Could Histamine Intolerance be at the Root of Your Gut Problems?

HIstamine (1)

What’s the connection between Histamine and your Gut? It’s not always just…Achoooo!

A little over a year ago I had some tests run which showed my inflammatory markers off the charts. To give you an idea, the normal range on one score was somewhere between like 80 and 200. My score was 1,497! Ya…that’s an upregulated immune system!

Off the Chart

So, of course, I started searching for info on anti inflammatory foods to try to help put out the fire and I came across a website devoted to histamine intolerance. This was something that I had read about but never really dove into because it sounded complicated and I thought for sure going grain free and eating a whole food diet with lots of fermented foods would solve all my problems but that wasn’t happening. I was feeling very frustrated and defeated.

I started to read the author’s story and so many of her symptoms were just like mine. What really got my attention was that her issues went back to when she was a child…just like me! So I figured I’d tried every other diet out there, I might as well go Low Histamine too!

 

This was a major AHA moment for me!!!!

Suddenly my constipation went away, my eczema started clearing up and my bloating improved! I knew that I couldn’t stay on this strict elimination diet forever but now I had uncovered a really big clue to my health problems!

 

What is Histamine?

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Histamine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger) released by specialized cells in your body. Its job is to open the pathways to the source of an injury or problem so the materials required to heal and repair can get to the site.  Alternatively it can close off pathways so infection can be contained keeping it from spreading throughout your body.  This is called inflammation.

 

Wait!  I thought inflammation was a Bad Thing???

On the contrary!  Inflammation is there to help you!  Inflammation is necessary to our healing processes. It also plays an important role in our tummies by helping to digest protein!!

Most disease states have an inflammatory component to them because histamine is released in the presence of stress….to help!   This is why it has a bad rap.  Guilty for showing up at the scene of the crime!!

The REAL problem is all of the EXCESS stress present in our lives…our Standard American Diet (SAD), dirty environment and stressful life styles all put our bodies in a heightened state reactivity contributing to, Inflammation.

 

Histamine Intolerance is Really a Symptom of a Deeper Underlying Issue.

Histamine intolerance means you have more histamine in your system than your body can process. Either something or somethings are causing your body to inflame excessively or release too much histamine or you have a limited capacity to break down even normal levels of histamine which causes a back up….OR both!

 

Once your histamine threshold is exceeded you may start experiencing symptoms.  Some people refer to this as the histamine bucket.  Symptoms appear when your bucket overflows.

burn-out emmer met water

 

 

What might cause your bucket to overflow?

  1. You could have a latent infection adding to your histamine load.  This could be viral or maybe be a bacterial infection like SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).  A byproduct of bacterial activity is histamine.  This will contribute to the level in your bucket…causing you to spill over the brim!
  2. You could have a genetic defect or an interference with the production or action of certain enzymes that breakdown histamine into a form that can be removed from your body. If the histamine can’t get out, it will backup and eventually overflow your bucket.  This is extremely common. These enzymes are Diamine Oxidase (DAO) and Histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT).
  3. You could have food sensitivities or allergies causing excess histamine to be released when you eat.
  4. You could have adrenal dysfunction which inhibits your body’s ability to deal with stress and regulate inflammation. Adrenal hyper and hypo function also cause disturbances with your hormonal balance.
  5. Hormone imbalance in and of itself can also be a factor.  Estrogen causes a release of histamine whereas progesterone degrades it.  This is a perfect balancing act when it works right but many people are running around with estrogen dominance.  Especially those with blood sugar dysregulation.  High blood sugar is also inflammatory.
  6. You could have Mast Cell Activation Disorder.  Mast cells are cells that release histamine and can be over-reactive in some people causing unnecessary histamine release.  This is a topic for a future post;)
  7. It could be a toxic burden in your body like heavy metal toxicity.  Metals are tricky because they can jump in the way of minerals blocking their ability to spark the enzymes that you need to metabolize histamine.
  8. Or maybe your have some nutritional deficiencies that are needed for enzyme production and activity like B6 or Zinc deficiency or another nutrient deficiency impeding one of the many processes that regulate or are related to inflammation.
  9. You could have an auto immune disorder triggering inflammation

There are lots of things that can cause chronic inflammation.  I told you it was complicated!

 

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance include:

  • Gut disturbances; constipation, diarrhea, gas, pain, bloating, Inflammatory Bowel
  • Skin irritations eczema, hives, flushing, psoriasis, etc
  • Respiratory irritation, seasonal allergies, asthma, chronic runny nose, post nasal drip, coughing
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Extreme reactions to bug bites
  • Increased Libido
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Hard to lose weight
  • Irregular Heart Beat
  • Mood / Emotional disorders (I get really depressed just before my bucket is about to spill over)

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Is there a Test for Histamine Intolerance?

As I mentioned above, histamine intolerance is a symptom of something else going on in your body.

You can test histamine levels but that is just going to tell you what you already know…which is to keep looking for the root cause!  I don’t really know how accurate these tests are because your histamine levels fluctuate so much that one or even a few tests will only give you a snapshot.

You can test for diamine oxidase function and that could be really helpful in determining the root cause!  But from there I would probably still question “Why?”.  Is it a genetic mutation?  Or is there something getting in the way that needs to be removed??  Or maybe something is missing like a nutritional deficiency?

An elimination diet can be extremely useful to test which foods are contributing to excess histamine. It also gives your body a little break by bringing down histamine levels which allows some time to heal.  An elimination diet is a temporary tactic and not a permanent solution.  But knowing what causes inflammation in YOU will be helpful in managing your symptoms while you get to the bottom of what’s going on and will help you to manage in the event of future flare ups.

 

There are certain foods that are generally histamine containing and there are foods that are histamine liberating.

Histamine liberating means they may not contain a lot histamine but they cause your body to release histamine.

If Diamine Oxidase production is your problem, there is no cure at the moment but it can be managed with diet and lifestyle modifications.  There are even DAO supplements available that might be helpful in managing your histamine load.  In this case it is EXTRA important for you to make sure you are nutritionally sufficient so you’re not compounding the issue due to imbalances in the body that could contribute to the level of your histamine bucket.

 

Food Lists

Food lists can be helpful for a histamine elimination diet but remember that everyone is a bio-individual and not all foods will react the same in everyone.  For this reason, most food lists you’ll find will be different.  Just because it’s on one low histamine list doesn’t mean it will not be inflammatory to YOU.  You really have to listen to your body!

Alison Vickery from Australia is a specialist in the area of Histamine Intolerance and she has a free downloadable food list on her website.  She is a wealth of information on the subject and I highly recommend peeking around her site.  I learned a lot from her!!!

Another website is The Low Histamine Chef by Yasmina Ykelenstam.  You will find a great food list and recipes in her e-book The Anti-Cook Book.  She’s done a ton of research!!!  And she is a fellow sufferer so she is extremely passionate about the subject.

These two ladies have been very good friends to me…even though they don’t know me from Adam…hehehe!

 

High Histamine Foods:

Histamine intolerance can be truly mind boggling to the health conscious individual because many of the “Holy Grail of Health” foods are really problematic for us.  Like bone broth for example.  Or spinach, avocados, raw milk, sauerkraut and kombucha!!!  I was doing all of these things religiously and could not figure out why I was noticing symptom improvement in some areas but some areas got MUCH worse and new problems started appearing!

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As a Rule of Thumb:

  1. Sadly, fermented foods contain high levels of histamine.  If you have gut troubles, chances are you’ve been told that fermented foods and probiotics will help you by balancing your gut flora.  And they do!!  They are wonderful for many people but for some, with histamine intolerance, they can exacerbate your issues because histamine is a byproduct of their bacterial action.
  2. This is also why it is important to eat fresh.  Foods that have been sitting around….leftovers, will have more microbial activity and therefore will increase histamine levels when ingested. Freezing is the best way to store leftovers if you have histamine intolerance.
  3. Ground meats have more surface area and therefore more space for bacteria to flourish.
  4. Aged / cured meats like bacon and prosciutto are very high in histamine.  They are also histamine liberating partly because histamine is released in the presence of protein in your stomach.  Meat in general is inflammatory.  When issues are flaring I usually will reduce my animal protein consumption and eat more fresh low histamine vegetables.
  5. Foods cooked at high temperatures can increase the histamine content of foods.  Charring, frying, searing… all up the anti on the histamine load.
  6. Industrial seed oils are inflammatory.  Especially when heated to high temps.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get rid of that canola oil!!!
  7. Aged cheeses can be problematic
  8. Fish (unless it is REALLY fresh) and shellfish are on the high hista list!
  9. Alcohol, particularly wine and beer, is high in histamine and also inhibits DAO activity making it a double whammy!  (Secret!!! I found that Vodka is pretty low on the histamine spectrum and I am able to tolerate it;)  Shhhhhhh!!)
  10. Vinegar, including the beloved Apple Cider Vinegar…is high in histamine:(
  11. Tea!!  When I drink tea my throat starts to constrict!  I could not understand why because it happened with all different types of tea.  Many teas are fermented so the bacterial action creates histamine.  Some tea is also high in oxalates which can be an issue for some people with histamine intolerance.
  12. Finally…..Chocolate can cause histamine reactions too….BOOOO!!!!!  Especially chocolate with vanilla fragrance….I just read that somewhere and really I don’t know why???

 

This is not a sentence from enjoying your favorite things for the rest of your life!

Handcuffed Woman, Close-Up of Hands --- Image by © Laurent Hamels/PhotoAlto/Corbis

I don’t believe that avoiding these foods for the rest of your life is the answer but until the underlying issues are resolved or your histamine levels are brought down beneath the rim of your bucket, avoidance or moderation of these will be helpful in managing symptoms and allowing your body to heal and “catch up” on the histamine load.

I am able to enjoy most of these foods now “In Moderation”.

 

Some Low Histamine Foods

They are some wonderful anti inflammatory, histamine regulating foods that you can enjoy which can be helpful and healing to you!

  • Ginger
  • Cucumbers
  • Peaches
  • Green Apples
  • Pears
  • Plantains
  • Carrots
  • Black Seed Oil (Nigella Sativa)
  • Beets and Greens
  • Asparagus
  • Bok Choy
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic
  • Sweet Potato
  • Celery
  • My Antihistamine Juice!

 

Best (Large)

And many many more but do keep in mind that you have to test foods on yourself because what’s anti inflammatory to one may be inflammatory to another.

 

What About Probiotics?

Probiotics can be tricky but there are some probiotics that can be helpful in cases of histamine intolerance by assisting your body in eliminating excess histamine!  On the other side of the coin, there are some probiotics that can produce EXTRA histamine.  The reason this is tricky is that many probiotics have a blend of different bacterial strains which is normally good for people who need some diversity in their microbiome but for the histamine intolerant…you really have to educate yourself and get a good pair of reading glasses for those labels.

Once again I will refer you to Alison Vickery who wrote an e-book on the topic.  I have it and it’s fascinating!

 

Don’t Stress

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Emotional stress is histamine liberating.  Therefore, keep calm and try to stay optimistic because there is something you can do about your symptoms and better days are within your reach!!!  A positive outlook is healing to your body and mind!  Deep breathing, meditation, light to moderate exercise are all very helpful.

 

Nutritional Therapy

Nutritional therapy is extremely helpful with investigating the root cause of histamine intolerance and by keeping the body balanced with the nutritional components needed to maintain good health and keep inflammation at bay.  If you think that you might be experiencing histamine intolerance, please contact me.  This is an area where I have personal experience so even just talking with someone who understands what you’re going through can provide a lot of relief!

This is a really complicated subject and I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about histamine intolerance but this sums up a lot of what I have learned about it in my own research.  I have applied this information to my own life and have experienced immense relief in my symptoms so I believe it can be helpful to others as well.

 

 

Post By: Hollie Donelson, NTP

Happy Tummies of The Lowcountry, LLC

167 A Bluffton Rd.

Bluffton/Hilton Head, SC

843-227-1042

info@happytummiesdigest.com

happy-people

Please note. I am not a Doctor.  The content on this site is not intended as medical advice. Always check with your doctor before starting any type of health or nutritional protocol especially if you are being treated for or have been diagnosed with a medical condition.

 

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9 thoughts on “Could Histamine Intolerance be at the Root of Your Gut Problems?

  1. crosswind

    What a great and thorough article. I have DAO +/+ (double mutations), but I was told a holistic doc that since I am genetically an “overmethylator”, that helps me process it little faster. I don’t know about that. I’m very sensitive to histamibes. Thanks for sharing this great info! It was very disappointing last year, when DAO enzyme capsules became hard to order online or from my compounding pharmacy. We can drink more nettles & tulsi tea, but some days I need to rely on Allegra. I want the DAO back on the market & available to EVERYONE. It was a lifesaver.

    1. hollie Post author

      Hey there! Thanks for your comment! Seeking Health used to carry a good DAO supplement but just recently discontinued it:( I found a site that has a DAO supplement…I have not used it and have no affiliation with the company, but you could look into it if you want to http://www.umbrelluxdao.com/umbrellux%E2%84%A2-dao.html. Also Seeking Health’s Probio Bifido contains a histamine degrading strain. I use it myself and really like it!

  2. V.

    Wonderful article. In one word this type of diet is psychologically destructive. If you are a workout-lover, along with additional stress, that might develop into weakness and (God forbid) weight loss. From the looks of things, my body has been inflamed for the last, let’s say very good portion of my life, due to histamine intolerance. Where it originated? You mentioned credible options above + if you are indigenously allergic to dust mites, pollen, pets etc. I suspect you could be more predisposed to the development of HIT intolerance.
    One report goes that HIT increase the level of cortisol in our intestines : http://healthypixels.com/?p=1044

    Time will show whether that is a true culrpit in my case.
    All the best!

    1. hollie Post author

      Hi There:) Thank you for your comments! I agree…of all the “diets” I’ve tried…and I think I tried them all…low histamine was by far the most mentally challenging. I had to remind myself that it was therapeutic and temporary because I knew that eventually I would get to the bottom of why my body was acting this way. And I did. Today I had smoked salmon lox with my eggs, yesterday I ate bacon, avocado AND cashews. I eat a little bit of dark chocolate everyday and (right now) I have no symptoms to report:) Knock on wood!!! A year ago I would have been dead on the floor eating all of that stuff! My point is that I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel and you just have to keep digging until you get to the bottom of WHY. Have you ever had a Hair Mineral Analysis or Stool Test? Or hormones looked at. Estrogen dominance is very common and estrogen inhibits the DAO enzyme. Sometimes supporting liver function can help with hormones because the liver has to detox them. Also the use of binders like food grade DE or bentonite clay can help grab detoxed hormones and keep them from being recirculated back into the system. How is your methylation? Histamine has to be methylated. Yeast makes acetaldehyde which gets degraded by the same enzyme as histamine. It can get overloaded and create a backup. Just some thoughts…. I hope this was helpful and I REALLY hope you get to the bottom of it!! It sounds like you’ve done your research too:) If you are looking for a practitioner to help you, let me know! I network with practitioners all over who can help you investigate some of these things.

  3. Carol Campise

    Hollie,
    What were your symptoms specifically? My sons genetics show one APB1 snp, his HMNT snps take his clearing ability to 57% and one DAO snp. He feels terrible lately. He has also been diagnosed with a chronic bacterial infection – Bartonellosis. You say that may cause an increase in histamine. He also has high inflammation right now, so we are trying to lower that with Omega 3’s and other natural anti-inflammatory supplements. Do you know of any natural ways to lower histamine besides the DAO supplement? My son also has had anxiety since he was child. I think this may also have something to do with high histamine.

    1. hollie Post author

      Hi Carol,
      Thank you so much for your comment! Wow…there are a million things running through my mind!!! But, to answer your first question, my main symptoms were; Severe Bloating,
      Gas, Abdominal Pain/Cramps, Chronic Constipation, Chronic fatigue, Brain Fog, Anxiety, Depression, heart palpitations, Hair loss…by the handfuls, Cold Intolerance…Cold Hands and feet, Eczema, dry skin, sleep disturbances, ganglion cysts ….It was kinda endless. And the doctors all said there was nothing wrong with me! So here I am;) Obviously you are no stranger to research if you found my little article! Good for you for investigating as much as you have!! I can’t really advise on what to do without doing a full client work up…but I can share with you my brainstorming activity and maybe something thrown out there might help you along the way! Bartonella is a gram negative bacteria which is a common co-infection of Lyme. (A.K.A. Cat Scratch Fever.) Has he been checked for Lyme? Is he/has he taken antibiotics?? Bartonella is also associated with histamine production. I would definitely explore a low histamine diet to start…especially given his genetic predispositions, I would also make sure that he has the co-factors in place to support his genetic SNP’s. I just did some research on DAO recently and found that it requires vitamin B6, B12, iron, copper, vitamin C, …Zinc, Mag and Manganese to work efficiently. Riboflavin (B2) is important to HNMT. So I would investigate the status of those nutrients. Don’t just assume he needs to supplement with them. Quercetin, Black Cumin Seed Oil, Probiota Bifido By Seeking Health, or maybe Histoplex from Biotics Research may be things to explore to help with excess histamine. You can do a google search for histamine degrading probiotics. I have used Prescript Assist with great success. A hair tissue mineral analysis can provide a lot of good info if you have someone who knows how to interpret the test. Anxiety and histamine could very well be related somehow as well as other neurotransmitter imbalances, but anxiety since childhood makes me think excess copper?? Excess copper is a real problem and can lead to anxiety. Copper can be transferred from Mom to fetus in the womb and accumulate over time. Have you looked at toxic heavy metals? Bacteria are attracted to metals. If the terrain is hospitable…the bugs are more likely to show up! Gram negative bacteria are also producers of LPS or Lipopolysaccharides. These are endotoxins that are super inflammatory in excess and can make you REALLY sick. Mainly if they are able to slip through a leaky gut, so supporting gut wall integrity is super important. So anyway these are just some things that you can look into or put on a checklist to ask your practitioner about. Liver function and proper detoxification are also huge. If the exit routes are blocked, things can accumulate and bad things can’t get out. And none of this is really worth anything if the diet is messed up. You gotta get that right first. Anti-Inflammatory or Low Histamine, limit processed foods and refined carbs and make sure to pay attention to quality! Play with macro-nutrient ratios to find out if he does better eating higher protein and fat or maybe more veggies on the plate make him feel better?? Fresh Fresh Fresh!!! Histamine accumulates on left-overs and food that has been sitting around too long. I hope this is helpful!!

  4. Andrew evans

    Hi Holly, thankyou so much for the great information in this article. I am a 55 year old man who has been struggling with cfs, cfs and fibromyalgia for many years. I have had to stop working 5 weeks ago due to my condition getting worse and impossible to work feeling this bad. A naturapath gave me a list of tests to get a doctor to do which highlighted many things ( very high histamine levels, pyroluria, compound heterozygous mthfr, very high estrogen ( 4 x normal), and very low dhea amongst other things, have been taking 600 mg of SAMe, 25 mg dhea, and been strict in eating only low histamine foods, but am not feeling any better. Was interested in your comment about estrogen and histamine. Does high histamine form from high estrogen, or do you think it is the other way around? From what I hear this condition effects females a lot more than men, and am wondering if it is because of estrogen? I am getting more me23 sons to see what else is happening genetically with me. It is very difficult to know exactly which way to go, especially with diet and supplements, especially since I have not felt any improvement no matter what I eat or supplements I take!! Sometimes it has gotten me very down and think it is all just too hard!!!! But I am trying to stay positive and not despair or give up. It is people like you that give me hope as you have been there and understand how difficult it is but you have got it under control!! Thankyou again for the great info you have put on your website! Keep up the great work and God bless you for all your efforts and online support!!
    Cheers andrew from Australia

    1. hollie Post author

      Hi Andrew! Thank you very much for taking the time to write your nice comment. It warms my heart to know that this “labor of love” is helpful to a few people! Without knowing your history or seeing a full client work up, I can’t advise you…but I could maybe offer you some thoughts to ponder or ask your practitioner about. Could there be an infection or latent virus burning under the surface or possibly a toxic exposure such as mold or heavy metals, creating a chronic inflammatory state? (I think 23&Me is a great idea BTW;) Chronic inflammation can sometimes lead to hyper-aromatisation of testosterone into estrogen…so testosterone being converted into estrogen via a process called aromatisation. Inflammation can speed up this process leaving you with lower, or even low-normal testosterone levels and higher estrogen. That can totally contribute to fatigue… along with your energy being drained by your body working over time reacting to the “stressor or stressors” maybe draining DHEA?? Add that to a possible deficit in some super important nutrients due to the pyroluria and MTHFR. Pyroluria can cause B6 and Zinc to be depleted very quickly. B6 and Zinc both play roles as co-factors in Diamine Oxidase (DAO) function. DAO is an enzyme that degrades histamine in the gut. Additionally, and to answer your question about estrogen, estrogen as been shown to inhibit the DAO enzyme. So it’s possible there could be a double, or triple…or more… whammy there with high estrogen, lack of co-factors, as well as possibly some low methylation activity due in part to MTHFR contributing to the high histamine levels. Histamine has to be methylated and sometimes…not always…low or hypo-methylation can contribute to excess histamine hanging around. Whew!!! Maybe you have a SNP in your DAO slowing it down??? 23&Me reports on that in the raw data. This is simply just some brainstorming and dot connecting…but maybe some of it is worth investigating or maybe you have already been down these avenues?? There is a brilliant practitioner in Australia, Alison Vickery. I have a link to her website in my blog post above. She specializes in histamine intolerance and I believe has some training in Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). It might be worth contacting her to see if she might be able to work with you???? Her website is a wealth of information as well. Again, thank you for your comment! I hope some of this is helpful to you, and I wish you well!!! Cheers!!!

  5. Kristine

    I had a major histamine reaction to water kefir soda. But not lacto fermented lemonade. I have a histamine reaction to ultra pasteurized dairy but not low pasteurized. This all just started. Histamine reaction to eggs. I’m very confused. Any ideas? My throat just swelled after ultra pasteurized half and half in coffee but not my low pasteurized 24 hour yogurt this morning or Boars Head gouda. Histamine reaction to processed cheddar cheese

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