Understanding Histamine Intolerance

If you are experiencing frequent headaches, migraines, digestive problems, fatigue, anxiety, menstrual issues, bladder problems, or other uncomfortable or unexplained symptoms, you may be dealing with histamine intolerance.

If you are experiencing frequent headaches, migraines, digestive problems, fatigue, anxiety, menstrual issues, bladder problems, or other uncomfortable or unexplained symptoms, you may be dealing with histamine intolerance. Histamine intolerance refers to a build-up of histamine in your body that is the common underlying cause of many of our modern-day chronic health issues.

In this article, I will help you understand the science of histamine intolerance. You will learn about biogenic amines and histamine. You will understand what histamine intolerance is and its common causes. I will explain why histamine intolerance affects more women than men and how histamine intolerance may affect your mental health. I will also share my top natural solutions for histamine intolerance to help resolve your symptoms and regain your health.

What Are Biogenic Amines

If you want to understand the science of histamine intolerance, you have to understand the alchemy of biogenic molecules. Histamines are part of a class of molecules called biogenic amines. These molecules are made up of amino acids, which are the building block of proteins. The amino acid in histamine is called histidine. Other biogenic amines include cadaverine (lysine), tyramine (tyrosine), putrescine (ornithine), tryptamine (tryptophan), and agmatine (arginine).

Biogenic amines help to manage important bodily functions in plants, animals, and humans. Your cells create and release biogenic amines to attach to certain target cells to deliver a message and trigger a response. Once they serve their function, your body sends neutralizing enzymes to destroy them.

Your body turns amino acids into biogenic amines by removing its carboxyl group with the help of special enzymes called decarboxylases. It can create biogenic amines, such as histamine to perform essential functions. The problem is that biogenic amines are not only created by your body but also can come from food. 

There are certain yeast and bacteria that also contain decarboxylases and they are able to make biogenic amines using the proteins in certain foods, including meat, fish, poultry, and dairy, we consume. Microorganisms may attach to these proteins and start fermenting it by breaking them down into smaller compounds, including biogenic amines. 

Why is this a problem? Great question. The issue is that while in living tissues inside your body, biogenic amines get destroyed quickly, in non-living tissue, such as in fermented meat, these biogenic enzymes don’t get destroyed, instead, they accumulate. The older these foods are, the more biogenic amines they have. The good news is that many biogenic amines come with an unpleasant smell alerting you that your food is bad. The bad news is that histamine is an odorless and flavorless biogenic amine, so you won’t know if there is an excess. Not to mention that in our culture we actually purposely make and love fermented foods, including cheese, yogurt, wine, and salami. 

When it comes to histamine, the problem is that it can come from both inside and outside the body. While consuming high-histamine foods, such as hard cheese or yogurt, may be tasty, it can lead to a histamine build-up, histamine intolerance, and consequent health problems. But what is histamine anyway and how can it harm you? Let’s look into it.

What Is Histamine

Histamine is a specific compound that your cells release as a response to any injury, inflammation, or allergic reaction. Histamine is created only in specific cells. In your immune system, they are created by mast cells and basophils, in the digestive system by gastric enterochromaffin cells and some gut bacteria, and in the nervous system by histaminergic neurons. However, because it can be created in various areas, histamine can affect a variety of bodily functions. Histamine helps to regulate your digestion, sleep, blood pressure, brain function, and sexual function among many other tasks (1, 2).

what is histamine 

Removal of Histamine

Under normal circumstances, once it reaches its target cell, histamine gets destroyed quickly. Your small intestine and ascending colon send diamine oxidase (DAO) enzymes to prevent histamine access from high-histamine foods and drinks. If any histamine passes the DAO, histamine-N-methyltransferase (HNMT) enzymes will kill them in your gut lining. However, if the activity of these enzymes is inadequate or compromised, not all histamine will be destroyed. This leads to histamine intolerance or excess histamine that can enter your bloodstream and cells (3).

Reaction to Histamine

You have to understand that a small amount of histamine in your body is normal and safe, however, abnormal and excessive amounts of histamine can lead to various histamine reactions and health issues. Histamine reactions may include (4, 5, 6, 1):

  • Anaphylaxis: This happens when you have an allergic reaction to something. For example, if you are allergic to peanuts, eating peanut butter will create a histamine reaction putting your body into crisis mode. In some cases, this can be deadly.
  • Scombroid poisoning: This reaction is a form of food poisoning from bad seafood that contains over 500 mg/kg of histamine. Symptoms of scombroid poisoning tend to include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, rashes, hives, swelling, and anxiety.
  • Localized allergic reactions: As a reaction to allergens, such as pollen, you may experience localized allergic reactions, including hives, sinus congestion, watery eyes, rashes, and more.
  • Histamine overload: Most people can only include 50 to 100 mg/kg histamine in one meal. If you eat more than that, you may experience symptoms of histamine overload. Some people are more sensitive than others, so tolerance levels and reactions may vary.
  • Histamine intolerance: Histamine intolerance results in uncomfortable symptoms even when consuming low doses of histamine. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, hives, puffy eyes, sinus issues, menstrual problems, heart palpitation, low blood pressure, and more.

Causes of Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance often develops due to low levels and activity of the DAO enzyme. Without enough functioning DAO enzymes, your body cannot keep up with all the histamine in your body and cannot destroy it (2).

Compromised DAO function and histamine intolerance may develop as a result of:

  • Mast cell activation syndrome
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Gut infections, including Helicobacter Pylori, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Candida and other fungi overgrowth, and parasites
  • Nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin C and B, zinc, and copper that may lead to DAO dysfunction
  • Genetic mutations, including MTHF, HNMT, SAMe, MAO, and DAO mutations
  • Certain medications, including NSAIDs, antidepressants, immune modulators, antiarrhythmics, antihistamines, and histamine blockers

Histamine Intolerance and Women

Women are particularly affected by histamine intolerance. In fact, about 80% of people with intolerance happen to be women. The reason behind this is the histamine-estrogen connection. Histamine may increase estrogen production triggering a variety of issues affecting women, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menstrual migraines, pre-menstrual and menstrual cramps, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). You may learn more about the histamine-estrogen connection in this article  (1, 2, 7).

Histamine and Mental Health

Histamine intolerance may affect your mental health and lead to anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, and related other issues. The reasons are that histamine acts as a neurotransmitter in your brain. It affects your stress response, memory, learning, attention, sleep-wake cycle, alertness, and sexual function. Access histamine can disrupt these functions. Histamine intolerance may increase adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone in your body leading to physical symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, including sweating, racing heart, shaking, shortness of breath, nausea, and insomnia. By increasing estrogen levels, histamine intolerance may also lead to mood swings, changes in energy, and concentration problems (8).

Histamine versus Other Biogenic Aminos

As you know, histamine is not the only biogenic amine. As a matter of fact, histamine is always accompanied by other biogenic amines in food. This may lead to more complex and often unpredictable symptoms. For example, putrescine and cadaverine, two other biogenic amines may also interfere with DAO activity making it even more difficult for your body to break down histamine effectively. Tyramine is another biogenic amino. Instead of DAO, it is broken by monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes. However, if tyramine accumulates, it can lead to headaches and high blood pressure, which may affect your histamine intolerance symptoms. 

When it comes to histamine intolerance, it may not be as simple as paying attention to your good choices. Stress, alcohol, certain medications, your estrogen levels, gut flora imbalance, and environmental toxicity may increase your risk of histamine intolerance and your symptoms. Symptoms of histamine intolerance may also vary from person to person. Therefore it is very important that you pay attention to your symptoms, your body’s reactions, and take a holistic approach to histamine intolerance (9, 10, 11).

Natural Solutions for Histamine Intolerance

If you suspect that you have histamine intolerance and want to improve your health naturally, I have some simple natural solutions for you. This is what I recommend to my patients with histamine intolerance:

  • Follow the 4-Phase Histamin Reset Plan: To improve histamine intolerance, it is critical that you follow an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, and low-histamine diet which starts by removing all histamine foods for one to three months, then slowly add them back one by one following The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan. To understand each step of this simple yet refined system, I recommend that you read my book, The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan: Getting to the Root of Migraines, Eczema, Vertigo, Allergies and More where I explain everything about histamine intolerance and each phase of the plan in detail and share delicious low-histamine recipes to nourish your body and support your health. Pick up a copy, today to learn more about the plan and my recommendations.
  • Making healthy lifestyle choices: Along with your diet, it is important that you make healthy lifestyle choices. Eliminate toxic personal care and cleaning products as well and instead use organic, natural, or homemade products. Reduce stress, get plenty of sleep, and spend time in nature.
  • Support your liver: Supporting your liver is critical for your recovery, this is why I recommend Optimal Reset Liver Love, a powerful blend of botanical and mushroom extracts and N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC), a derivative of the amino acid cysteine. It supports healthy liver function, allows optimal estrogen detoxification, and helps hormonal health naturally.
  • Reduce histamine build up: To improve histamine intolerance, I recommend HistoRelief, a synergistic blend of nutrients that provides natural support to balance your immune response. This supplement includes Tinofend®, quercetin, nettle leaf, vitamin C, and bicarbonate salts and offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support while naturally inhibiting histamine release. 

Final Thoughts

Histamine intolerance refers to a build-up of histamine in your body that is the common underlying cause of many of our modern-day health issues, including headaches, migraines, fatigue, digestion problems, menstrual issues, and anxiety. Follow my top natural solutions for histamine intolerance to help resolve your symptoms and regain your health.

If you are experiencing symptoms of histamine intolerance, I invite you to schedule a consultation with me. I can help to 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.

Sources:
1. Kovacova-Hanuskova E, Buday T, Gavliakova S, Plevkova J. Histamine, histamine intoxication and intolerance. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2015 Sept; 43(5):498-506. PMID: 26242570
2. Maintz L, Novak N. Histamine and histamine intolerance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 85(5):1185-96. PMID: 17490952
3. Kovacova-Hanuskova E, Buday T, Gavliakova S, Plevkova J. Histamine, histamine intoxication and intolerance. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2015 Sept; 43(5):498-506. PMID: 26242570
4. Hungerford JM. Scombroid poisoning: a review. Toxicon. 2010; 56(2):231-43. PMID: 20152850 
5. Byun BY, Mah JH. Occurrence of biogenic amines in Miso, Japanese traditional fermented soybean paste. J Food Sci. 2012; 77(12):T216-23. PMID: 23140362
6. Komericki P, Klein G, Reider N et al. Histamine intolerance: lack of reproducibility of single symptoms by oral provocation with histamine: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2011; 123(1-2):15-20. PMID: 21165702
7. Yoshizawa M, Tashiro M, Fukudo S et al. Increased brain histamine H1 receptor binding in patients with anorexia nervosa. Biol Psychiatry. 2009; 65(4):329-35. PMID:  18814859
8. Haas HL, Sergeeva OA, Selbach O. Histamine in the nervous system. Physiol Rev. 2008; 88(3):1183-241. PMID: 18626069
9. Ruiz-Capillas C, Jiménez-Colmenero F. Biogenic amines in meat and meat products. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2004; 44(7-8):489-99. PMID: 15969322
10. Wackes C, Herwald M, Borck H et al. Histamine in selected beer samples. Inflamm Res. 2006; 55 Suppl 1:S67-8. PMID: 16547807
11. Vlieg-Boerstra BJ, Van Der Heide S, Oude Elberink JN, Kluin-Nelemans JC, Dubois AE. Mastocytosis and adverse reactions to biogenic amines and histamine-releasing foods: what is the evidence? Neth J Med. 2005; 63(7):244-9. PMID: 16093574

 

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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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