Histamine: Could it Be the Cause of Your Symptoms?
Unexplained fatigue, skin rashes, digestive issues, dizziness, runny nose, nasal congestion, red & watery eyes, headaches, low blood pressure, and poor sleep. These are all signs that you may be suffering from a histamine intolerance. These symptoms can not only keep you from looking and feeling your best, they can also impact your ability to function optimally on a daily basis. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to effectively manage your body's response to histamine.
Histamine Intolerance: What it is
If you've ever had a bee sting or seasonal allergies, you've experienced the effects of histamine. Histamine is a substance released from mast cells, a type of white blood cell that plays a vital role in maintaining immune health and circulates throughout your body - in your body in response to an environmental trigger. Common triggers include certain types of food, bug bites, pet dander, airborne irritants such as pollen, as well as certain medications. Histamine intolerance can also occur if you have a hormonal imbalance, are deficient in certain nutrient, suffer from a digestive disorder like IBS, or lack one of the enzymes responsible for breaking down histamine. Even chronic stress can trigger histamine intolerance.
Symptoms of histamine intolerance appear when your body's normal ability to breakdown histamine is overwhelmed by the amount of histamine in your system.
Once your body's capacity to metabolize histamine is exceeded, the extra histamine circulating in your body activates receptors in multiple organ systems, thus producing many of the symptoms listed above.
This imbalance can occur in the following settings:
Consumption of a diet rich in histamine-containing foods or foods that trigger the release of histamine: Examples of histamine-rich foods include aged cheese, fermented foods, wine, spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, avocado, citrus fruits, dried fruits, certain teas, processed/cured meats like salami, frozen/ smoked/canned or semi-preserved oily fishes, like mackerel or sardines, and left over meats or fish. Examples of foods that trigger histamine release include alcohol, bananas, beans, chocolate, citrus fruits, nuts, papaya, pineapple, and tomatoes.
Physical conditions that interfere with the proper breakdown of histamine: Inflammatory bowel conditions that reduce the amount of enzymes available for metabolizing histamine, such as Crohn's, Ulcerative Colitis, IBS, and Gluten Sensitivity. Histamine intolerance can also occur if you have issues with the incredibly important detoxification step called methylation as a result of a common genetic mutation.
Certain medications that can release histamine or interfere with its breakdown in the body.
Histamine intolerance can also be the result of Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD). In MCAD, your mast cells become overactive, releasing histamine (and other chemical mediators) throughout your body due to the presence of histamine receptors in multiple organ systems including your gastrointestinal tract, lungs, nervous system, skin, and circulatory system. In addition to producing the typical symptoms of histamine intolerance listed at the beginning of this article, MCAD is also associated with several autoimmune illnesses such as Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and due to the interaction of your innate immune system with your adaptive immune system.
Histamine Intolerance: What You Can Do About It
There are several steps you can take to reduce your histamine load and start feeling better:
Consider temporarily eliminating foods high in histamine (see the above list) form your diet. Consult your healthcare provider to discuss whether or not a trial elimination diet is right for you. Your healthcare provider may instruct you to keep a food journal to record changes in the frequency and intensity of your symptoms as you do a trial elimination of foods high in histamine (see the list above) and then gradually reintroduce each food one at a time. You might also be advised to limit your consumption of foods that trigger the release of histamine into your system (see list above).
Add a stress reduction technique to your daily routine. Deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, and mindful meditation are just a few techniques that help you deal more effectively with stress. If you're not sure where to start, consider working with a health coach to develop a stress management program that's tailored to your lifestyle.
Get adequate sleep nightly. Using a blue light filter or glasses when on your devices in the evening is an important step you can take to ensure that secretion of melatonin - the hormone responsible for a normal sleep wake cycle - is not suppressed.
Include regular times of moderate physical activity in your weekly routine, but avoid excessive workouts.
Consult your healthcare practitioner to assess whether an underlying problem such as intestinal inflammation, hormonal imbalances or even medication are at the root of your histamine intolerance.
If you think your persistent symptoms may be caused by histamine intolerance, contact us today and get the help you need to effectively manage your body's response to histamine.
Comas-Baste', O et al. Histamine Intolerance: The Current State of the Art. Biomolecules. 2020 Aug; 10(8): 1181.
Maintz, N & Novak, N. Histamine & Histamine Intolerance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Volume 85, Issue 5, May 2007, Pages 1185–1196.
Xu, Y & Chen, G. Mast Cell and Autoimmune Diseases. Mediators Inflamm. 2015; 2015: 246126
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.