If you suffer from unexplained, random symptoms which seem to appear out of nowhere, histamine imbalance could be to blame.
Symptoms such as unexplained headaches, facial flushing, digestive issues or itchy nose which come and go can have their roots in histamine imbalance. In this blog we’ll take a closer look at histamine and why it can become out of balance.
Histamine is produced by the body and it’s also found in some foods.
You may have heard of histamine with relation to allergies. When the body releases histamine, it provokes the classical allergic reactions of runny nose, hives and sneezing. This immediate inflammatory reaction is part of our immune response.
Histamine causes blood vessels to dilate and signals other cells to repair the damage or fight infection. However, histamine is essential to the body because it also helps with brain communication and triggers the release of stomach acid.
Histamine should be broken down in the body so levels don’t climb too high. The body produces two enzymes to do this called DAO and HNMT. DAO is mainly responsible for breaking down the histamine we take in through food. If we don’t produce sufficient enzymes, histamine levels may rise.
Histamine only becomes a problem if it’s allowed to build up in the body. This could be because we’re producing too much, taking in large amounts in our diet or we’re inefficient in breaking it down. This is called histamine imbalance.
The frustrating aspect of histamine intolerance is the sheer variety of symptoms it can produce, which often mimic those produced by other health issues and come and go irregularly.
Histamine receptors are present throughout the body which is why an increase in histamine can cause so many diverse symptoms.
This makes it hard to diagnose from looking at symptoms alone.
Many foods naturally contain histamine or trigger the release of histamine in the body. Histamine is highest in foods which have been aged or fermented, although levels do naturally vary according to how long the food has been kept or left to sit, particularly if it’s not refrigerated.
High histamine foods include:
Other foods although not themselves high in histamine can trigger its release:
Other foods, including alcohol, black and green tea and energy drinks can block DAO production and therefore indirectly contribute to a histamine imbalance.
Some symptoms only occur once histamine has reached a certain level in the body. That means you may be able to eat certain foods without experiencing symptoms, but not in combination with others or on two days running, for example.
Avoiding foods which raise histamine levels for a certain time period can be one way of determining if histamine is playing a role in your symptoms.
A blood test can determine if you suffer from leaky gut, while a stool test can examine the health of your microbiome.
Avoiding foods high which contribute to histamine imbalance can only be seen as a short term measure, because they include plenty of nutrient-rich foods and simply restricting them can overly limit the diet.
In functional medicine, the goal is to always address the underlying cause. As we’ve seen the gut plays an important role in helping to balance histamine. So if we begin by healing the gut, we can naturally reduce high histamine levels.
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