Histamine Intolerance: Understanding Histamine and How It Makes You Sick

Histamine Intolerance: Could This Be Another Reason Why You Are Sick? 

Histamine intolerance is often accompanied by unexplained symptoms such as an itchy tongue and runny nose while eating certain foods such as banana, avocado, or eggplant.  Sometimes patients experience a flushed face when drinking red wine, unpredictable menstrual cycles, or unusual headaches & anxiety. Any of these symptoms could be linked to histamine intolerance.
Histamine is a chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter, sending information between your body and your brain.  It is also a key player in immune system, central nervous system, as well as your digestive tract.  Histamine is found in your stomach acid so it has a role in breaking down food as well.
However histamine is most commonly thought of in relation to the immune system and seasonal and/or food allergies.  Histamine causes a sudden and rapid inflammatory response, setting off an alarm within the immune system that invaders are present.  As a result, white blood cells are called upon to swiftly identify and eliminate the foreign bodies.  It is the quick flood and build up of histamine that can cause symptoms such as headache, itchiness, flushed face, and overall feeling inflamed and uncomfortable.
Histamine works through your bloodstream so high levels that aren’t broken down can potentially harm not only your gut but your lungs, brain, skin, and cardiovascular system. It is for this reason that symptoms can vary from person to person.

Symptoms commonly experienced with histamine intolerance:

  1. Light sleeping and difficulty going to sleep
  2. Hypertension
  3. Dizziness or vertigo
  4. Migraines and/or chronic headaches
  5. Cramps
  6. Hives and/or flushing
  7. Anxiety
  8. Fatigue
  9. Irregular or quickened heart rate
  10. Sinus discomfort including congestion, sneezing, labored breathing
  11. Nausea, vomiting

Histamine and Eczema

In addition to the symptoms listed above, excess histamine can make some existing conditions worse. Eczema is an example. Eczema is an inflammatory condition in the skin, sometimes called atopic (allergic) dermatitis. When high histamine foods are consumed, people with less than efficient histamine tolerance may experience an increase in the severity of their eczema.

Causes of Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance is caused by the bodies decreased ability to breakdown histamine. The next question we should be asking is,  “what would interfere with the bodies ability to do this?” Over loaded histamine levels are brought on by a number of factors.
  1. Disbiosis, Small Intestinal Bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or leaky gut syndrome is a common cause of increased histamine in the system.
  2. Allergies, GI bleeding (Ulcers,  Crohn’s).
  3. Certain Amino Acids ie Histidine.
  4. Histamine- rich foods such (see list below) from fermented alcohol, wine, beer, Kombucha, Bone Broth, Kimchi, and champagne.
  5. Food sensitivities are also linked to histamine intolerance. Genetic mutations or SNP’s can prevent the break down of histamine as well.
  6. Medications: can induce a vitamin deficiency that block the functioning of the DAO and HNMT gene. (You can read more about this below)

Nutritional deficiencies include Iron, Copper, Riboflavin (B2), B12, B6, and vitamin C.  Deficiency in these vitamins can block the functioning of the DAO or HNMT enzyme.

Because the body already produces histamine naturally, histamine levels can quickly rise when the diet includes foods that are high in histamine, that cause the release of more histamine, and enzyme blocking foods that inhibit the break down of histamine.
This is where HistDAO can help.

Hist DAO Naturally

  • Supports Healthy Degradation of Food-Derived Histamine*
  • Enhances the Presence of Diamine Oxidase in the Digestive Tract

Foods High in Histamine:

  1. Processed meats such as deli meat, hot dogs, bratwurst, pepperoni, salami, bacon
  2. Vinegar rich foods such as pickles, olives, mayonnaise, relishes, dressings, ketchup
  3. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, soy sauce, kombucha, kefir, pickled vegetables- Yes you read that correctly- The very foods you might be eating because of the gut healing properties may be making you worse.
  4. Soured food such as sour cream, sourdough, buttermilk
  5. Dried fruit such as raisins, apricots, cranberries, dates
  6. Citrus fruits
  7. Aged cheese
  8. Raw and roasted nuts: peanuts, cashews, walnuts

Foods that release Histamine:

  1. -Fruits: banana, papaya, pineapple, strawberries
  2. -Tomato
  3. -Shellfish
  4. -Wheat germ
  5. -Cow’s milk
  6. -Alcohol
  7. -Chocolate-
  8. Nuts
9.-Several dyes and preservatives and frequent reheating of foods.

How to Break down Histamine

Enzymes in the central nervous system and digestive tract are responsible for breaking down histamine. The HMT enzyme supports break down in the central nervous system while diamine oxidase (DAO) plays a primary role within the digestive tract.  Because DAO is most responsible for breaking down histamine, any deficiency in DAO or the vitamins that active the enzyme need attention.
Order HistDAO here

DAO deficiency can be caused by:

  1. Medications:
  2. -Inflammation caused by autoimmune disease such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, IBS.
  3. Foods that inhibit histamine break down by blocking the DAO enzyme.  Some of these foods include: alcohol, energy drinks, black tea, green tea, and mate tea
  4. SIBO
  5. Leaky Gut
  6. NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin)
  7. Immune modulators (Enbrel, Humira,Plaquenil) (Meds that are often prescribed for patients with Eczema and Psoriasis)
  8. Antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft, etc.)
  9. Antihistamines (allegra, Zyrtec, Benadryl)
  10. Histamine (H2) blockers (Pepcid, Zantac,Tagmet)
  11. Antiarrhythmics (propanolol, metaprolol, Cardizem, Norvasc)
**While it may seem that a histamine blocker would be beneficial, this type of medication ultimately drains the body’s DAO enzyme stores.

Treating Histamine Intolerance

Identifying individual food sensitivities, Eliminating all foods high in histamine for 6-12 weeks or longer depending on circumstances, is the best place to start.  It’s also important to uncover why the intolerance is present in the first place; this is where functional medicine can truly make a difference.  Perhaps the underlying cause is gut disbiosis, SIBO, gluten intolerance, leaky gut, or a course of medication you’ve been taking.  Addressing the root cause of histamine intolerance, shifting the diet, improving gut microbiome, and replenishing DAO levels naturally help get the body back on track.
At DrHagmeyer.com, we strive to fully understand the needs and concerns of our patients and we will work closely with you to ensure your good health is restored. To help ensure your health is improved, we offer extensive testing and customized treatment programs as well as an overriding dedication to helping you get better.

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Other related articles:
  1. Trigger I: Identify Leaky Gut and Compromised GI Function
  2. Trigger II: Eliminate Food Sensitivities
  3. Supplements to help support Histamine Intolerances 
  4. Dr Hagmeyers 4R diet for Leaky Gut
  5. Why Adrenal Cortisol Testing is so Important for GI Problems