It is summer time here in New Zealand and because there was some delay in the “real summer” coming out, here in the South Island, the flowers all started to bloom at once. What landed up happening was a massive bout of hay fever for everyone living down here. I have been working at the local health shop for a couple days a week and we had so many people come in for hay fever relief that we had to make special orders to get more stock in!
It kinda got me thinking about allergies and histamine. So, typically when we have allergies, the body releases histamine. This is what then triggers all those reactions many of us experience with hay fever: runny nose, itchy eyes and blocked nose. To stop this, most people recommend an anti-histamine. Those are the nasty drugs, which make me all drowsy and like I just want to fall asleep!
As you can imagine, this is not a reaction many people like and so they tend to look for natural alternatives. Now, the typical alternatives we sell in the store have been a combination of garlic and immune supporters for the body. Trouble is, they were only marginally effective for most people.
I decided to look at the cause of the allergies or the culprit making those reactions instead. I had a look at histamine itself.
1. What if we have histamine intolerance?
It could be that our bodies are simply not able to break down histamine and it therefore remains in our bodies, elevating the levels of histamine in the body. This is sometimes called excess histamine or histamine intolerance.
It is estimated that about 1% of people are histamine intolerant. 80% of those are middle-aged. (Study: Maintz, L., & Novak, N. (2007). Histamine and histamine intolerance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(5), 1185-1196. – See more at: http://bodyecology.com/articles/histamine-hack-how-to-safely-eat-fermented-foods#.VM7AeFWUeQQ)
2. What can we do to the excess Histamine?
There is a two thronged approach to reducing Histamine in the body.
Step 1: Reduce foods which trigger histamine release
The big culprits: tomatoes and strawberries.
Other foods: smoked meat products, eggplant, spinach and most citric fruits.
Sadly, foods which trigger a histamine release also include fermented foods, which I personally feel are vital for supporting our immune function. These include Sauerkraut and other fermented foods.
This also includes wine and sparkling wine.
Step 2: Get an enzyme to break down the histamine in the gut
There is a natural enzyme which can help the small intestine actually flush out the excess histamine. It is called DAOSiN and is a biogenous enzyme (DiAmineOxidase) that helps degrade histamine. It is also called DIASIN in other countries.
Step 3: Increase vitamin C in the diet
Vitamin C is an anti-histamine and will dampen histamine release. It works as an antioxidant that can stop cell damage and free radical damage. Natural sources of vitamin C are parsley and dark berries like blueberries.
3. Should we be avoiding fermented foods then?
It is easy to think that the culprit is in the histamine itself but we have to ask ourselves why our bodies are not able to flush out the excess histamine?
The problem lies in the body’s inability to break down the histamine, rather than the histamine itself. We need to heal the gut, rather than just avoid the reaction. One of the ways that this can happen is if we have wounded our gut lining. A common cause of such damage includes eating gluten for many years. Read more about leaky gut here.
It might be necessary to avoid fermented foods until the gut lining is sufficiently healed, if you suspect you may have a too much histamine in your body.
Signs of histamine intolerance:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Hives or red, itchy skin
My recommended steps to dealing with excess histamine levels
Step 1: Avoid high histamine foods initially.
Step 2: Repair your gut lining and ensure your digestion is working well.
Step 2: Eat a diet high in fresh vegetables and natural fiber.
Step 4: Take a probiotic with strains of Bifidobacterium infantis and B.longum. This one has it in it.
Step 5: Take DAOSiN to support the removal of excess histamine.
Step 6: Support the liver with liver cleansing herbs and a liver happy diet.
Step 7: Introduce fermented foods slowly and measure their effects on your body.
Histamine is a natural response by the body to alert our immune system to do something. It is our alert system that there is a problem in an area. I definitely don’t feel that we should focus our attention on just the histamine itself but rather on the reasons our bodies are not able to break it down and flush it out of the body as it should.
Typically leaky gut exacerbates the symptoms of histamine intolerance. Many people with histamine intolerance are nutrient-deficient and often have gut-related conditions such as gluten intolerance and inflammatory bowel diseases.
My solution is always to look at the root cause of the body’s imbalances, and in the case of histamine, the excess remaining in the body that needs help getting broken down and flushed out.
Fermented foods play a vital role in providing a healthy gut environment and will support the body to break down foods that we eat. Though histamines are released by these foods, it may be the very same foods that aid in proper elimination of digested matter, enabling a more balanced digestive system.
I will keep researching fermented foods and histamines and how these all relate to Endometriosis. I would love to hear your thoughts, if you have heard anything about histamines in relation to Endometriosis.