Are You Intolerant to Histamine?
This article has been a long time coming for me. Histamine Intolerance is a complex issue that is not black and white. It has a lot of grey area and a lot that is yet to be discovered. What I do know, from hours of research, is that addressing the Histamine Intolerance has changed my life.
Histamine intolerance simply means that your body is not tolerating it’s current level of histamines. This can be caused by a number of factors such as low enzyme production, enzyme inhibitors caused by medications, and genetic disorders. We are going to focus in this article on low enzyme production which is the most common cause of histamine intolerance.
Diamine Oxidase is the enzyme produced by the bowels to “eat” histamine. It’s job is to keep the histamine in balance and degrade histamine. The problem arises when our bowels are unhealthy from leaky gut issues, candida overgrowth or inflammatory bowel disease the enzyme production slows to a halt, letting the histamine reign in our systems unchecked. Think of a cup that is overflowing, when the histamine reaches an overflowing level we get all sorts of symptoms.
Let’s look at histamine a little closer…Histamine is not the bad guy. It’s a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our system including breaking down our foods we eat in stomach acid. Histamine works with your immune system to red flag areas that need attention. It also dilates blood vessels, plays a large role in memory and cognitive functions. You need histamine for your body to function properly so this isn’t about eliminating histamine.
When Diamine Oxidase enzymes are few and far between the histamine tends to build in our systems causing a large variety of symptoms. Since histamine plays such a huge role in our bodies, symptoms can seem scattered and unrelated. Here is a brief summary of what areas can be effected by too much histamine.
Histamine Receptor 1 (H1) We can see symptoms such as rash, hives, eczema, itching, breathing problems
Histamine Receptor 2 (H2) Gastro-intestinal tract, acid reflux, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, bowel disorders
Histamine Receptor 3 (H3) Central nervous system, sleep, memory, mood problems
Histamine Receptor 4 (H4) Stimulates mast cells in bones causing inflammation
When histamine levels are high, people can be allergic to anything and everything. Even the sun can trigger rashes and hives. It becomes a battle of fighting against foods, pollen, soaps and lotions and even smells.
So what are common symptoms that your histamine levels are too high?
- Tissue swelling/hives
- Itchy eyes/ears
- Loss of appetite
- Sinus problems
- Low blood pressure
- Mood disorders
- Anxiety/panic attacks
- Loss of consciousness
- Frequent urination
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
These are the most common symptoms, it would be impossible to list every side effect of high histamine levels. Many things play a role, there are many grey areas. For example, someone who is taking a pump inhibitor for heart burn issues which is actually a (H2) blocker such as Pepcid or Zantac they can have different symptoms. Since the H2 receptor is blocked, symptoms from the H2 receptor will be less, but the histamine will be overloaded in the other receptors causing them to go crazy.
Another example would be someone taking an anti-histamine such as Benadryl or Claritin. These medications block H1 receptors which give relief of itchy skin, watery eyes and runny nose. That sounds great, except for the other histamine receptors are now bombarded with the leftover histamine. People who are on anti-histamines often complain of being numbed over or having mood problems. This is from the other receptors taking the burden of the H1 receptor being blocked. As you can see this isn’t a black and white issue.
What To Do
So how can we help our bodies deal with low Diamine Oxidase? What can we do about the rising histamine levels in the mean time? First, checking out what prescription medications you are taking can be helpful. Some prescriptions can block or reduce histamine degrading enzymes in the bowels. Please don’t stop taking medications, just being aware of how they are effecting your body can help you learn what you need to do.
Food plays a huge role in histamine levels. Some foods even healthy foods can have high histamine levels. This doesn’t make the food unhealthy, but if you are trying to reduce histamines they should be avoided. Here are foods that naturally contain high histamine levels.
- Anything fermented, alcohol, sauerkraut, soy sauce, kefir, vinegars, yogurt, pickles, olives
- Processed meats, lunch meat, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni,
- Dried fruits
- Aged cheeses
- Nuts such as peanuts, walnuts cashews
Some foods help to liberate histamines in the body and are not tolerated well, these include foods such as citrus fruits, pineapple, chocolate and food additives.
Just eliminating these foods above can bring tremendous help to someone who is fighting histamine intolerance. The issue of bowels not making Diamine Oxidase still needs to be addressed and can actually be supplemented until the gut has had time to heal and repair. I have provided a Free Guide to supporting your gut health. Along with addressing gut issues and avoiding histamine foods there are additional supplements that can be of help.
Quercetin is a supplement that actually stops the mast cells from producing histamine. It’s a natural anti-histamine but doesn’t work like the over the counter anti-histamines. I take it daily, first thing in the morning and again later in the day. I have found it extremely helpful in reducing symptoms such as rapid heart rate, brain fog, swelling hands, migraines and sinus issues.
HistamAid88 is another supplement that actually contains Diamine Oxidase. It’s great to take 15min before a meal to help assist your body in breaking down histamines from foods your eating. From personal experience it really decreases and sometimes eliminates reactions to foods.
To summarize, if you feel like these symptoms sound familiar, take note how you feel after eating foods with high histamine. For me personally, eating a spinach salad with a vinegar dressing will cause my heart to pound about 10 min after eating it and I get a migraine shortly after. Pay attention to which foods cause symptoms and which foods you tolerate well. Once you are aware of what foods are causing you the most problems you can eliminate them and work on supporting your gut health. A combination of avoiding certain foods, supporting gut health and adding a few supplements will help you see results in your health quickly.