Metabolism, Weight Gain, and Histamine Intolerance
Are you dealing with unwanted weight gain or have difficulties losing weight? What if I told you that it’s more than just those holiday pounds. Histamine intolerance may be one of the missing culprits behind your weight issues.
Histamine is not inherently bad. Your body needs it for a variety of bodily functions. Histamine plays a critical role in your metabolism, food intake, and energy expenditure. At healthy levels, histamine helps you maintain a healthy weight.
If you have histamine intolerance or too much histamine, however, it can contribute to chronic inflammation, chronic symptoms, and yes, weight gain as well. Histamine intolerance may influence your food intake. Many high-histamine foods are inflammatory and may contribute to weight problems. Histamine intolerance may also be linked to thyroid dysfunction, estrogen dominance, and gut health issues that may also increase the risk of weight gain and make weight loss more difficult.
As you can see, the connection between histamine intolerance, metabolism, and weight gain is complex. In this article, I want to get to the bottom of the connection and uncover potential underlying reasons behind your weight problems. You will learn what histamine and histamine intolerance are. I will discuss the role of histamine in your metabolism and weight. You will learn about the ways histamine intolerance may play a role in weight gain. Finally, I will offer some natural solutions to reach a healthy weight and improve your health.
What Is Histamine Intolerance
Histamine is a chemical in your body that is responsible for a variety of functions. Its main role is to support your immune system by helping your body get rid of allergens. This is why we are commonly recommended by conventional medicine to take antihistamines for allergy-symptom relief. Histamine also communicates with your brain and triggers stomach acid release to aid digestion affecting your entire body.
Histamine can turn into a problem when it builds up in your body. Histamine intolerance means that that your body has too much histamine. As a natural part of your immune response, your body sends enzymes to break down histamine in order to prevent too much build-up. However, when there is too much histamine, it becomes difficult to break it down and metabolize it.
Too much histamine can affect all parts of your body, including your gut, brain, lungs, and cardiovascular system. It may lead to a list of unwanted symptoms, including skin problems, red eyes, low blood pressure, fast heart rate, anxiety, hormonal issues, headaches, seasonal allergies, digestive issues, sleep disturbances, bladder problems, and more. You can learn more about histamine intolerance, its symptoms, causes, and treatment options, in this article.
How Histamine Affects Your Metabolism and Weight
We use the term metabolism daily. We blame our metabolism for those extra pounds. But what is this mysterious metabolism anyway?
Your metabolism is a combination of chemical reactions inside your body that convert food into energy. You need energy to do everything from thinking to digesting your food, from moving your body to sleep. While a healthy metabolism helps you to maintain a healthy weight, it is not the main purpose, energy is. A healthy metabolism helps to create energy for your day-to-day life.
Your brain is the command center of your body. It’s not surprising that your metabolism is controlled by your brain, more specifically by your hypothalamus. Your hypothalamus is a region of your forebrain located right below the thalamus. It coordinates your autonomic nervous system. It also coordinates your pituitary gland which controls your homeostatic systems, including hunger, thirst, temperature, sleep, and even emotional activity.
Histamine and Your Weight
This is where histamine enters the picture. Histamine is released and enters your hypothalamus to switch on certain receptors. Some of these receptors are responsible for regulating body heat or energy output. Others are responsible for hunger and satiety and as a result, your eating habits. According to a 2008 review published in Nutrition, hypothalamic neuronal histamine and its H(1) receptor (H(1)-R) regulate your body weight, food intake, and energy expenditure (1).
Here comes the tricky part. Histamine doesn’t necessarily cause weight problems. In fact, histamine generally promotes weight loss and weight maintenance. The stimulation of the histamine 1 receptors may cause a decrease in food intake. A 2007 review published in Neuroendocrinology has found that histamine plays a role in regulating body weight (2). Some studies have found that low levels of histamine are sometimes linked to obesity. According to a 2016 review published in Neuropharmacology, histamine in the brain control appetite, food intake, and energy expenditure, and as a result may help to prevent obesity and metabolic syndrome (3).
Chronic Inflammation, Histamine Intolerance, and Weight Gain
If histamine generally helps you stay at a healthy weight, how can histamine lead to weight problems? Great question. It depends on a number of factors, including the amount of histamine in your body, genetics, chronic inflammation in the body, other coexisting conditions, and lifestyle factors. Normal levels of histamines do not cause weight gain, but histamine intolerance can. Histamine intolerance can often cause chronic inflammation which may lead to weight gain.
Chronic inflammation can lead to an increase in corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which is a stress hormone. A 2017 review published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, CRH triggers your mast cells which leads to the release of more histamine. More histamine can increase chronic inflammation, stress, and chronic symptoms. This may lead to an increase in CRH, which will lead to mast cell activation and histamine release. As you can see, this can lead to a cycle of inflammation, stress, and histamine intolerance, and consequent weight gain.
Histamine and Your Eating Behavior
Chronic inflammation is not the only way that histamine may play a role in weight gain. A 2010 research published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics has looked at the relationship between the histamine H3 receptor and eating behavior (5). They found that when an animal had to figure out how to get to food located in a closed container or had to perform other tasks, such as pressing a lever, to get to food, their brain released histamine. However, when they had access to food without having to perform tasks or work for it, there was no brain histamine release.
This may be applied to your stress levels, eating behavior, and relationship with food. If you are stressed out about food, perhaps you are dieting, it may cause increased histamine release, inflammation, and symptoms. Not to mention that it may also cause stress-eating, reaching for inflammatory and high-histamine foods, and consequent weight gain. If you are relaxed about food, not dieting, not stressing, and not restricting, it may reduce the risk of excess histamine, inflammation, and weight gain.
High-Histamine Foods and Weight Gain
If you have histamine intolerance, but you don’t know about it, chances are you are eating lots of high-histamine foods. Though many high-histamine foods are healthy for the general population, other high-histamine foods are inflammatory and unhealthy for everybody. Baked goods with gluten and grains, for example, can trigger histamine intolerance and chronic inflammation. Processed foods and junk food are usually also high in histamine and are highly inflammatory. They are low (or empty) in nutrients but are high in calories and often, refined sugar, refined oils, additives, and artificial ingredients, and can increase your risk of weight gain, chronic inflammation, and chronic health issues.
Antihistamines and Weight Gain
If you have frequent allergies or skin reactions due to undiagnosed histamine intolerance, you may be taking antihistamines. That may be an unsuspected culprit behind your weight gain. According to a 2010 study published in Obesity, common prescription H1 antihistamine medications, such as Zyrtec and Allegra, may contribute to weight gain (6).
On the other hand 2011 study published in Diabetes, Metabolism, Research and Reviews has found that mast cell stabilizing medications, such as cromolyn and ketotifen, may reduce the risk of weight gain and obesity. This suggests that mast cells activation syndrome (MCAS) may cause weight gain that can be reversed once the mast cells are stabilized.
Histamine Intolerance, Thyroid, and Weight Gain
Histamine intolerance is often connected to or co-occurs with thyroid dysfunction. According to a 2019 review published in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, thyroid dysfunction may cause mast cell activation and histamine intolerance (1). Research has shown that low thyroid levels may lead to increased histamine production and high levels of thyroid hormones may cause increased histamine response in your body (1, 2).
One of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is unintentional weight gain. It looks like if you have Hashimoto’s and weight problems, you may have to look into histamine intolerance as a possible factor as well. You may learn about the connection between thyroid dysfunction and histamine intolerance and what to do about them in this article. If you are dealing with thyroid problems, I recommend reading my book, The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan.
Histamine Intolerance, Estrogen Dominance, and Weight Gain
Histamine intolerance and estrogen dominance often share similar symptoms. It may not be just a coincidence. Estrogen and histamine actually attach to the same H1 receptors (10). Because of this, estrogen will cause the release of histamine from your mast cells. The more estrogen you have, the more histamine will be released to your bloodstream as well, leading to a vicious cycle of estrogen dominance and histamine intolerance.
How is this related to weight gain though? Weight gain is one of the major symptoms of estrogen dominance which may be further increased by histamine intolerance. You may learn about the connection between estrogen dominance and histamine intolerance and what to do about them in this article.
Histamine Intolerance, Gut Health, and Weight Gain
One last connection we have to touch on is the connection between histamine intolerance and your gut health. As I discussed in this article, leaky gut syndrome and various gut infections, including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), H pylori, Candida and fungal overgrowth, and parasites, are some of the top underlying causes of histamine intolerance.
Leaky gut syndrome allows undigested food particles, toxins, and pathogens to pass into your bloodstream. Leaky gut syndrome can also cause low DAO enzyme production. DAO is responsible for breaking down excess histamine in your body. Not having enough increases your risk of histamine intolerance. If you are dealing with a gut infection, it can trigger increased histamine release that your body won’t be able to keep up, which may cause histamine intolerance.
Leaky gut syndrome and gut infections may also play a role in weight gain. According to a 2020 review published in Preventative Nutrition and Food Science, gut microbiome imbalance can poorly affect your metabolism and energy expenditure and increase the risk of obesity (11). Gut microbiome imbalance may also increase cravings for inflammatory foods, increase chronic inflammation, and increase stress. This can quickly turn into a cycle of poor gut health, histamine intolerance, chronic inflammation, and weight problems. You may learn about the connection between gut health and histamine intolerance and what to do about it, in this article.
Solutions for Weight Gain and Histamine Intolerance
Losing weight is not about self-deprivation. It’s not even about your weight. It’s about your health and wellness. Here are my top recommendations for histamine intolerance to help you lose weight, address other histamine-related health issues and improve your overall health:
Follow a Low-Histamine Diet
Following an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich, and nutrient-dense diet is important for everyone who wants to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and feel healthy in their body. If you have histamine intolerance and histamine is the culprit behind your weight gain, start with a low-histamine, anti-inflammatory diet.
Remove inflammatory foods, including refined sugar, refined oils, canned and processed meat, artificial ingredients, junk food, and highly processed foods. These foods are highly inflammatory and are essentially empty calories. They may taste good temporarily, but they will only pack on the pounds, leave you bloated and tired, and cause health issues.
Avoid high-histamine foods, such as fermented food (eg. sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables, kombucha, etc), aged food (eg. aged cheese, processed meat, canned fish, etc), over-ripe fruits and vegetables, leftovers, and foods that are naturally high in histamine ( eg. avocadoes, eggplant, spinach, dried fruits, etc). Avoid foods that may trigger histamine release, 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 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.
The key to any new diet or lifestyle change is experimentation and fun. Have fun in the kitchen and try new recipes. 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 it too.
Reduce Your Histamine Bucket
High-histamine foods are the number one common culprit behind histamine intolerance. However, stress, poor sleep, a sedentary lifestyle, environmental toxins, and other lifestyle factors can fill up your histamine bucket and cause histamine intolerance and related weight gain.
Reduce Stress and Improve Your Sleep
Chronic stress and poor sleep can contribute to histamine intolerance. They may also cause high cortisol levels and hormonal imbalance that may cause weight gain and make weight loss difficult. I recommend practicing breathwork, meditation, journaling, yoga, time in nature, and positive affirmations 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.
Move Your Body and Exercise Regularly
Moving your body is another way to reduce stress, lower inflammation, uplift your mood, reduce your histamine bucket, and support a healthy weight. Move your body throughout the day. Get up, stretch, and shake out your body regularly throughout the day. Take a stroll during lunch or go on a walk-date with a friend. Get silly and dance to your favorite song. Play with your pets or kids.
For exercise, I recommend resistance training to a level that makes you feel good after, not exhausted. I also recommend trying to get between 10k-15k steps per day.
Exercise should be fun. Experiment with different workouts until you find what brings you joy. But remember, strength and resistance training is non-negotiable to maintain muscle mass, protect your bones, feel energized, and have a toned, youthful body. If you are new to exercise, I recommend the MAPS program from MindPump Media.
Reducing Environmental Toxin Exposure
Reducing environmental toxicity is another important step for reducing histamine intolerance. Toxins can increase inflammation, histamine release, and chronic symptoms. Buy organic produce and food to reduce exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and hormones. Drink filtered water instead of tap water.
Remove chemical-filled conventional cleaning, hygiene, and beauty products, and choose organic, natural, and DIY options instead. Make sure that your home is free from mold. Use a high-quality HEPA air-filtration system to clean your indoor air. Instead of plastic, use cloth bags, glassware, glass containers, bamboo bowls, stainless steel bottles and pans, and silicone zip lock bags.
Improve Your Gut Health
Your gut health affects your entire body. Poor gut flora can lead to histamine intolerance and weight gain. Supporting your gut health may reduce chronic inflammation, improve digestion and nutrient absorption, decrease digestive troubles, reduce infections and toxin overload, improve detoxification, support a healthy weight, and reduce chronic symptoms.
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 Supplements for Histamine Intolerance
I recommend my Histamine Essential Kit for 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.
If you are still having difficulty losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight despite following a low-histamine diet, reducing your histamine bucket, and making healthy choices, it may make sense to look into other underlying issues. As you know, thyroid imbalance, estrogen dominance, leaky gut syndrome, gut infections, and other issues may play a role. Working with a functional medicine practitioner (hint: my team and I) can help you figure out the root cause of your weight gain and other symptoms and create an individualized treatment plan to achieve a healthy weight, reduce your symptoms, and improve your health naturally.
Focus on Health and Love Yourself Through the Process
Instead of focusing on weight loss, focus on your health. It’s all about how you feel. How does your food make you feel? How do your lifestyle choices make you feel? Are you energized, light, happy, and inspired, or sluggish, tired, bloated, and symptomatic? Are you feeling a bit better each day, stagnating, or feeling worse? These are important signs to remember.
If you are following a healthy, low-histamine, and anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, you will notice excess weight release. Over time, your body will find its comfortable spot. Most importantly, you will start to feel vibrant, energized, and healthy again. Remember, it’s a journey. Do yourself a favor: have fun and love yourself through the process.
There may be a number of reasons behind your weight gain. Histamine intolerance may be one of them. I recommend following my nutrition and lifestyle tips for histamine intolerance and weight gain. They will help you to reclaim your health and feel energized in a healthy body.
If you are dealing with weight gain or 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.
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