Monday, March 1, 2010

How vitamin C is anti inflammatory

If you have been around in the "wellness" space for a while you will have heard about how mega doses of vitamin C work wonders. I have found very little about why these work. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, however in my mind this does not account for all the wonderful things it can do.

I have just read a 1973 paper that stated:
Numerous other reports in the literature indicate that large doses of ascorbic acid are beneficial in a variety of stressful situations such as burns, injuries, surgical operations, infections, col, trauma, pregnancy and lactation...... we have shown that auto-oxidation of ascorbic acid in the presence of histamine leads to rupture of the imidazole ring, making the histamine biologically inactive. We have further indicated that the beneficial effect of large doses of ascorbic acid in different stressful conditions i due to its detoxification of the excess histamine produced in response to the stress
So vitamin C has an anti histamine effect. So a quick look at Wikipedia shows that histamine has the following effects:
  • Causes vasodilation, bronchoconstriction, bronchial smooth muscle contraction. So this is why large doses of vitamin C (2grams) helps some asthmatics. Why large doses before a cold sets in are helpful. 
  • Separation of endothelial cells (responsible for hives), and pain and itching due to insect stings. Again why vitamin C helps some people with hives or allergies 
  • The primary receptors involved in allergic rhinitis symptoms and motion sickness.This is likely why grams of vitamin C decrease signs of hay fever (allergic rhinitis). I am interested to know if vitamin C improves motion sickness. I have not heard about this one. 
  • Primarily stimulate gastric acid secretion. In the early days of vitamin C it was noted that giving vitamin C to "poor eaters" decreased their stomach issues and increased their appetite.
  • Decreased neurotransmitter release: histamine, acetylcholine, norepinephrine, serotonin. This will explain how some people have improved their depression (low serotonin) with vitamin C.Also why vitamin C helps stressed people as norepinephrine is released when you are under stress.
Most of my comments are anecdotal in nature. However if I get the time I will do some literature searching to determine what studies have been done in this area. I find it amazing that we have known that vitamin C has an anti inflammatory effect, yet nearly 40 years on we don't have it as a first port of call in inflammatory disease or issues.

Reference: B. K. Nandi, A. K. Majumder, N. Subramanian and I. B. Chatterjee  Effects of Large Doses of Vitamin C in Guinea Pigs and Rats. The Journal of Nutrition 1973

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