Is Histamine Intolerance the Key to your Chronic Health Problems?
Trying to unravel some of my client’s health issues is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Not that I am complaining—I love my job. When trying to unravel somebody’s health issue I am looking to identify certain trigger factors. You are probably all familiar with my old friend gluten. I have recently become better acquainted with a relatively new kid on the block—histamine.
Histamine is a chemical produced by the body, which is traditionally associated with allergic reactions. If you have ever been bitten by a mosquito, the red reaction you see under the skin is the result of histamine. Histamine, unlike gluten, is essential to body and has many other important functions, such as acting as a neurotransmitter. Histamine becomes a problem when there is too much of it in the body.
There are two main ways too much histamine in the body can occur. Firstly, there could be a problem of over production and secondly, the body may not be able to break it down properly. There are two potential reasons for over production:
There are two types of bacteria in the gut. One produces histamine and others break it down. So when there is an imbalance of bacteria in the body, known as dysbiosis, and there are more bacteria that produce histamine, this could lead to an overproduction.
2. Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
Mast Cells produce histamine in the body. In some people mast cells become overactive and produce too much histamine. The reason for this is not clearly understood, but it is thought to do with a genetic defect.
There are three main reasons why your body may not be able to breakdown histamine properly:
Histamine is broken down in the body by an enzyme known as N-Methyltransferase. To produce this enzyme a process in the body known as methylation must be working properly. A large number of people however have a genetic mutation, which hinders this process. They have poor methylation and will produce less enzyme to breakdown histamine.
Not enough histamine degrading bacteria.
3. Poor Diamine Oxidase Production
Histamine is also broken down in the body by Diamine Oxidase. Due to a genetic mutation some people may not be able to produce enough or any of this enzyme.
So, what are the common symptoms of histamine intolerance?
- Itching of the skin, eyes, ears, and nose
- Tissue swelling, especially facial and oral tissues
- A feeling of throat constriction or tightness
- Hypotension, like a drop in blood pressure, especially you get dizzy when you stand up quickly
- Tachycardia, so rapid heartbeat, increased pulse rate
- Symptoms that kind of resemble anxiety or panic attack
- Chest pain
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Seasonal allergies
- Conjunctivitis, which is irritated, watery, reddened eyes
- Some types of headache, like migraine can be related to histamine
- Fatigue, confusion, irritability
- Digestive upset, especially heartburn and reflux
- And much more rarely, occasional loss of consciousness, blacking out just for a few seconds that’s unexplained by other causes
Recommended diet for histamine intolerance
To help reduce symptoms it is useful to remove foods that are naturally high in histamine. These include:
- Seafood: shellfish or fin fish, fresh, frozen, smoked or canned
- Processed, cured, smoked and fermented meats such as lunch meat, bacon, sausage, salami, pepperoni
- Leftover meat (After meat is cooked, the histamine levels increase due to microbial action as the meat sits)
- All fermented milk products, including most cheeses
- Yogurt, buttermilk, kefir
- Citrus fruits – e.g. oranges, grapefruit, lemons, lime
- Most berries
- Dried fruit
- Fermented foods: sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, relishes, fermented soy products, etc.
- Tomatoes- including ketchup, tomato sauces
- Artificial food colors and preservatives
- Spices: cinnamon, chilli powder, cloves, anise, nutmeg, curry powder, cayenne
- Beverages: Tea (herbal or regular), alcohol
- Chocolate, cocoa
- Vinegar and foods containing vinegar such as pickles, relishes, ketchup, and prepared mustard
While removing these foods will help resolve symptoms, it also important to identify and treat the underlying causes as highlighted above. After treatment, it may be possible to reintroduce some of the foods.
I hope you found these ideas useful. More importantly, I hope you do something with them.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.