What is histamine?
Histamine is a compound that is released from immune cells as a normal part of a healthy functioning immune system. It helps us communicate with the brain, alert the immune system to a potential threat, and launch an inflammatory response.
Histamines can be released in response to environmental triggers such as pollen, animal fur and dust but can also be released in response to the foods and drinks we consume, as well as digestive imbalances, and enzyme deficiency.
What happens if I have too much histamine?
When there is too much circulating histamine we can feel an increase in allergic-like symptoms such as sneezing, itching, watery eyes and nasal congestion, but also symptoms that aren’t as easily identified as being related to histamine – such as migraines, headaches, irregular menstrual cycles, and difficulty regulating temperature, amongst many others.
There are 3 main reasons we can have elevated histamine levels:
- We’re eating too many foods high in histamine, and/or
- We’re consuming too many histamine liberating foods or drinks and/or
- We lack enough of the enzyme that helps us break down and eliminated histamine from the body.
What is Histamine Intolerance?
Histamine intolerance can occur when your body is unable to break down the histamine efficiently. One of the ways the body does this is through the Diamine Oxidase (DAO) enzyme which inactivates and metabolises histamine.
If you don’t have enough DAO or its ineffective, histamine can be absorbed through the intestines causing a wide range of symptoms. The symptoms such as those listed below can often occur following the consumption of foods and drinks that contain a large amount of histamine like bananas, avocado’s, spinach, tomato’s, fermented foods, aged cheeses, and alcohol.
Histamine content of foods increases as the food ages. For example, aged cheeses tend to contain higher histamine levels than fresh cheese. A boiled egg left in the fridge for 1 day would have higher histamine than a boiled egg eaten immediately.
We know that fermented foods are extremely beneficial for our gut health but as they are fermented, they may also be high in histamines and therefore not tolerated by some people when their histamine balance is compromised.
What are the Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance?
Because histamine is released into many body tissues its effects are far-reaching. Some of the more common symptoms may include:
- Digestive issues like abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea and vomiting
- Nervous system issues like fatigue, anxiety, difficulty or light sleeping
- Vascular issues like headaches and migraines, tissue swelling, vertigo, dizziness, high blood pressure, difficulty regulating temperature, irregular heart rate, or flushing after histamine-containing food and drink – especially wine and beer
- Immune issues like sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy mouth
- Skin issues like hives, rashes or itchy skin
- Reproductive issues like irregular menstrual cycles
How can I find out if I have high histamine or histamine intolerance?
Our Naturopaths at Brisbane Natural Health can take a thorough case and diet history from you, and if appropriate can organise a lab test for histamine and DAO enzyme levels. A high ratio of histamine/DAO signifies that you may be consuming too much histamine and that you may not have enough DAO to break it down.
How can I recover from symptoms of histamine intolerance?
Our Naturopaths at Brisbane Natural Health would look at your Lifestyle and diet factors, aim to boost your enzymes, minimise the histamine load, and regain balance to your body.
Most importantly, working with a Naturopath will enable you to find out what is your root cause for your histamine intolerance, and will be able to design a personalised dietary or supplement protocol to help restore balance to your body and to your symptoms.
If you would like to investigate this area of your health further, please call our Naturopaths at Brisbane Natural Health on 07 3367 0337.