What the Histamine is Going on?
Let's start with the basics. Histamine is a chemical produced by mast cells in the body as an immune response to cause immediate inflammation.
It is responsible for certain functions such as:
- stimulating stomach acid and regulating digestive function to break down food
- dilating blood vessels
- acting as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system
- contracting smooth muscles
When there is an increase of histamine built up in the body that cannot be properly broken down, either because of high histamine food consumption and/or reduced enzyme production, then symptoms may occur. The main enzyme that is responsible for the degradation of histamine in the digestive tract is diamine oxidase. If there is a malfunction of this enzyme, levels of histamine can increase dramatically throughout the body
Common symptoms of histamine intolerance may include:
- headaches or migraines
- skin problems
- gastrointestinal pain
- GERD/acid reflux
- irregular menstruation
- red, itchy, or watery eyes
- sinus issues
An effective way to assess if histamine may be causing you issues is to avoid or minimize histamine releasing foods and see if that makes a difference for you. However, it's important to note that this should only be a short-term strategy as this diet is quite restrictive. The best way to achieve long term relief is to work with a skilled practitioner to make sure you are addressing the root of the problem.
Higher histamine foods include:
- citrus fruits
- aged cheeses
- cured meats
- dried fruit
- fermented foods
- alcoholic beverages
- smoked fish
Foods that are low in histamine:
- olive oil
- fresh fish
- fresh vegetables, except tomatoes, eggplant, and spinach
- fresh fruit: mango, pear, watermelon, apple, kiwi, cantaloupe, grapes
So what can you do? Following a low histamine or elimination diet while you address the root of the issue will help you to overcome histamine intolerance. These may include candidal overgrowth, parasites, SIBO, or leaky gut. Dietary supplements can also help to reduce histamine levels and in turn minimize symptoms, provide relief, and support the gut healing process.
Supplements For Histamine Intolerance
The Ayurvedic herb, Coleus Forskohlii, contains the main bioactive ingredient called forskolin.
Forskolin has been shown to prevent the release of histamine from mast cells (1). This compound acts primarily by activating adenylate cyclase (2). When this enzyme is activated, it results in numerous biochemical reactions including increased cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) which can in turn result in the reduced release of histamine (3).
Forskolin is also an effective natural treatment for asthma, shown to outperform the pharmaceutical drug, sodium cromoglycate, in preventing asthma attacks in patients with mild persistent or moderate persistent asthma (4).
Quercetin is an antioxidant that exerts anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating effects which help to improve conditions such as asthma and allergies (5). It is often used to treat symptoms of hay fever which may include a runny nose, watery eyes, and itching.
This plant extract is also a natural anti-histamine, acting as an effective mast cell inhibitor and stabilizer for allergic and inflammatory diseases, and even outperforming the drug cromolyn (6).
Quercetin is found in foods such as apples, capers, cherries, grapes, berries, kale, and red onion but you can also supplement.
A herb used in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, astragalus is often taken to boost immune health by increasing white blood cell production, fighting viral and bacterial infections, and reducing the risk of illness (7). The main active ingredient and antioxidant found in astragalus, astragalin, has been shown to down-regulate mast cell activation (8).
6) B. infantis
Research shows that probiotics are effective in the treatment of allergies and may help to treat histamine intolerance. Be aware though that certain strains can actually make the situation worse by increasing histamine. Strains such as Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are often recommended to avoid.
The combination of bifidobacterium infantis and bifidobacterium longum have been shown to exert strong anti-inflammatory effects in the body, suppressing allergic symptoms and decreasing histamine levels (10).
Erythropoietin is hormone produced by the kidneys and promotes the formation of red blood cells. A study demonstrated the benefits of Erythropoietin therapy among patients with uremia who reported lowered blood histamine levels (11). When they stopped the therapy, markers of histamine increased once again.
8) Pancreatic Enzymes
Lack of enzymes can result in unwanted digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, and constipation. Pancreatic enzymes support the proper breakdown of foods. Undigested foods can result in fermentation in the digestive tract which can lead to imbalances such as SIBO and worsen symptoms of histamine intolerance. Supplementing with pancreatic enzymes may help to improve histamine intolerance symptoms and digestion (12).
A flavonoid and dietary antioxidant found in various fruits and vegetables, fisetin has potential to treat allergic inflammatory diseases by decreasing mast cell activation and inflammation which in turn can result in lowered histamine levels (13)(14).
Fisetin is shown to have many health benefits due to its neurotrophic, anticarcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory effects (14).
Another plant flavonoid, luteolin is helpful in lowering inflammation and may be an effective and natural treatment and a preventative strategy for allergic diseases (15).
Due to its ability to stabilize mast cells and lower inflammation in the lungs and nose, luteolin has been confirmed to possess anti-allergic effects and may be a helpful in improving histamine intolerance (16).
An anti-inflammatory flavonoid, apigenin down regulates inflammatory reactions, reduces oxidative stress, and prevents the activation of mast cells, reducing the release of histamine (17).
Flavonoids can be included as part of a natural strategy to reduce or prevent allergic symptoms.
Epigallocatechin gallate is the main antioxidant found in green tea, well known for fighting inflammation and oxidative stress. EGCG can benefit histamine intolerance by reducing and stabilizing mast cells (18).
It has also been shown to be a potent inhibitor of the histamine-producing enzyme, histidine decarboxylase (19). You can receive the benefits from this compound by consuming green tea though tea is recommended to avoid with histamine issues therefore supplementation is encouraged instead.
An antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonol, rutin has been shown to reduce mast cell activation and lower the inflammatory response (20). It is also known for its ability to strengthen blood vessels and improve blood circulation (21). These functions could potentially help to improve excess histamine symptoms.
Theanine is the main calming amino acid found in green tea, well known for its calming properties on the mind (22).
Theanine is also shown to act as a natural antihistamine. Research found that it decreased histamine release from mast cells due to its mast cell-stabilizing capabilities (22). Your best bet is to supplement with theanine instead of consuming it from green tea as it is on the avoid list for people with histamine intolerance.
Reishi is a natural anti-inflammatory, helping to decrease allergic reactions by acting to reduce inflammatory compounds and inhibiting histamine release (25). These benefits are largely due to the triterpene content, the active ingredient found in the mushroom, and associated with a reduction in allergic reactions (26). It is often used as a natural treatment for asthma.
17) Vitamin B6
Though vitamin B6 is most commonly referred to as a nutrient that supports histamine degradation, it may on the other hand increase histidine decarboxylase (HDC), an enzyme responsible for the synthesis of histamine.
Check with your health care provider to assess whether deficiency may be a concern for you.
Carnosine is a dipeptide comprising the amino acids, beta-alanine and histidine. Research suggests that carnosine may be useful for combatting elevated histamine levels as it has been shown to enact antihistamine action by stabilizing mast cells and protecting mast cells from degranulation and histamine release (28).
It also works by inhibiting the enzyme histidine decarboxylase, though moderately (29).
Most well known for its potent anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin is the main active compound found in the cooking spice turmeric used in Ayurvedic tradition.
It might also be a supportive nutrient for antihistamine relief and fighting inflammatory diseases as it can prevent mast cells from releasing histamine (32).
You can cook with turmeric for anti-inflammatory and nutritional benefits however for therapeutic effects, oral supplementation of curcumin is recommended.
NAC is a powerful antioxidant and versatile dietary supplement used to benefit many functions of the body and treat various conditions. N-Acetylcysteine is an amino acid that can help to reduce oxidative stress but also inhibit the histamine-producing enzyme, histidine decarboxylase (33).
NAC supplementation can help to lower inflammation and oxidative stress and may even help to reduce histamine though more studies are needed.
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