What is histamine
Histamine is a compound in the body which is released in response to injury, inflammation, allergic reactions and autoimmunity.
Histamine also functions in the brain as a neurotransmitter, which are chemical substances that transmit nerve impulses.
When histamine is released it can exert its affect on 4 different histamine receptors casing a wide range of reactions.
Histamine Receptor 1 acts via the skin, eyes and respiratory tract causing:
- Itchy skin
- Red skin
- Itchy eyes
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
Histamine Receptor 2 acts via the stomach causing:
- Irritable bowel
Histamine Receptors 1, 2, 3 and 4 all affect the brain causing
- Thyroid issues
- Hormonal issues
If you suffer from any of the above conditions then it is very possible that you have a problem breaking down histamines causing it to build up in the body.
How does histamine build up in th body?
Histamine is broken down by two enzymes, DAO and HNMT. The DAO enzyme is blocked by alcohol, black tea, green tea, energy drinks and various pharmaceutical drugs. The HNMT enzyme is blocked by insufficient methylation as well as certain pharmaceutical drugs. Some people also have genetic issues with the production of DAO and HNMT.
An unhealthy gut can also increase histamine in the body. When the gut is damaged causing inflammation, histamine is released to deal with this inflammation. So those with irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis will also have a build up of histamine. This is also the case with bacterial infections, which causes the immune system to release histamine. Many lactic acid producing bacteria such as lactobacillus acidophilus found in many yoghurts and probiotics are histamine releasing.
Many foods increase histamine in the body including fermented foods (soy, miso kimchi, sauerkraut), aged cheeses, alcohol, yeast, shellfish, canned tuna, processed meats, chocolate and tomatoes. If you get a rash, itchy, heart palpitations, bloated, nauseas, headache or migraine from eating these foods then you know you definitely have an issue breaking down histamines.
Oestrogen also increases histamines and at the same time decreases DAO enzyme activity. To make matters worse, histamine then stimulates the ovaries to produce more oestrogen leading to a vicious circle of high histamines and high oestrogens. So for woman who suffer oestrogen dominant conditions such heavy, painful periods, it likely they have an issue with histamines too. These women are also likely to suffer form hormonal headaches or migraines due to oestrogen increasing histamine.
What can we do about it?
1. The first step is to reduce the histamine load in the body by reducing your intake of high histamine foods such as fermented foods, left overs, aged cheeses, tomatoes, processed meats and red wine (for a full list see the resources section on my website)
2. Take a look at your gut. If you have had long term gut issues it might be worthwhile doing a comprehensive digestive stool analysis which will identify if you have any bad bacteria and inflammation in your gut causing histamine to be released.
3. Modified and Activated Natural Clinoptilolite. This is an amazing new product that binds to histamine in the gut
4. Reduce you oestrogens – eating brassica vegetables (broccoli, kale, brussels sprout, cauliflower and cabbage) helps the liver detoxify oestrogens. Supplements including indole-3-carbinol, DIM and calcium-d-glucurate also support liver detoxification of oestrogen.
5. Use nutrients and herbs that stabilise mast cells (mast cell release histamine). Herbs and nutrients I have found particularly useful include vitamin C, quercetin, thyme, ginger and turmeric
6. Improve methylation processes to assist in histamine breakdown. Supplemental methyl donors including methylfolate, methylcobalamin and SAMe are very helpful and breaking down histamines. **Please note that you should not attempt to self prescribe these methyl donors. Correcting methylation can be very tricky and if done incorrectly can lead to serious side effects. Please only take these supplements under the guidance of a practitioner trained in MTHR and methylation.
Author: Joanne Kennedy
Joanne Kennedy is a degree qualified Naturopath practising in the Sydney CBD. Areas of speciality include: MTHFR, Women’s hormones; stress, fatigue and insomnia; anxiety & depression; gut/digestive health; and histamine intolerance. Jo has helped hundreds of patients with chronic and complicated health issues gain control of their health and finally heal.
Jo is currently seeing patients in the Sydney CBD at Sydney Health & Wellness Centre and via Skype. For appointments call Jo on 0400 658 003 or email firstname.lastname@example.org