In my last article, you learned about the science behind histamines, how your genes impact your reactivity to these compounds, and the probiotics you should (and shouldn’t) take if you struggle with histamine issues.
Today you’ll discover the potential root causes of histamine intolerance and the diet hacks and supplements that can help reduce your reactivity and help you recover.
Histamine Intolerance: Finding Your Root Cause
Genetics can play a prominent role in histamine intolerance, by reducing your ability to produce the enzymes needed to break these compounds down. However, genetics alone are not fully responsible for histamine intolerance. And the root cause will not be the same for everyone.
The chart below details the exposures, lifestyle choices and other health issues that can contribute to – or worsen – histamine intolerance and reactivity.
|Seasonal Allergies||Allergen exposure raises overall histamine levels||Avoid allergens as much as possible. While allergy medicine may block the histamine receptors and symptoms, it doesn’t decrease histamine levels in your body.|
|Your Workout||Aerobic exercise can cause mast cells to release histamines and other inflammatory compounds (1)||Vary your exercise routine and see if resistance training or yoga helps to improve histamine-related symptoms.|
|Water Damage||Mold spores can cause histamine problems||Even without a diagnosed ‘mold allergy’, exposure to certain spores can cause histamine release. Check your home and workplace for water damage and mold.|
|Hormone Imbalances||Fluctuating hormone levels cause mast cell activation||Mast cells have receptors for estrogens and progesterone. Dysregulation of either of these hormones could activate mast cells to release histamines.|
|Plastics||BPA and other endocrine disruptors||Estrogen mimics found in plastics can bind to mast cells and cause the release of histamine. (2)|
|Fermented & Probiotic Foods||Fermented foods and probiotics can raise histamine levels||Your gut microbiome may need a histamine-related makeover. Not only do fermented foods contain histamine, they may populate your gut with histamine-producing bacteria. Take a break from the ferments and see if it helps.(3,4)|
|Chronic Infections||Several common bacterial and viral pathogens cause histamine release||H. pylori can activate mast cells in an immune response. Long-term H. pylori infection may add to your overall histamine burden.(5) Malaria and certain strains of Salmonella also cause mast cells to release histamine in the gut.(6) Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme causing bacteria) also has been shown to activate histamine release from mast cells.(7)|
|Municipal Drinking Water||Sodium fluoride triggers histamine release from mast cells||If your public water source is fluoridated, this can cause small (but chronic) increase in histamine levels.|
Four Hacks to Heal Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance
Now that you understand some of the science behind histamines, what can you do to address the root cause and relieve the symptoms?
A low-histamine diet can be a great tool for managing the symptoms of histamine intolerance. Eliminating foods high in histamine will help to reveal your natural baseline – and how you feel without the added burden of histamine from foods.
For some people, this can be a revelatory experience…
Being able to breathe through your nose for the first time in years… no longer experiencing heartburn every evening after dinner… enjoying solid sleep throughout the night…
Over the years, we can grow so accustomed to even the most annoying and debilitating symptoms that they become “normal.” But it is not normal to experience chronic itching, frequent headaches, post-nasal drip and the many other symptoms of histamine intolerance or overload.
And the great news is that for many people – even many lifelong sufferers – these symptoms abate or resolve completely on a low-histamine diet.
However, it’s not always easy to adopt a low-histamine diet or to determine which foods you are reacting to the most. If you are eating a ‘healthy’ diet that includes spinach, tomatoes, avocados and kombucha… it can be a difficult mental shift to understand that these foods might be the source of your problems.
A friend recently commented that out of all the diets that she has tried (and she had tried a lot!), the low-histamine diet was the one that finally helped her feel great. But it was also the most difficult to figure out and maintain.
In addition to focusing on low-histamine foods, here are a few important things to keep in mind on a low-histamine diet:
- Freshness Counts – As food ages, the amino acid histidine is converted to histamine. So it is important to buy the freshest sources of seafood and meat. For convenience and a lower risk of unwanted compounds, I buy meats and seafood frozen.
- Be Cautious of Leftovers – As food sits in the refrigerator, histamine levels increase. So if you frequently eat “leftovers” you could be increasing your load. However, this process stops when food is frozen. So, if you have problems with histamines, consider freezing your leftovers. Then thaw and reheat when you’re ready to eat that meal again.
- Ripeness Matters – Certain fruits, such as bananas, may be fine as long as they are on the green side. But as they ripen, histamine levels increase and so do symptoms. If you have histamine issues, consider eating fruits before they are fully ripe (or avoid fruits known to carry a histamine load – see link above for the list).
- Food Intolerances – It is quite common to discover that certain foods on the ‘safe’ list for a low-histamine diet will cause symptoms for certain individuals. So, remember that we are all biologically unique and may have different reactions to foods. So pay attention to YOUR symptoms. If a certain “safe” food makes your nose run, add it to your “avoid” list.
- Track Your Symptoms – Keep track of what causes a reaction for YOU. This will take time and patience, so be gentle with yourself as you work through the process. The benefits, including potentially eliminating lifelong symptoms, are worth it!
What else can you do in addition to a low-histamine diet?
Natural Histamine-Reducing Supplements
- Luteolin – This flavonoid compound, found in celery, thyme and green peppers, is also sold as a supplement. Studies have shown that luteolin stops the release of histamine from mast cells and can decrease the amount of histamine produced by the body.
- Quercetin – Blocks histamine release and is often used for natural allergy relief.
- Green tea extract – Decreases H1 receptor activation (nasal symptoms, sneezing).
- Chicory & Echinacea – Contain chicoric acid which inhibits histamine release.
- DAO – This is the enzyme that breaks down histamine in our intestines. It is also available as a supplement. It can reduce histamine when taken before meals. A recent trial that showed that DAO supplements helped reduce anti-histamine usage in people with chronic urticaria (itching). DAO is also found in high levels in pea shoots (the first few inches of the pea plant as it comes up). These are easy to grow at home in a sunny window (even in the winter) and are a tasty addition to salads or smoothies.
Focusing on the Big Picture
After all this information on the science and nutrition involved in histamine intolerance, you may be wondering what your long-term diet looks like. Will you ever be able to enjoy chocolate… wine… or pizza again without uncomfortable symptoms?
Many people find that after a period on a low-histamine diet and working on the root causes, they are able to tolerate more foods with histamine in them. It is a matter of balancing higher-histamine foods with lower-histamine meals.
For example, you may be able to handle eating something with aged cheese and tomatoes, but not while drinking wine and nibbling dark chocolate. Or a glass of wine may be fine if you drink it along with a meal that is full of fresh, low-histamine foods. But eating pepperoni and anchovies on a pizza, washing it down with beer, and finished off with a chunk of chocolate cake – may raise a host of histamine-related problems.
It is all about finding the right histamine balance for YOU! Paying attention to what you are eating as well as lifestyle factors that contribute to your histamine burden will go a long way towards controlling your histamine intolerance… and improving your overall health!
USWM Product Note:
For those who are extremely sensitive to histamines, fresh meats may be more appropriate in your diet. Our grass-fed lamb, bison and pasture raised chicken are all cut, vacuum sealed and flash frozen within a few days of harvest. Our state of the art Quick Freeze system makes sure all of our foods are frozen quickly, and maintained at sub-zero temperatures.
ED NOTE: Kelley Herring is the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free, low-glycemic baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and much more. Kelley’s academic background is in biology and chemistry and for the last 15+ years, she has focused on the study of nutritional biochemistry…and the proven powers of compounds in foods to heal the body.
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