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How May Functional Medicine Help with Histamine Intolerance?

Do you suffer from Histamine Intolerance? Read below how Functional Medicine may be able to help you.

How May Functional Medicine Help with Histamine Intolerance?

Histamine is a chemical compound produced by special cells in your immune system, usually as a reaction to a perceived invader or irritant.

Histamine serves a useful purpose because it allows your body to expel potentially harmful substances, but it also helps your brain cells to communicate and triggers the release of stomach acid which is essential for good digestion. It’s only a problem if its levels become too high.

When excessive amounts of histamine are present you’ll experience allergic symptoms such as itchy skin, runny nose, and sneezing. These reactions are designed to expel the irritating substance as soon as possible. If you suffer with allergy symptoms, it’s important to consult a medical professional so any true allergic reactions can be identified and treated.

In histamine intolerance, there isn’t a true allergy present. Instead, histamine levels build up. Normally, histamine is quickly broken down after it’s done its job. This means the initial inflammatory reaction only lasts a short while. This process needs certain enzymes, so if you’re not very efficient at producing these enzymes, or they’re not functioning optimally, histamine levels may rise. 1

Excess histamine in your body can also be due to excessive production, reduced breakdown, or diet related through eating certain foods. 2 Such foods include alcohol, fermented foods like sauerkraut, processed and smoked meats, aged cheeses, dried fruit, avocado, aubergine, pineapple, shellfish and spinach, which are high in histamine. Other foods can trigger the release of histamine in the body. These include bananas, strawberries, certain nuts, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and some food additives. 3

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance can be hard to pinpoint because it typically gives rise to a whole range of seemingly disconnected symptoms coming from nowhere with no obvious pattern. These symptoms can be similar to those produced by other health complaints such as seasonal allergies, and people may suffer for years before being diagnosed.

You have receptors for histamine all over your body, explaining why histamine intolerance is related to so many different symptoms.

Symptoms include 3 :

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Flushing of your face and chest
  • Digestive problems such as IBS
  • Itchy, runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion
  • Itchy eyes
  • Fatigue and brain fog
  • Itchy skin, hives, eczema
  • Anxiety, sleeping problems
  • Hormone imbalances and menstrual irregularities
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Racing heartbeat

Causes of Histamine Intolerance

  • Genetics – some people are susceptible to producing less of the enzymes needed to break down histamine.
  • Inflammation of the intestinal lining can impair the release of histamine degrading enzymes, so histamine is broken down more slowly. Intestinal inflammation can also cause the gut lining to become permeable, allowing food sensitivities to develop and even more histamine to be released
  • The balance of microbes in the gut flora is also thought to play a role. Beneficial species can reduce histamine release and dull the sensitivity of histamine receptors, while less beneficial microbes can produce histamine or play a role in excessive histamine release. 4 5
  • High levels of ongoing stress and irregular sleep can also encourage high histamine levels.
  • Nutrient deficiencies can compromise the activity of histamine degrading enzymes. 3

Conventional Treatment of Histamine Intolerance

Anti-histamine drugs are designed to reduce the effects of histamine by preventing it from binding to histamine receptors. 

Alongside these drugs, you’ll usually be advised to avoid high-histamine foods completely.  

Functional Medicine and Histamine Intolerance

If you have been diagnosed with histamine intolerance avoiding foods with the potential of increasing histamine levels can be supportive. Symptoms often only appear once histamine has reached a certain level, so total avoidance is key at the beginning, then small amounts of histaminic foods can be added over time. We can support you in these diet changes, helping you understand which foods to avoid and ensuring your overall diet remains healthy.

Functional testing may be suggested to look at other aspects of health that contribute to histamine intolerance such as the balance of your gut bacteria and your nutrient status.  1 4 5 6. We can then create a personalised protocol to help restore good gut function, and nutritional sufficiency.

Looking at your genetic makeup can reveal whether you are genetically primed to produce less histamine-degrading enzymes and supporting your liver health can ensure toxins that could be contributing to histamine release are effectively processed. Finally, we will also look at how complementary approaches using herbs and foods could help you. 6

References

  1. Comas-Basté O, Sánchez-Pérez S, Veciana-Nogués MT, Latorre-Moratalla M, Vidal-Carou MDC. Histamine Intolerance: The Current State of the Art. Biomolecules. 2020 Aug 14;10(8):1181. doi: 10.3390/biom10081181. PMID: 32824107; PMCID: PMC7463562.
  2. Sánchez-Pérez S, Comas-Basté O, Veciana-Nogués MT, Latorre-Moratalla ML, Vidal-Carou MC. Low-Histamine Diets: Is the Exclusion of Foods Justified by Their Histamine Content? Nutrients. 2021 Apr 21;13(5):1395. doi: 10.3390/nu13051395. PMID: 33919293; PMCID: PMC8143338.
  3. Hrubisko M, Danis R, Huorka M, Wawruch M. Histamine Intolerance-The More We Know the Less We Know. A Review. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 29;13(7):2228. doi: 10.3390/nu13072228. PMID: 34209583; PMCID: PMC8308327.
  4. Schnedl WJ, Enko D. Histamine Intolerance Originates in the Gut. Nutrients. 2021 Apr 12;13(4):1262. doi: 10.3390/nu13041262. PMID: 33921522; PMCID: PMC8069563.
  5. Sánchez-Pérez S, Comas-Basté O, Duelo A, Veciana-Nogués MT, Berlanga M, Latorre-Moratalla ML, Vidal-Carou MC. Intestinal Dysbiosis in Patients with Histamine Intolerance. Nutrients. 2022 Apr 23;14(9):1774. doi: 10.3390/nu14091774. PMID: 35565742; PMCID: PMC9102523.
  6. Sánchez-Pérez S, Comas-Basté O, Duelo A, Veciana-Nogués MT, Berlanga M, Vidal-Carou MC, Latorre-Moratalla ML. The dietary treatment of histamine intolerance reduces the abundance of some histamine-secreting bacteria of the gut microbiota in histamine intolerant women. A pilot study. Front Nutr. 2022 Oct 21;9:1018463. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.1018463. PMID: 36337620; PMCID: PMC9633985.
  7. Garbo G, Tessema B, Brown SM. Complementary and integrative treatments: allergy. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2013 Jun;46(3):295-307. doi: 10.1016/j.otc.2012.12.005. Epub 2013 Feb 1. PMID: 23764810.

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