Is Histamine the problem?
With Hayfever season in full flow I thought it would be a good time to talk about histamine. There is lots more going on than just taking an anti-histamine and I hope this blog will be able to help you a little further.
Do you experience itchy, red, watery eyes? Runny nose? Sneezing? Itchy/hive-like skin? That’s histamine for you!
Histamine is an integral part of the immune system response. It helps wake us up in the morning, gets our digestive process going, plays a role in our metabolism and is a neurotransmitter affecting serotonin, dopamine and GABA (and therefore our mood). So by taking an anti-histamine this is not only impacting your symptoms (yay) but also impacting other areas of your body that you need on a daily basis (boo!)
There is an increase in the number of people diagnosed with hay fever and I’m sure many of us have experienced these symptoms at some point in our lives. This is part of the body’s natural allergic response - when we’re exposed to an allergen, our immune cells release histamine which helps to open up the blood vessels, allowing our white blood cells to move to the affected areas and attack the allergen. Now this is great as it’s part of the body’s healing mechanism to restore health, however it does cause some uncomfortable and irritating symptoms and what can we do about it?
Histamine isn’t just triggered by an external thing but can be triggered by internal processes, the food we eat and much more. It is easier to think of histamine intolerance as a bucket. When the bucket is full, symptoms occur. When the bucket is empty, we experience no symptoms. High-histamine foods can act as cups of water filling the bucket and eventually, when the bucket is full, we experience the symptoms of histamine intolerance e.g an individual may consume a histamine-rich food in the morning, but not experience symptoms until the histamine threshold is reached, which could happen at the next meal, or even days afterwards.
You will be surprised how the range of symptoms that are linked to a histamine intolerance.
Common symptoms include:
- Skin issues – do you experience hives after eating too many strawberries, flushing after a glass of wine, chronic itching, skin lesions or sores (mastocytosis), overreaction to insect bites, and slow healing?
- Any type of inflammation can potentially have a histamine connection. This can show up in the form of redness and swelling (with or without pain) and may show up as an enlarged liver or spleen, or liver/spleen/bladder/kidney pain that just doesn’t seem to go away. The 5 classical signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function.
- Do you experience difficulty in regulating your body temperature? Histamine can also make it difficult for your body to self-regulate and stay in a state of homeostasis (balance). This can lead to episodes of low body temperature, overheating with severe sweating, and an overall sensitivity to heat and cold.
- Digestive issues? The ways histamine can affect your digestive system are seemingly endless: gastrointestinal pain, bloating, persistent diarrhoea, chronic constipation, acid reflux, nausea, vomiting, mouth sores/canker sores, IBS, Inflammatory Bowel Disease , malabsorption contributing to vitamin and mineral deficiencies (for example, iron deficiency or B12 deficiency — anaemia.
- Histamine can really mess with your hormones. Thyroid issues are common. Oestrogen Dominance plays a huge role in histamine issues. Women may have difficult periods with lots of pain and bleeding.
What we eat makes a difference to our histamine response:
Excessive histamine, from a variety of different sources, will result in symptoms often indistinguishable from an allergy. Histamine comes from many different sources:
– your body makes it
- the micro-organisms that live in your bowel also make it from food materials that are incompletely digested
-foods themselves contain histamine naturally
-some ingredients in foods (especially food additives like some food dyes and preservatives such as benzoates and sulphites) cause the body to release more.
It is the accumulated amount of histamine from all these sources that causes symptoms.
Our body breaks down histamine using 2 enzymes, one of those being DAO (diamine oxidase) mostly concentrated in the small intestine where most food is ingested and food derived histamine is degraded.
DAO deficiency can also be acquired through:
– Genetic DAO mutation (although the precise enzyme has yet to be identified).
– DAO inhibiting medications.
– Alcohol consumption (which is a DAO inhibitor).
– A compromised gut lining; including NSAID intolerance, coeliac or gluten intolerance, bowel disease, or increased intestinal permeability.
Deficiencies in Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and Copper (nutrients obtained from the food we eat)
As you can see what we eat can make a huge difference in not only our histamine response but also in helping to break down histamine too and reduce the response.
So as you can see there is a lot more going on in the body with regards to histamine than just hayfever, hives and itchy eyes and nose. Whilst anti-histamines may help they don't address the bigger picture or seek to solve the underlying cause. If you think histamine may be a problem for you and you would like to get to the bottom of what is going on then drop me a message and we can have a chat.