Histamine Sensitivities

Gluten, soy and dairy sensitivities? Move over! Histamine is the NEW kid on the block!

Histamine-related health problems are a major problem today, yet mostly misdiagnosed for various other illness and disease. When I mention this, some look at my funny. They probably think: ”What is she talking about – Histamine?” If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you know about histamine as it produces the drippy nose, sneezes and watery eyes, but it can be a lot more complex. This is a new frontier that is missed in adults and children alike. A client in Romania, aged 13, introduced me to this phenomenon. She was referred to me for Lyme and multiple viral infections, yet her biggest health symptoms were histamine and mast cell-related within chronic inflammation. Yes, a parasite infection will always be underlying too…

In this article, I will focus on excess histamine. This is something I see a lot more in my health practice, especially as it is connected with yeast overgrowth in the body, exposure to environmental mold toxins in water-damaged homes, detoxification challenges when the body struggles to get rid of toxins, Lyme disease, and a leaky gut.

Too little histamine is a problem – and too much histamine is trouble too. Many do not know that most of the histamine is produced in our gut even though histamine it is known as a hormone and a brain chemical, also called neurotransmitter. It affects so many functions in our body.

There are foods that contain higher amounts of histamine, then there are foods that promote the release of histamine in our bodies, and then there are mast cells in our body that can cause severe problems in conjunction with histamine release. (Mast cell disorder that affects all mucosal membranes in the body is becoming more prevalent. It can mimic interstitial cystitis, IBS, sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma, eczema, ADHD, and more.) All are inflammatory conditions too.

It is important to eat freshly prepared foods. Freeze any uneaten protein-based foods in individual containers. The more foods age, the more they increase their naturally occurring histamine content. Foods that affect histamine levels in our body include:

  • Bone broth (make meat broth instead)
  • Shellfish – are not gutted, so bacteria in their gut continue to produce histamine as long as they remain uncooked.
  • Smoked foods, e.g. smoked salmon
  • Fermented soy products, e.g. tofu
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Overripe fruits and veggies incl. pineapples, bananas, avocado
  • Dried fruits with preservatives
  • Nuts and seeds (incl. nutbutters)
  • Buckwheat
  • Fermented dairy products
  • Vinegar
  • Yeast-containing foods
  • Yeast containing vitamins
  • Artificial food colors
  • Ketchup
  • Kombucha

Histamine must be seen like a bucket. We are being exposed to histamine, ‘but when the bucket is full and overflows’ problems occur. If the body cannot degrade accumulated histamine in the gut or bloodstream, symptoms occur. Too much histamine (or too little) creates symptoms in our body that can be difficult to diagnose as there are multiple at the same time. Add to that exposure to toxic mold, intolerances of gluten, dairy, and citrus fruits, it becomes a nutritional labyrinth.

It goes back to the principle that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison!

Consider the following symptoms below that can be traced to too much histamine, and mast cell disorder that results in excessive release of histamine in the body:

  • Recurring headaches or migraines,
  • Nasal irritation and sinus trouble,
  • Asthma,
  • Skin rashes,
  • Runny eyes,
  • IBS
  • Very low blood pressure,
  • Diarrhea
  • Chemical sensitivities,
  • Sweating at night (if hot flashes have been ruled out),
  • Anxiety,
  • Cold hands and feet,
  • Nightmares
  • Environmental allergies
  • Fainting
  • Even anaphylaxis in severe cases.
  • ADHD
  • Psychosis / bipolar disorder
  • Spectrum related concerns

As you can see, it can mimic symptoms of various other health concerns.

It is my experience that doctors do not test for WHOLE BLOOD HISTAMINE. This marker can be helpful as it also indicates detoxification challenges in an individual, and they benefit from targeted nutrients to improve biochemical function. The 23andMe test used to be helpful until they changed their chip recently. I am now awaiting a new genetic test that will show up various histamine markers with genetic predisposition, including lactose, gluten intolerances and bifidia balance in the gut.  The test should be up-and-running in November.

Taking of niacin (vitamin B3) can trigger another reaction. This can result is a flush that lasts about 20 minutes (it does not happen with niacinamide). It is an easy test to determine that there is an underlying histamine concern present. One can start with 50 mg. If there is a flush, that indicates a histamine issue. However, this flush can be uncomfortable. It lasts for about 20 minutes and you can feel very hot, sweat, experience a red face that is know as ‘the niacin flush”.

Alcohol is a biggie. If you notice anyone’s ears or face turning red when drinking alcoholic beverages, there is a histamine reaction present.

Some individuals have a genetic profile that sets them up for chronic histamine-related health challenges. This can range from mild to extreme and in severe cases requires a trip to the ER if an epipen or liquid Benadryl is not on hand. Zyrtec and Benadryl are fast acting agents, yet one does not want to take them on a daily basis for histamine or mast cell – related concerns as they do have side effects with prolonged use, including shutting down stomach acid production.  These individuals also do not do well with citrus fruits (or foods in the family of salicylates).

For these individuals, it is essential to adhere to a lower histamine diet too, while taking care of gut health and flora balance. Parasites in the gut (or Babesia that is a co-infection with Lyme can drive an exaggerated histamine response.  With my clients, anti-parasite treatment are essential yet this must be done carefully as it can create worse symptoms…Certain probiotics, including the casei family, worsen symptoms. It is better to consider probiotic strain such as L. plantarum and L. rhamnnosis. This matters greatly for children too, esp. if diagnosed on the Spectrum, as an underlying gut dysfunction is prevalent.

Histamine is also closely interconnected with estrogen and insulin, so disruption can also occur in those areas resulting in estrogen dominance (even in menopause or post menopause) and blood sugar balance. Endometriosis, fibroids and cysts can occur besides infertility. The histamine connection is not well known in conventional medicine. With any chronic UTI, vaginal yeast overgrowth, and oxalates in the urine, a histamine challenge can be underlying in various gynecological challenges.

Nutrients such as quercitin, vitamin C, magnolia, black cumin seed oil, perilla, licorice, CBD, Dan-Shen, are very helpful with histamine concerns. Another enzyme called DAO from bovine kidneys is exceptional to dial down a histamine response in the gut and bloodstream. However it is not easy to purchase as stock is limited, and it is pricey too. Plus not an option for a vegetarian.  Pharmaceutical options for histamine –related concerns are Cromolyn and Ketotofen, however I am a drugfree practitioner and only use herbals, homeopathic and nutrients.


Rika Keck, NY Integrated Health  

Published Author:

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