Eczema, Dermatitis, and Histamine
Itchy, inflamed, and flaky skin? Unfortunately, you probably have eczema, but you are not alone. Millions have experienced eczema in their lives. Like you, many of them struggle with re-occurring eczema.
Chances are, you’ve tried topicals and medication to get rid of the problems. Your symptoms may subside, but soon enough, you have another flare. If you are frustrated with this seemingly never-ending cycle of flares, I understand. I see this all the time in my patients.
The problem is that most conventional treatment methods only address the symptoms of eczema, not the underlying problem. In many of my patients, we find that histamine intolerance, chronic inflammation, and gut microbiome imbalance are the true culprits behind their issues. Once you address the underlying causes of your eczema or dermatitis, you may find your symptoms greatly reduced or disappear.
In this article, you will learn what eczema and dermatitis are. You will learn about histamine and histamine intolerance. I will explain how eczema, dermatitis, and histamine may be connected. I will offer some natural strategies for eczema and dermatitis to improve your health and well-being.
What Are Eczema and Dermatitis
Eczema is a term used for a group of skin conditions that make your skin inflamed and itchy or cause a rash. Eczema is very common, and most people experience it at one point in their life. Many people struggle with chronic eczema that comes in flairs.
So dermatitis is the same as eczema? Not exactly. The terms eczema and dermatitis can overlap, and many use them interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same. Atopic dermatitis is a form of eczema that is often used instead of eczema.
The term dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin. It is a broader term that includes more conditions besides eczema. Eczema is a condition characterized by inflamed skin but also other symptoms, such as itching, flakiness, or dry skin. Eczema is generally chronic, while dermatitis may be chronic or acute.
Types of Eczema and Dermatitis
Some of the main types of dermatitis and eczema include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, status dermatitis, neurodermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, follicular eczema, and asteatotic eczema.
Atopic dermatitis is one of the most common types, and it’s often referred to as eczema. It is a chronic skin condition that usually comes in bouts of flare-ups. It’s characterized by itching, dry skin, and flaky or scaly patches, and it often appears on the knees, elbow, neck, and other joint areas but may occur elsewhere on your body. If you have chronic eczema, chances are you have atopic dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis is another common form that develops when your skin reacts to something it’s come in contact with, such as poison ivy, metals, soap, or other irritants. It may cause itching, burning, stinging, rashes, or blisters. Seborrheic dermatitis generally develops in areas where sebum) oil is produced and secreted or where hair grows. It can cause a dry, scaly appearance, red skin, dandruff, and rashes.
Statis dermatitis develops when fluid leaks out of your weakened veins into your skin and causes pain, redness, itching, swelling, and inflammation. Neurodermatitis is very similar to atopic dermatitis and may cause scaly patches and itchiness. Dyshidrotic eczema can cause blisters on your skin. Nummular eczema can cause coin-shaped round spots on your skin that may be itchy or scaly. Follicular eczema occurs around the hair follicles and may cause itchy, scaly, cracked, and crusty skin and rashes. Asteatotic eczema can develop on extremely dry skin, causing red, inflamed, cracked, and scaly skin.
Symptoms of Eczema and Dermatitis
Your symptoms may vary depending on the type of dermatitis or eczema you have. You may experience mild, moderate, or severe symptoms. They may last for a week or so or much longer. Since symptoms of eczema may be similar to other skin conditions, such as psoriasis or rosacea, it’s important that you get the right diagnosis to address the problem.
Symptoms of eczema and dermatitis may include:
- Itchy skin
- Dry and sensitive skin
- Inflamed skin
- Discolored skin
- Rough, leathery, or scaly patches on your skin
- Crusty skin
- Oozing of the skin
- Swelling of the skin
- Bleeding from scratching too much
Triggers of Eczema and Dermatitis
Eczema and dermatitis are not contagious conditions. Their exact cause is unknown, however, a variety of dietary, lifestyle, environmental, and biological factors can play a role in developing eczema or dermatitis. When your body encounters an allergen or irritant, it can turn on your immune system, create inflammation, and cause symptoms of eczema to fight off the trigger.
Triggers of eczema or dermatitis may include:
- Chemical irritants, including conventional cleaning, hygiene, and beauty products, clothing, other fabrics, or jewelry.
- Environmental irritants, including mold, dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and dandruff.
- Dry skin, for example, from the cold weather or too much hand-washing.
- Extreme temperatures over 80 F (27 C) or below 32 F (0 C) and extreme changes in humidity.
- Food sensitivities and intolerances, including gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, nuts, and chocolate.
- Hormonal fluctuations, including around your menstrual cycle.
- Microbial overgrowth, including Candida, bacterial overgrowth, and gut microbiome imbalance.
What Is Histamine
Histamine is an important chemical that helps your body get rid of allergens as part of your immune response. It supports your digestion by releasing hydrochloric acid to break down food and bacteria. It also supports your brain health by serving as a chemical messenger between your brain and the rest of your body.
Histamine only becomes a problem if there is too much of it. If your body is releasing too much histamine and your body is unable to break down all the excess histamine, histamine build-up occurs.
Histamine intolerance means that there is too much histamine in your body. Under normal circumstances, your body sends enzymes to break down excess histamine and prevent build-up. However, if you have too much histamine, it won’t be able to break everything down, which can lead to histamine intolerance. Histamine intolerance can affect your entire body, including your gut, brain, lungs, and cardiovascular system.
Since histamine intolerance can affect your entire body, symptoms can be widespread. Many of the main symptoms of histamine intolerance affect your skin. Eczema and dermatitis are common problems among those with histamine intolerance, so are hives, acne, itchy skin, psoriasis, crawling sensation on the skin or the scalp, and facial swelling. Other non-skin-related symptoms may include fast heart rate, heart palpitations, dizziness, vertigo, sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up, red eyes, headaches, migraines, fatigue, sleep issues, brain fog, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, congestion, runny nose, seasonal allergies, asthma, acid reflux, diarrhea, other digestive issues, abnormal menstrual cycle, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Eczema, Dermatitis, and Histamine
Let’s look at the connection between eczema, dermatitis, and histamine.
Eczema, Dermatitis, Gut Health, and Histamine Intolerance
Your skin serves as a barrier between the inside of your body and physical, chemical, and microbial stressors from the outside. Unfortunately, gut microbiome imbalance and gut health troubles can affect skin health and its effectiveness as a barrier. Gut microbiome imbalance may not only cause intestinal inflammation, but may lead to skin microbiome imbalance, skin inflammation, and the risk of infections. Gut microbiome imbalance may also affect your skin’s oil production and its ability to regenerate effectively. It may also increase food sensitivities, disrupt immune function, and increase chronic inflammation. These factors may all increase the risk of eczema.
For people without histamine intolerance, eating fermented foods and taking probiotics can often help to improve the gut flora, reduce inflammation, and improve eczema. Unfortunately, if you have histamine intolerance, these things only add fuel to the fire. Fermented foods are high in histamine and are very triggering for those with histamine intolerance. Instead of helping, they can actually trigger your eczema further. On top of that. Many probiotics on the market are not right for those with histamine intolerance. Later in this article, I will recommend some gut support strategies and a probiotic that’s right for people like you with histamine intolerance.
Eczema, Dermatitis, and Histamine Intolerance
Gut microbiome imbalance can lead to an inflammatory response and histamine release, which can lead to histamine intolerance and related symptoms. When your skin is irritated by a toxin or allergen, it will activate your mast cells. Your mast cells will release histamine and cause an inflammatory response.
A 2014 study published in Allergology International has found that histamine plays a role in allergic inflammation and related atopic dermatitis by activating your mast cells, basophils (a type of white blood cell), eosinophils (specialized cells in your immune system), and Th2 cells, which stimulate a humoral immune response (3). A 2018 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology has found that adding the H4 histamine receptor may play a role in atopic dermatitis and psoriasis and H4 antagonists may help to reduce inflammation (4).
On-going inflammation can further disrupt your skin health and feed the cycle of inflammation, histamine release, and further eczema. If you are already dealing with histamine intolerance, any additional histamine release will aggravate the problem creating an ongoing issue.
Using Anti-Histamines for Eczema and Dermatitis
If histamine intolerance is one of the underlying issues behind eczema and dermatitis, prescribing anti-histamines may sound like a logical idea. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, between 16 to 44 percent of atopic dermatitis visits end up with an antihistamine prescription (5). Dermatologists and pediatricians generally prescribe sedatives, while general practitioners tend to prescribe non-sedative antihistamine pharmaceuticals. These drugs may offer symptoms relief and may support sleep that may be interrupted by the condition.
Studies have shown that anti-histamine medications may be effective for eczema and dermatitis. For example, a 1990 review published in Clinical ad Experimental Allergy has found that antihistamines may help atopic eczema (6). A 2014 study published in Allergology International has found that H1R and H4R antagonists may help to reduce the itch response and inflammation in atopic dermatitis (3). A 2018 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology has found that H4 antagonists may help to reduce inflammation in atopic dermatitis (4).
There are a few problems with this approach though.
Anti-histamine drugs and topicals only address the symptoms of your problem. They may offer temporary relief but will not eliminate the root cause of the issue. This means that your skin issues will keep coming back. It may become increasingly difficult to fight your symptoms with anti-histamines or other pharmaceuticals.
Another problem with antihistamines is that they reduce your body’s ability to create the enzyme breaking down histamine. This decreases your body’s ability to deal with excess histamine. Being on these medications for too long can make it more difficult to support your body’s natural ability to reduce histamine intolerance. Now, there are some people with serious mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) that do need to stay on these medications. However, most people with histamine intolerance and milder MCAS, do not. Most people can support their body through diet, lifestyle, and supplementation, and reduce histamine intolerance and related symptoms naturally.
Not to mention that these medications can have side effects and can interrupt your body’s balance in the long run. Anti-histamines may cause dizziness, dry mouth, drowsiness, irritability, decreased appetite, or blurry vision. They may not be right or need precautions for people with diabetes, overactive thyroid, epilepsy, asthma, other breathing issues, glaucoma, high blood pressure, or heart disease (7, 8). Finding a solution without these risks and side effects is a safer idea.
To truly address eczema, you have to think about the root causes of your symptoms. This means that you have to address your diet, environmental and lifestyle causes of histamine intolerance, the triggers of your eczema, and underlying gut microbiome imbalances. Instead of reaching for anti-histamine medication, you can reduce your histamine load and histamine reactions through diet, lifestyle, and supplementation.
Natural Solutions for Eczema, Dermatitis, and Histamine Intolerance
If you are dealing with eczema, dermatitis, and histamine intolerance, I recommend the following natural strategies to improve your health.
Follow Anti-Inflammatory and Low-Histamine Diet
Following an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich, and nutrient-dense diet is important for your skin health. Reducing inflammation through an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce skin inflammation and skin symptoms. Following a low-histamine diet can help you reduce histamine intolerance and lower the risk of histamine-related eczema and skin issues.
Remove inflammatory foods, including refined sugar, refined oils, canned and processed meat, artificial ingredients, junk food, and highly processed foods. Avoid high-histamine foods, such as fermented food (e.g., sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables, kombucha, etc.), aged food (e.g., aged cheese, processed meat, canned fish, etc.), over-ripe fruits and vegetables, leftovers, and foods that are naturally high in histamine (e.g., avocadoes, eggplant, spinach, dried fruits, etc.). Avoid foods that may trigger histamine releases, such as tomatoes, most citrus, bananas, most nuts, and dairy. Avoid foods that may block the DAO enzyme, including black tea, green tea, alcohol, and energy drinks.
Eat a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, and low-histamine diet rich in greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, fruits, healthy fats, and organic meat. Low-histamine foods include most fresh leafy greens and vegetables, non-citrus fruits, such as apples, pear, papaya, and grapes, fresh grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, and wild-caught fish, olives, extra-virgin olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, leafy herbs, and herbal tea. My book, The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan includes an extensive list of foods that you can eat and should avoid on a low-histamine diet.
If you are new to a low-histamine diet, remember to have fun experimenting with new foods and recipes. I promise low-histamine meals can be delicious. I recommend all the low-histamine recipes in The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan and my new recipe book, Fifty One Low Histamine Air Fryer Recipes. They are all simple, easy to make, low-histamine, gluten-free, Paleo-friendly, and super healthy. Not to mention how delicious they are — your family will love them too.
Avoid Irritants and Lower Your Histamine Bucket
Avoid allergens and irritants that may trigger your eczema. Remove conventional cleaning, hygiene, and beauty products, and use organic, natural, and homemade alternatives instead. Avoid fabric that may irritate your skin. If you are allergic to any metals, avoid wearing them, and choose surgical steel, silver, or gold instead. Make sure that your house is free from mold and use a high-quality air filtration system to reduce toxins in your indoor air. Beyond reducing exposure to environmental toxins, lower your histamine bucket by reducing stress, getting restful sleep, and moving your body regularly.
Support Your Gut
Your gut health affects your entire body. Gut flora imbalance can trigger both histamine intolerance and eczema. Supporting your gut health is critical for your recovery. Along with a gut-friendly, low-histamine, anti-inflammatory diet, I recommend that you take a high-quality probiotics supplement, such as ProBiota HistaminX probiotics, to support your gut microbiome balance.
Try Some Supplements
I recommend my Histamine Essential Kit to anyone with histamine intolerance. This kit includes Optimal Reset Liver Love, which is a synergistic formula designed to support healthy liver function made with a blend of botanical and mushroom extracts, along with N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC). It also includes Optimal Reset HistoRelief, a synergistic blend of nutrients, such as quercetin, nettle leaf, and vitamin C, and Tinofend® that provides natural support to help balance the immune response during allergy season.
The kit also contains Optimal Reset Optimal Multi™, which is a superior multi that contains optimal amounts of many nutrients not easily obtained in most diets. If you have further questions or think you may benefit from other supplements, working with a functional health practitioner can offer valuable guidance with a personalized supplement regimen alongside personalized dietary and lifestyle strategies.
Protect Your Skin and Use Natural Skincare
I have already covered that avoiding your triggers, such as chemicals, fabrics, and metals that may cause a problem, is important. There are others ways to protect your skin, though. If you live in a cold climate and are sensitive to cold weather, make sure to protect your skin with warm gloves and layers in sensitive areas.
Though proper hygiene, such as hand-washing, are critical for keeping infections, including skin infections, away, washing your hands too much can cause dry skin and trigger skin issues. You may want to use gloves when washing dishes. As I explained earlier, avoid conventional cleaning and personal hygiene products, such as chemical-filled soap, dish soap, body wash, or shampoo. Choose organic, natural, and homemade alternatives instead. You may learn more about my skincare routine in this article.
Though addressing underlying problems behind your eczema and dermatitis is key to recovery, it can take several months to improve those issues. In the meantime, you can reduce your symptoms naturally. Moisturizing and other topicals may help to reduce symptoms during flares. However, conventional topicals are filled with chemicals and can cause side effects and further skin issues. Instead, I recommend natural alternatives. The following options may help soothe your symptoms until you completely address your underlying problems.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, coconut oil is a fantastic natural option to reduce inflammation, protect the skin barrier, and reduce symptoms (9). Apply cold-press coconut oil several times a day as needed. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, colloidal oatmeal lotion and baths may help to reduce inflammation, scaling, dryness, and itching (10).
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Pre-Clinical and Clinical Research has found that aloe vera may help to reduce skin inflammation and offer antimicrobial benefits (11). A 2017 study published in Pharmacognosy Research has found that applying honey to the skin may help to reduce inflammation and infections and improve eczema and other conditions (12).
Eczema and dermatitis are uncomfortable skin conditions characterized by inflamed, itchy, dry, scaly, and flaky skin. Millions of people are struggling with chronic eczema and dermatitis without experiencing success using conventional treatment methods. These strategies only tend to address the symptoms and may come without risks and side effects. Without addressing the root cause of your eczema and dermatitis, you may experience flares again and again. I recommend following my strategies for underlying histamine intolerance, gut health issues, and chronic inflammation for improving your eczema and dermatitis naturally.
If you are dealing with eczema, dermatitis, other skin problems, or other symptoms of histamine intolerance, I invite you to schedule a consultation with us. We can help identify the root cause of your condition and recommend a personalized treatment plan to repair your body and regain your health and well-being. Schedule your consultation here.
- Slominski A. A nervous breakdown in the skin: stress and the epidermal barrier. J Clin Invest. 2007 Nov;117(11):3166-9. doi: 10.1172/JCI33508. PMID: 17975659
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Skin care for eczema. 2017 Feb 23. Link Here
- Yusuke Ohsawa, Noriyasu Hirasawa, The Role of Histamine H1 and H4 Receptors in Atopic Dermatitis: From Basic Research to Clinical Study, Allergology International, Volume 63, Issue 4, 2014, LinkHere
- Schaper K. The Role of the H4 Receptor in Atopic dermatitis and Psoriasis. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2018. Link Here
- Should dermatologists be anti-histamine fordermatisis? AADA Link Here
- Behrendt H, Ring J. Histamine, antihistamines and atopic eczema. Clin Exp Allergy. 1990 Nov;20 Suppl 4:25-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.1990.tb02473.x. PMID: 1980856
- Antihistamines for Allergies. Medline Plus. Link Here
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- Sandeep R. Varma, Thiyagarajan O. Sivaprakasam, Ilavarasu Arumugam, N. Dilip, M. Raghuraman, K.B. Pavan, Mohammed Rafiq, Rangesh Paramesh, In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil, Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2019, Link Here
- Reynertson KA. JJD. 2015. Link Here
- Zagórska-Dziok M, Furman-Toczek D, Dudra-Jastrzębska M, Zygo K, Stanisławek A, Kapka-Skrzypczak L. Evaluation of clinical effectiveness of Aloe vera – a review. J Pre Clin Clin Res. 2017;11(1):86-93. Link Here
- Samarghandian S, Farkhondeh T, Samini F. Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research. Pharmacognosy Res. 2017 Apr-Jun;9(2):121-127. doi: 10.4103/0974-8490.204647. PMID: 28539734