Some vitamins may help boost the immune system and reduce the severity of sinus problems and allergies. Sinusitis is the swelling of the nasal sinuses and typically occurs from a cold or infection, says the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Allergies can also cause sinus problems because of the swelling that occurs when exposed to allergens. Vitamins can't cure or completely prevent allergies or sinus problems, and talking to a health care professional about vitamin supplements can provide more information about which vitamins are best for your immune system.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that's also an antioxidant. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, antioxidants help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals that can cause disease. It also helps the body produce red blood cells and aids the body in utilizing vitamin K. The Mayo Clinic says vitamin E may help reduce nasal allergies, but more studies must be performed before a definitive association can be established. Foods containing vitamin E include eggs, sunflower seeds, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables and asparagus.
Vitamin C is typically thought of as a vitamin that helps boost the immune system, but this vitamin has other functions as well. This vitamin is used in the synthesis of collagen and the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, as well as functioning as an antioxidant, says the Linus Pauling Institute. Although studies are conflicting, vitamin C may also help stimulate production of white blood cells, which help fight bacteria and infections. The Mayo Clinic says vitamin C may reduce the duration of colds in some people, but more research needs to be done. Dietary sources of this vitamin include citrus fruits, broccoli, cooked leafy greens and potatoes.
Vitamin A is a group of compounds, some of which function as antioxidants. Vitamin A helps promote healthy mucous membranes, which help keep bacteria out of the body. The vitamin also helps regulate the immune system by stimulating white blood cell production, says the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. There are two types of vitamin A, depending on whether the dietary source is an animal product or plant product, says the Office of Dietary Supplements. Good sources of this vitamin include fortified milk, liver, cheese, carrots, spinach, oatmeal and kale.
Zinc is a mineral that may be naturally found or added to foods, and is also available as a supplement. Zinc plays a role in immune function, wound healing, protein synthesis, the senses of taste and smell, and normal growth and development. The Office of Dietary Supplements describes zinc as possibly reducing inflammation in the nasal mucosa, but there are no data to prove this. Zinc has been shown to shorten cold symptoms, including nasal discharge, but more studies need to be performed. Dietary sources include oysters, beef shanks, chicken legs, lobster, pork shoulder and cashews.
Is This an Emergency?
- Mayo Clinic: Vitamin E: Evidence
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin E
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Vitamin C
- Mayo Clinic: Vitamin C
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin A and Carotenoids
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: Tips to remember: sinusitis
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Zinc