. Instead… before allergy season even begins, how about eating some oranges! They contain two nutrients that are extremely helpful in reducing allergy symptoms: vitamin C and bioflavonoids.

Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is an amazing nutrient. It was originally lauded as the “anti-scurvy vitamin” since it helps produce collagen, a fiber essential to connective tissues in our body such as cartilage, dentin, skin and bones. This nutrient also aids in the
absorption of iron, helps synthesize hormones, acts as a potent antioxidant and immune booster. It degrades cholesterol, increases our ability to metabolize drugs and detoxify and, at the right dosage, has antihistamine effects.

Research shows that consuming 2000 mg per day of vitamin C reduces histamine levels within the blood, strengthens the walls of cells that contain histamine (mast cells and basophils) so that they do not break open as easily, and increases epinephrine (adrenaline), a potent antidote for allergic reactions (think about how we use an Epi-Pen when someone suffers from a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis).

The amount of vitamin C in the fleshy portion of a medium-sized orange is approximately 50 to 70 mg. By including the white mesh-like part on the inside of the rind and the pith, you can double the amount of vitamin C you’re consuming and
get some extra cholesterol-reducing, water-soluble fiber called pectin. Now before you start thinking you have to eat between 15-20 oranges every day to obtain the antihistamine benefits of vitamin C, let’s talk about the bioflavonoids found within
this citrus fruit.

Bioflavonoids:
In Latin flavus means “yellow” and is used in many words to denote an object’s yellow coloring. For instance, vitamin B2 is called riboflavin and is the reason why your urine turns bright yellow when you take your multivitamin.

Flavonoids (bioflavonoids), originally called vitamin P, are nutrients responsible for the pigmentation of some foods. They are strong antioxidants often found in many of the same foods that contain vitamin C. Aside from making our dishes more vibrant, research shows us that these colorful nutrients enhance the transport of vitamin C into our cells.

The bioflavonoids found in an orange include hesperidin, quercetin, rutin, and tangeretin. These nutrients contain anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties.
One of the ways bioflavonoids help reduce allergies is by strengthening our capillaries. Stronger capillaries are important when mast cells or basophils are releasing their histamine related compounds into the bloodstream. With tonified capillaries, the histamine will find it more difficult to leach out into tissues to induce an “allergic” response.

Other antihistamine foods:

Aside from oranges and other citrus fruits, there are many foods you can eat prior to allergy season to boost the antihistamine factors within your body. Foods high in both vitamin C and bioflavonoids include, but are not limited to: dark red, purple and blue berries, dark colored grapes and wine, peaches, nectarines, red and green bell peppers, broccoli, onions and green tea.

Convenient sources of vitamin C and bioflavonoids:
Taking a capsule or tablet to obtain the antihistamine benefits of vitamin C and bioflavonoids might seem like the easier (and less sticky) way to go, but it is always best to talk with your physician first. High doses of vitamin C can lead to osmotic
(watery) diarrhea, and/or alter the metabolism of any medications you are currently taking. Your doctor may also want you to gradually increase your dosage and take a very specific form of vitamin C referred to as “buffered vitamin C” which helps maintain healthy blood pH levels.

Freshly squeezed orange juice is preferred, but the juice usually contains only about 25% of the vitamin C found in a whole orange since you’re not getting the white part of the rind or pith. Also, bioflavonoids degrade over time, so you must
drink the juice as quickly as possible. The store-bought versions, especially those pasteurized or from concentrate, have lost much of their natural bioflavonoids because of the heating and processing of the juice. Fortunately, many companies are aware of this and will add vitamin C and bioflavonoids back into the juice at the end of the processing.

To learn more…
There are many ways to reduce your allergy symptoms through the use of functional medicine. Please join us on April 24th from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Alliance Integrative Medicine to receive more information about integrative therapies that ease the discomforts caused by allergy season. For more information or to register, please click here.

By Lisa Gallagher, N.D.

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