By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Histamine intolerance and many health conditions associated with histamine appear to be on the rise in the past couple of years. In this brief article, I wanted to link some symptoms, conditions and underlying causes which I hope may help you to get to the root of your health, and perhaps be a missing piece for you.
Histamine is produced inside the body by mast cells, a type of white blood cell that release histamine as part of a normal immune response. This response can get over-activated, and then produce too much histamine which then creates symptoms associated with histamine intolerance like flushing and itching. Histamine is also found in foods that we eat, especially fermented foods, which can further increase the load. Histamine is then broken down by an enzyme called DAO (diamine oxidase).
Health conditions associated with histamine reactions
There are many conditions that can be associated with histamine reactions – some directly and others indirectly. If you have any of the conditions below, you may find that addressing mast cells, histamine release and sources of histamines in your diet can provide some relief.
- Mast cell activation syndrome
- SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth)
- Hives, dermatographia
- Long COVID
- Acne rosacea
- Mold toxicity
- Sun allergy, Cold allergy, Exercise intolerance
Symptoms associated with histamine intolerance
When histamine load is high, and the mast cells are constantly activated, there are some signature symptoms that can arise. The most common ones are itching and flushing, however brain fog and palpitations are also extremely common. I find that people usually present with just one symptom to begin with, and sometimes it is not clear that nausea or increased heart rate are the start of the body’s histamine response.
Here are the most common symptoms of histamine intolerance:
- Rashes, hives and itching
- Brain fog
- Nausea, heartburn
- Tachycardia and palpitations
- Nasal congestion
- Painful periods, PMS
Treatment strategies for histamine intolerance
Now that you may have identified with histamine as a possible link, there are some clear strategies to bring things back into balance. Here is where to start, however please keep in mind this is a very simplified list, and there are usually multiple layers involved:
- Low-histamine diet to reduce levels of exogenous histamines. This will mean minimizing intake of fermented foods like vinegar, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, aged cheeses, and also foods like citrus, tomato, spinach and avocado which are also high histamine.
- Using anti-histamines and mast-cell stabilizers: this may be medications, or natural supplements such as vitamin C, quercetin, stinging nettle, resveratrol, curcumin and more.
- Treat any nutrient deficiencies, especially magnesium, vitamin B6 and zinc which are important to make the DAO enzyme required to break down histamine naturally.
- Treating the gut, especially SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth). The gut microbiome is key to reducing your histamine load, as certain gut bacteria can significantly increase the load of histamine in the body.
- Addressing stress levels – ongoing high stress appears to aggravate histamine intolerance, and prevent the body from turning off an over-active response.
- Treating toxins, especially toxic mold. Mold is known to activate a histamine response in the body, and is often a missing piece when addressing a chronically activated immune system. Other toxins such as heavy metals, environmental chemicals may be involved.
If this article rings true to you, and you suspect you may be having histamine reactions please take a look at the tips above, and also book in for an appointment to address all of the factors that may be contributing to histamine intolerance for you. In most cases, there are several layers to address, so we do need thorough detective work and assessment. When identified and treated correctly however, addressing histamine imbalances can cause a tremendous improvement in health.