How Can Functional Medicine Help with Histamine Intolerance?

Do you suffer from Histamine Intolerance? Read below how Functional Medicine can help you.

How Can 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. When it’s released, you’ll experience symptoms usually connected with allergies, such as itchy skin, runny nose and sneezing. These reactions are designed to expel the irritating substance as soon as possible.

Histamine intolerance relates to excessive amounts of histamine in the body because it’s been allowed to build up.

Functions of Histamine

Histamine serves a useful purpose, because it not only does it allow your body to expel potentially harmful substances, but it also helps your brain cells to communicate and causes the release of stomach acid, essential to good digestion. It’s only a problem if its levels become too high.

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. If you’re not very efficient at producing these enzymes, histamine levels may rise.

Excess histamine in your body can be due to excessive production, inefficient breakdown or if a lot is consumed because histamine is present in certain foods. Such foods include alcohol, fermented foods like sauerkraut, processed and smoked meats, aged cheeses, dried fruit, avocado, aubergine, pineapple, shellfish and spinach.

Other foods can trigger the release of histamine in the body. These include bananas, strawberries, certain nuts, tomatoes, citrus fruits and some food additives.

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance is often unsuspected 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:

    • 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 these enzymes, so histamine is broken down more slowly. Intestinal inflammation can be connected with NSAID use. If inflammation causes the gut lining to become permeable, food sensitivities can develop, causing the release of histamine.
  • Certain types of bacteria usually found in a healthy gut reduce histamine release as well as dull the sensitivity of histamine receptors, so decreasing its activity. Other less friendly types of gut bacteria produce histamine, while if those bacteria normally resident in your colon migrate to your small intestine, they can also cause excess histamine release.
  • High levels of ongoing stress and irregular sleep can encourage high histamine levels.
  • Certain nutrients are needed for the functioning of histamine-degrading enzymes. These include magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
  • Certain medical drugs such as aspirin encourage histamine release.

Diagnosing Histamine Intolerance

Avoiding foods with the potential of increasing histamine levels can be one way of discovering if histamine intolerance is responsible for your symptoms. Because symptoms often only appear once histamine has reached a certain level, total avoidance is key to diagnosis.

In practice, you may be able to eat small amounts of histamine-containing foods without any issues, or they may only become a problem when they’re combined with other high-histamine foods.

Conventional Treatment of Histamine Intolerance

Anti-histamine drugs are designed to reduce the effects of histamine by preventing it from binding to histamine receptors. However, these drugs don’t reduce histamine levels, they only block its action.

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

Functional Medicine and Histamine Intolerance

Functional medicine will examine the causes behind your histamine intolerance, which are often connected with the health of your gut. Functional testing can determine if your gut lining is inflamed or leaky, and can also examine the health and makeup of your gut bacteria, as well as detecting nutritional deficiencies.

A programme of gut-healing nutrients and herbs can then help to restore good gut function, and nutritional deficiencies causing problems with histamine breakdown can be corrected.

Looking at your genetic makeup can reveal whether you are genetically primed to produce less histamine-degrading enzymes. Finally supporting your liver health can ensure toxins otherwise causing histamine release are effectively eliminated, and herbs and foods with natural anti-histamine activity can be recommended.

In this way, those foods increasing histamine levels can become of your healthy diet once more.

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