Histamine Intolerance – Is it histamine, allergies or estrogen?

By Lucy Rose Clinic

November 2, 2021

Histamine Intolerance also known as histaminosis has symptoms similar to those of an allergy, food poisoning, or the flu. They can occur in connection with food intake, but they may also become chronic so that it is difficult for the people concerned to tie the symptoms to the foods ingested. They may seasonal as well, such as now in Spring.  There is a wide range of partly unspecific symptoms possible, and symptoms are very individual.

Today we will explore the driving factors behind this, why it happens, and what you can do about it. We will try to keep this complex topic simple as an educational overview. If you are suffering from this, book in an appointment to work with a functional practitioner. CLICK HERE to book a consultation.

Histamine Intolerance symptoms

Histamine is a chemical, known as a biogenic amine. It plays a role in several of the body’s major systems, including the immune, digestive, and neurological systems. The body gets all the histamine it needs from its own cells, but histamine is also found in certain foods. People who experience an allergy-like response to histamine-rich foods may have a condition known as histamine intolerance.

What is Histamine Intolerance (Histaminosis)?

Histamine Intolerance is the inability of the body to break down the histamine. This decreased ability to break down histamine may be related to a deficiency in an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO).

So our body makes histamine, and we also get it in the diet.

How Does Our Body Make Histamine?

Mast cells and basophils represent the most relevant source of histamine in the immune system. Mast cells are a type of white blood cell and are especially numerous at sites of potential injury — the nose, mouth, and feet, internal body surfaces, and blood vessels.

Your immune system, including your T-cells, has histamine receptors and is able to release histamine too. This is one reason children have more allergies and can ‘outgrow’ them. When children are still building and developing their immune system, they have more T-cell production, which results in more histamine beyond what the body can break down.

Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)

MCAS is a condition in which the patient experiences repeated episodes of the symptoms of anaphylaxis, allergic symptoms such as hives, swelling, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and severe diarrhea. This can be triggered by a toxic overload, mold exposure, and varying genetic defects. 

Estrogen and allergies

Many women suddenly suffer from new allergies, itchy skin, and a runny nose – or any of the listed symptoms below – when they move into the first hormonal phase of perimenopause. This is due to surges of estrogen in the face of dwindling progesterone.

  • Estrogen excites mast cells which secrete histamine. 
  • Estrogen also decreases the breakdown of histamine by lowering a substance called DAO (diamine oxidase). Histamine is a common issue. 
  • DAO’s job is to break down histamine to clear it out of the body, so when DAO is lower, histamine builds up and drives these allergy symptoms. 

We run comprehensive test panels to find out exactly what your hormones are up to, which guides corrective treatment.

Symptoms

People with histamine intolerance may experience a wide variety of symptoms involving different systems and organs. For some people, histamine-rich foods can trigger headaches, skin irritation, or diarrhea.

Digestive tract

  • Diarrhoea alternating with normal motions 
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome – IBS
  • Chronic constipation
  • Flatulence and feeling of fullness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Symptoms affecting head and face

  • Headaches, similar to migraine
  • Runny nose and weepy eyes, although there is no clinical sign of allergies
  • Fits of dizziness
  • Extreme tiredness, feeling knocked out
  • Quinke Oedema (swellings mostly appearing around eyes and lips, sometimes in the area of the throat)
  • Flushing of face and/or chest
  • Skin problems
  • Skin rashes, itchiness
  • Eczema,
  • Urticaria
  • Acne (pimples)Chest area
  • Asthma
  • Cardiac arrhythmia, such as a fast beating or irregular heart beat
  • Dysmenorrhoea (severe period pains)

Other symptoms

  • Chills and shivers
  • Low blood pressure
  • Circulatory collapse
  • Sudden psychological changes (e.g. aggressiveness, inattentiveness, lack of concentration)
  • Sleep disorder

Treatments

Functional medicine approaches this in several ways to assist healing and normalising the function of the immune system.

1. DIET – for fast relief and to reduce the histamine load in the body, follow a low histamine diet. The error many people unknowingly make is they don’t address the immune dysfunction and rely on this diet for life, which is unbalanced and will create nutrient deficits in the body if not extremely careful.

2. Use a DAO Enzyme Supplement. This will break down histamine in the body.

3. Identify Sources of Toxins. This will need some functional testing.

4. Use Antihistamines and Mast Cell Stabilizers. Such as flavonoids, antioxidants, enzymes, and botanicals.

5. Heal the gut and build the microbiome. A healthy gut is the seat of your immune health. 

6. Get regular sleep. An interesting facet of allergic diseases is the variation in symptom severity throughout the day. Earlier studies showed that serum mast cell histamine levels were lower in the afternoon and highest at night. This is why many patients with allergies report experiencing “morning attacks” or sleep disruptions.

7. Reduce stress. Possibly the hardest change for many people to make, the first step is to make positive stress acknowledgment with adrenal hormone testing using a 3-point saliva profile. Keep a daily food and symptom diary to identify triggers.

Tying it all together!

Navigating hormonal and immune system imbalances takes years of study, clinical practice, and ongoing research. If you would like to work with an expert in functional health and address your symptoms once and for all, book a consult to get started.

References and further reading:

Histamine Release from Mast Cells and Basophils – PubMed (nih.gov)

Principles of innate and adaptive immunity – Immunobiology – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

Systemic mastocytosis – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

The Role of Mast Cells in the Defence against Pathogens (nih.gov)

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