Menstruation, PMS, PMDD, and Histamine

Menstruation, PMS, PMDD, and Histamine

Cramps, bloating, fatigue, headaches, irritability, and mood swings. Yeap, your period is coming. Most women are familiar with these common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). While for some, these symptoms are mild, for others, they are more severe. Some women also experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), characterized by very severe symptoms the weeks before their period. 

You may be familiar with PMS symptoms, but did you know that they may be triggered by histamine intolerance? Since your hormonal health, estrogen levels, and histamine levels can be connected, it is not surprising that histamine intolerance can trigger PMS symptoms and other menstruation issues.

In this article, you will learn about the menstrual cycle. I will discuss what PMS and PMDD are and their symptoms. You will understand the connection between histamine intolerance, PMS, and PMDD. You will learn about histamine and histamine intolerance. I will also discuss the connection between estrogen dominance and histamine intolerance and how this link may increase PMS and PMDD symptoms. Finally, I will recommend some natural solutions for histamine intolerance, estrogen dominance, PMS, and PMDD.

What Is The Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle is a natural hormonal process that the female body goes through every month. It starts at puberty, around age 12 on average, and ends with menopause around age 50 to 55. The goal of the menstrual cycle is to prepare your body for a possible pregnancy and shed unnecessary tissue if pregnancy doesn’t happen. The menstrual cycle is about 28 days on average, but for some women, it is longer or shorter than that. Tracking your cycle can help to notice any changes in the length of your normal cycle. Changes may mean hormonal or other health issues (1, 2). 

Before we talk about menstruation and histamine, I want to go over the four phases of the menstrual cycle. I know we’ve all learned about this in health class, but it’s always good to have a reminder.

Follicular Phase

The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and ends at the start of ovulation. Early in this phase, your hypothalamus sends a message to your pituitary gland to release the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). The FSH’s job is to trigger your ovaries to produce 5 to 20 small follicles with immature eggs. Usually, only one egg matures; however, sometimes, two eggs can mature during the same cycle. Any extra follicles get reabsorbed into your body. During the follicular phase, there is an increase in estrogen, and your uterine lining also thickens to prepare your body for a potential pregnancy. The follicular phase lasts for 16 days on average. However, it may depend on the person. It may go anywhere from 11 to 27 days.

Ovulation

Ovulation means that it is the end of the follicular phase. Increased estrogen levels lead to the release of luteinizing hormones (LH) that cause ovulation. Remember that egg maturing during the last phase? During ovulation, your ovary sends this mature egg down your fallopian tube to your uterus. This egg is ready to be fertilized by sperm at this time. Ovulation is critical for pregnancy so tracking your cycle and knowing when ovulation occurs is important if you are trying to get pregnant. During ovulation, your basal body temperature rises, and your discharge thickens. Ovulation tends to happen around day 14 if you have a 28-day cycle. However, it may be different if you have a long or short cycle, which makes understanding your cycle important. Ovulation lasts for 12 to 48 hours. Unfertilized eggs die and dissolve after.

Luteal Phase

After ovulation, the luteal phase is next. After the follicle phase, the egg follicle turns into a corpus luteum, which releases a lot of progesterone and some estrogen to help a fertilized egg implant. If you get pregnant during ovulation, your body will start producing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to allow the corpus luteum to stay healthy and your uterine lining thick to support a healthy early pregnancy. HCG is also a hormone that pregnancy tests look for. However, if you don’t get pregnant and the egg doesn’t get fertilized during ovulation, the corpus luteum shrinks and reabsorbs, which will lead to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone. At this time, your body is getting ready for menstruation (your period), and you may experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, cravings, weight gain, and mood changes. 

Menstruation

Though most women are preoccupied with this phase, menstruation is only one stage of your menstrual cycle. This is when you get your period. If you are not pregnant, estrogen and progesterone levels will drop. The thickened uterine lining will start shedding along with other unwanted tissues, blood, and mucus. Depending on the person, a normal period may last anywhere from 3 to 7 days. Everyone is different, however, if you are experiencing anything unusual, including unusually long, short, light, heavy, or painful periods, it is important that you visit your doctor. Cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, mood swings, and headaches may also occur during this time, especially during the first couple of days of your period. Again, while some discomfort is normal, if you notice anything unusual, it is important to look into it. Addressing underlying histamine intolerance can also help to reduce both PMS and menstrual symptoms and other abnormalities.

menstrual cycle & histamine

What Is PMS?

I probably don’t have to introduce you to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). About 3 in every 4 menstruating women experience some symptoms associated with PMS before their periods. Symptoms are usually predictable and can vary from physical to emotional issues. For some women, they are mild, while for others, it can be intense and greatly interfere with their life (3).

Emotional Symptoms of PMS

Emotional and behavioral symptoms of PMS may include

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anger
  • Crying spells
  • Tension
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia or sleep issues
  • Appetite changes
  • Cravings, especially for sugar
  • Poor concentration
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in libido

Physical Symptoms of PMS

Physical signs and symptoms of PMS may include:

  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Weight gain from fluid retention
  • Fatigue
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Acne or skin issues
  • Alcohol intolerance
  • Headaches or migraines

Symptoms of PMS can last into the first few days of your period along with abdominal cramping and pain.

What Is PMDD?

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is similar but much more severe and more rare than PMS. It affects about 5 percent of menstruating women. Symptoms can be very severe and downright debilitation for a week or to a week before your period.

PMDD is a condition similar to PMS that also happens a week or two before your period starts as hormone levels begin to fall after ovulation. PMDD causes more severe symptoms than PMS, including severe depression, irritability, and tension (4).

Symptoms of PMDD

Symptoms of PMDD may be similar to symptoms of PMS but are much more debilitating. They may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Crying often
  • Tension
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Feelings of sadness and despair, even suicide in some
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Problems focusing
  • Insomnia and sleep issues
  • Feeling out of control
  • Food cravings
  • Binge eating
  • Cramps and bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Migraines and headaches

What Is Histamine

You probably know about histamine from anti-histamine medications for allergies and histamine intolerance. Looking at the ‘anti’ part of anti-histamine, you may think that histamine is a bad thing. But histamine is not bad at all. It is very much necessary for your body’s healthy functioning.

Histamine is a chemical that supports your body to get rid of allergens as part of your immune response. Histamine also releases hydrochloric acid to break down food and bacteria and helps your digestion. It also serves as a chemical messenger between your brain and the rest of your body and supports your brain and mental health.

What Is Histamine Intolerance?

Healthy levels of histamine and a healthy histamine response are important. Having too much histamine can become a serious problem, though. If your body is releasing too much histamine and your body is unable to keep up and break down all the excess histamine, it will lead to histamine buildup. 

Histamine intolerance means that there is too much histamine in your body. In a healthy body, your body sends enzymes to break down excess histamine and prevent build-up. If you have too much histamine or you don’t have enough of these enzymes, 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 (5). 

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance

Since histamine intolerance may affect your entire body and symptoms can be widespread. Symptoms may differ from person to person. You may only experience a few symptoms, or you may experience most or all symptoms of histamine intolerance. Your symptoms may only cause mild discomfort or annoyance but may also be severe, interrupting your everyday life. 

Some symptoms, including headaches, migraines, skin issues, brain fog, fatigue, and sleep issues, may be similar to symptoms of PMS and PMDD. Having histamine intolerance and symptoms of histamine intolerance may trigger or amplify symptoms of PMS or PMDD. I will get into the connection between histamine intolerance, menstruation, PMS, and PMDD in the next section. But first, let’s look at the symptoms of histamine intolerance.

Symptoms of histamine intolerance include the following:

  • Itchy skin, eyes, ears, and nose
  • Eczema or other types of dermatitis
  • Hives
  • Red eyes
  • Facial swelling
  • Crawling sensation on the skin or the scalp
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Difficulty regulating body temperature
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fast heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Difficulty falling asleep or sleep issues
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Seasonal allergies 
  • Asthma
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Acid reflux
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal menstrual cycle
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Menstruation, PMS, PMDD, and Histamine

It’s important to note that histamine and histamine intolerance may not be the only culprit behind PMS and PMDD. Estrogen imbalance, abnormal response to progesterone, high prolactin, iodine deficiency, chronic inflammation, and neurosteroid change sensitivity, and other factors may play a role. If histamine intolerance is the issue behind your symptoms, you will likely experience at least some symptoms typically connected to histamine that may be relieved with the help of antihistamines, including migraines or headaches, anxiety, or mood swings outside of PMS, breast tenderness, skin issues, or painful periods.

Histamine and histamine intolerance may play a role in PMS, PMDD, and menstrual pain in various ways. Estrogen dominance and hormonal imbalance can cause histamine intolerance and disrupt your menstrual cycle. I will discuss that connection the next section. But first, let’s understand how histamine intolerance itself can affect your menstrual cycle even if you are not dealing with estrogen dominance or hormonal imbalance.

A 2002 study published in Ginekol Poland has found that to allow your uterine muscles to contract during menstruation, histamines are being released before and during your period. If you already have histamine intolerance, this increased histamine may be too much for your body and can increase cramps and other PMS, PMDD, and menstrual symptoms (6).

Another study published in the European Journal 01 Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology has found that your mast cells and histamine release can be linked to excessive uterine bleeding. This may explain heavy periods and increased cramps and pain before and during your period (7). 

According to a 1987 study published in Medical Hypotheses, histamine intolerance can also result in benign fibrocystic changes in the breast, which may result in breast tenderness and pain associated with PMS, PMDD, and menstruation. Histamine intolerance can generally increase pain, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, and poor concentration, which may be amplified before or during menstruation (8).

Histamine Intolerance and Estrogen Dominance

Estrogen dominance is another common underlying factor that can contribute to increased symptoms of PMS and PMDD. I’ve written about the histamine-estrogen connection in this article. Histamine, estrogen, and progesterone are closely linked in your body. They need to be in balance for ideal health and function.

Estrogen plays many roles in your body, including stimulating mast cells to make more histamine. By stimulating your mast cells, estrogen can increase the chances of a histamine response and histamine intolerance. Though men can also develop estrogen dominance and histamine intolerance, women are at a higher risk. This is not surprising since women tend to have more estrogen than men, which can increase the risk of histamine intolerance as well.

According to a 2012 study published in Frontiers in Immunology, estradiol, a form of estrogen, can affect mast cells and trigger asthma (9). A 2013 study published in Current Opinions in Allergy and Clinical Immunology has found that estrogen may increase the risk of histamine-triggered allergies and asthma (10).

If your estrogen levels are normal and you are leading a healthy lifestyle, keeping your histamine levels at bay may not be an issue. However, if you are dealing with estrogen dominance and/or histamine intolerance, this can turn into a vicious cycle.

Estrogen will trigger your mast cells to release histamine. Increased histamine levels will lead to higher estrogen levels. As a response, all that excess estrogen will prompt your mast cells to create even more histamine, which will lead to even more estrogen in your body. As this cycle continues, it will lead to more and more symptoms of histamine intolerance and estrogen dominance.

The connection between estrogen dominance and histamine intolerance may explain why you are experiencing more histamine-related symptoms during specific times of your cycle. When your estrogen levels are higher right before your period, you will be more likely to experience symptoms of histamine intolerance. Estrogen dominance can also trigger histamine intolerance and symptoms before or during your period. 

Recommendations for Menstrual Symptoms, PMS, PMDD, and Histamine Intolerance

Menstruation is a natural part of a woman’s life. It doesn’t mean that you have to deal with severe PMS or PMDD symptoms. If you address underlying estrogen dominance and histamine intolerance, you don’t have to deal with uncomfortable symptoms anymore. You can take control of your health through simple natural methods. Here is what I recommend:

Remove Xenoestrogens

Xenoestrogens are artificial hormone-mimicking compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen and contribute to estrogen excess or prevent the beneficial effects of natural estrogen in your body. Xenoestrogens can increase estrogen dominance and related issues, including histamine intolerance and symptoms of PMS or PMDD. I recommend that you remove xenoestrogen-containing products, including conventional cleaning, body, and beauty products, and choose natural and organic alternatives.

Avoid Birth Control Pills and Hormone Replacement Therapy

Hormonal contraceptives with estrogen, hormone replacement therapy, and some other hormonal medications with estrogen can increase estrogen dominance, histamine intolerance, and related symptoms. Consult your doctor about getting off or reducing hormonal contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, and other hormone-based prescription medications to reduce your symptoms of PMS, PMDD, estrogen dominance, and histamine intolerance.

Lower Your Histamine 

Estrogen dominance and estrogen imbalance can result in histamine intolerance, which may increase your risk or severity of PMS or PMDD. I recommend that you work with a functional health practitioner (hint: my team and I) to check for histamine intolerance. If you are dealing with symptoms of histamine intolerance, I recommend that you follow my Histamine Reset Plan outlined in my Histamine Online Program.

Eat an Anti-Inflammatory & Low-Histamine Diet

I recommend following a low-histamine, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, whole foods diet. Remove inflammatory foods, including refined sugar, refined oils, canned and processed meat, artificial ingredients, junk food, and highly processed foods. Remove high-histamine foods. Follow a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, and low-histamine diet rich in greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, fruits, healthy fats, and organic meat. Try new recipes. I recommend all the low-histamine recipes in The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan and Low Histamine Cooking in Your Instant Pot.

Move Your Body

A lack of movement can also increase the risk of hormonal imbalance and histamine intolerance. Moving your body is a great way to reduce stress, improve detoxification, boost your mood, and support your overall health. Stay active throughout the day by dancing to your favorite songs, taking a stroll in the park, stretching regularly, and playing with your kids or pets. Exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes five days a week and move your body regularly. I recommend getting 10 to 15K steps in a day if you can. Add resistance and strength training to your routine. If you are new to exercise, I recommend the MAPS program from MindPump Media.  If you follow cycle syncing, I recommend moderate-intensity workouts, such as pilates, power yoga, and strength training the week before your period, and light movements, including Kundalini yoga, Tai Chi, pilates, and walks in nature during your period.

Reduce Stress and Improve Sleep

Stress and poor sleep are major contributing factors to hormonal imbalance and histamine intolerance. To reduce stress and improve sleep, I recommend practicing breathwork, meditation, positive affirmation, journaling, yoga, grounding, and time in nature for stress and anxiety reduction. Taking an Epsom salt bath is another great way to relax your muscles, calm your mind, and detoxify your body. Make sure to sleep at least 7 to 9 hours a night.

Improve Your Gut Health

Your gut health affects your entire body. Poor gut flora can increase your risk of histamine intolerance and hormonal imbalance, and related symptoms. Poor gut health may increase digestive symptoms before and during your period, including ‘period poop’. Along with a gut-friendly anti-inflammatory diet, I recommend working with a functional medicine practitioner (like me) to test your gut and see if opportunistic bacteria, yeast overgrowth, parasites, H. pylori and/or leaky gut can be what is driving your histamine issue. 

Try Cycle Syncing

Cycle syncing means that you are using the hormonal fluctuations during each phase of your menstrual cycle to your advantage by eating different foods and engaging in different activities depending on where you are within your cycle. Cycling syncing may be a great option if you are experiencing symptoms of PMS or PMDD. It may be right for you if you are experiencing fatigue, depression, anxiety, or cravings, or are generally not feeling yourself around your period or during other parts of your cycle. It may be helpful if you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), low libido, estrogen dominance, or low energy, are overweight or obese, or are trying to conceive. 

Though there is not much scientific evidence to back this, there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence. Millions of women have tried, and used cycle syncing and claim that it has changed their life. Cycle syncing is entirely safe and natural. You have nothing to lose by trying it and so much to gain if it works for you. Considering your cycle when choosing your meals, workouts, and other activities helps you stay mindful and in tune with your body’s needs every single day. To learn more about how to practice cycle syncing and what to eat, how to move, and what to try during each phase of your menstrual cycle, I recommend reading this article on cycle syncing with detailed tips.

Use Di-Indole Methane (DIM), Sulforaphane, or Calcium-D-Glucarate

If you are experiencing estrogen dominance and your estrogen metabolism pathways are out, such as having a high 4-OH pathway), I recommend DIM-Evail, a Di-Indole methane (DI) supplement, to improve your estrogen levels and estrogen metabolism. DIM is an extract derived from broccoli. It helps your body to neutralize reactive estrogen metabolites, such as estrone and estradiol. DIM also helps the production of non-reactive estrogen and improves your estrogen balance. 

If you are in perimenopause, approaching menopause, but still have a period at least off-and-on, and your estrogen levels are low, DIM is not right for you. If your estrogen levels are low, I recommend sulforaphane instead. Sulforaphane comes from broccoli sprouts. It helps to support estrogen metabolism. It helps to redirect 4-OH estrogen from going down the wrong pathway and reduces the risk of oxidative damage. I recommend BroccoBlend for sulforaphane. The bioavailability of this supplement is not dependent on myrosinase produced by intestinal bacteria, making BroccoBlend especially effective for individuals with GI flora that produce negligible amounts of this enzyme.

If you have trouble metabolizing estrogen in the gut, I recommend Calcium-D-Glucarate. Calcium D-Glucarate is calcium bound tod-glucaric acid, which is a natural compound produced in small amounts by the human body and is abundantly found in various plant foods such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, apples, oranges, and grapefruit. It helps to support the body’s natural elimination of excess steroid hormones and toxins. Calcium-d-glucarate assists in the detoxification process as it forms conjugates with unwanted estrogenic hormones and environmental toxins, which are then eliminated from the body instead of being reabsorbed.

If you are not sure where your issue lies, working with a practitioner is the best way to determine which one of these supplements may work the best for your body. We are always happy to help at our practice.

Final Thoughts

Most menstruating women are familiar with the symptoms of PMS. Yet most of them don’t know that histamine intolerance can make their symptoms worse. Since your hormonal health, estrogen levels, and histamine levels can be connected, it is not surprising that histamine intolerance can trigger PMS symptoms and other menstruation issues. I recommend that you try my natural solutions for histamine intolerance, estrogen dominance, PMS, and PMDD to improve your symptoms and overall well-being.

If you are dealing with symptoms of PMS, PMDD, menstrual problems, histamine intolerance, or estrogen dominance, 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.

Histamine intolerance guide

Sources: 
1. Menstrual cycle. Office of Women’s Health. Link Here
2. Periods and fertility in the menstrual cycle. NHS. Link Here
3. PMS. NHS. Link Here
4. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Women’s Health. Link Here
5. Maintz L, Novak N. Histamine and histamine intolerance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1185-96. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1185. PMID: 17490952
6. Szeląg A, Merwid-Lad A, Trocha M. Receptory histaminowe w zeńskim narzadzie rodnym. Cześć II. Rola histaminy w łozysku. Receptory histaminowe a czynność skurczowa macicy [Histamine receptors in the female reproductive system. Part II. The role of histamine in the placenta, histamine receptors and the uterus contractility]. Ginekol Pol. 2002 Jul;73(7):636-44. Polish. PMID: 12369287
7. Drudy L. Mast cells in the normal uterus and in dysfunctional uterine bleeding. European Journal 01 Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. 1990. Link Here
8. Smith CJ, Leggett AM, Lefante JJ. Allergic etiology of benign fibrocystic changes of the breast. Med Hypotheses. 1987 Sep;24(1):21-8. doi: 10.1016/0306-9877(87)90043-0. PMID: 2444863
9. Zierau O, Zenclussen AC, Jensen F. Role of female sex hormones, estradiol and progesterone, in mast cell behavior. Front Immunol. 2012 Jun 19;3:169. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2012.00169. PMID: 22723800
10. Bonds RS, Midoro-Horiuti T. Estrogen effects in allergy and asthma. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Feb;13(1):92-9. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e32835a6dd6. PMID: 23090385

EXPLORE THE RECIPES, THE STORIES, THE METHODS AND CHANGES TO GET YOU BACK WHERE YOU WANT TO BE.

DR. BECKY CAMPBELL

Hi, I am Dr. Becky Campbell. I work with men and women who’ve had a health set back and are willing to do whatever it takes to reach optimal health so they can perform their best in their careers and be fully present with their family again.

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