What Is Histamine?
Histamine is a chemical compound found in body cells and is closely related to the immune system. It is an important neurotransmitter that communicates important messages from the body to the brain. The role of it is to cause an inflammatory response against an allergic reaction. The inflammation warns the immune system of any potential risks. Moreoff, you may develop swollen eyes and skin breakouts when experiencing an allergic reaction.
For the same reason, doctors prescribe anti-histamines when you suffer from an allergy. if you have any food allergy or seasonal allergy, you may be prescribed medicines like Zytrec, Allegra, and Montec LC.
The Histamines act as a red flag of the body causing an immediate inflammatory response. The sign is to warn the immune system of any foreign body invaders. They work by dilating the blood vessels, this causes the white blood cells to easily find the invader and attack.
It is necessary to break down the histamine properly. It is because if may develop histamine intolerance. Histamines travel throughout the blood, its intolerance may affect the gut, skin, lung, brain, and the heart to.
What Is Histamine Intolerance?
Histamine intolerance is not a sensitivity to histamine, but an indication that you would have developed it more. The exact mechanism of histamine intolerance is still to be known. In a normal individual, histamine is broken down in the body regularly by two enzymes: DAO and HNMT.
HNMT is N-methyltransferase (HMT), which deals with histamine in the central nervous system. The other is diamine oxidase (DAO), which is responsible for breaking down histamine ingested in foodstuffs. DAO is produced by the intestine so if intestinal functioning is impaired than there won’t be enough DAO to break down histamines. With the build-up of histamine, the symptoms occur. People with gastrointestinal disorders may have decreased DAO. Thus, histamine intolerance may occur genetically or due to acquired impairment of one of these two enzymes.
Health experts don’t consider histamine intolerance as a disease. It is considered as just another body condition that needs to be controlled with the right food.
Symptoms Of Histamine Intolerance
When your body has abnormally high levels of histamine, beyond its ability to break down than a range of symptoms occur. Most of the symptoms resemble the allergic symptom. Some of the prime symptoms of histamine intolerance are given below:
- Abdominal cramps resembling period cramps, often misunderstood as pain before periods.
- irregular menstrual cycle
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Breathing difficulty
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Digestive issues like bloating, indigestion, excessive gas, etc.
- Headaches or migraines
- Acid reflux
- Body itching
- Nausea or vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Nose block
- Sinus issues
- Sneezing multiple times
- Swelling of face, hands, or lips
- Increased heart rate
- Body hives
Mostly these symptoms are not diagnosed as they are common mild symptoms that go off on its own. An accurate diagnosis takes a long time as it is very difficult to rule it off and is often considered as a symptom of any other disease.
What Causes High Histamine Levels?
Several factors together can lead to histamine intolerance. A single factor cannot result in histamine intolerance. Some of the main issues that can result in histamine intolerance are as follows:
- Blocking of the enzyme DAO is a major factor for histamine intolerance. In low levels or in absence of DAO, the histamines present in the body and the food cant be degraded properly. With this, the amount of histamine increase in the body resulting in an inflammatory response.
- Gastrointestinal disorders are indirectly related to histamine intolerance. The gastrointestinal disorders lower the release of DAO, with a low level of DAO the histamine breakdown is reduced and this ultimately results in histamine intolerance. Some of the gastrointestinal disorders like gluten sensitivity, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut syndrome, colitis, excessive gas, and inflammatory bowel disease can cause histamine intolerance.
- A recent research claims ultraviolet rays as a cause of histamine intolerance. The reaction of UV light with histamines is increased by some phenothiazine compounds present in medicinal drugs.
- Few of the prescribed medicines have the ability to cause lactose intolerance. Majorly the medicines for psychiatric treatments for conditions like anxiety, depression or schizophrenia can do so. Additionally, there are several over-the-counter medications that affect DAO either directly or indirectly. Patients consuming these medicines may develop an allergy as a result of histamine intolerance. Few of these medications are mentioned below:
1. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin
2. Antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs like Zoloft, Cymbalta, Effexor
3. Immune modulators like Enbrel, Plaquenil, Humira
4. Antiarrhythmics like Cardizem, metoprolol, Norvasc
5. H2 histamine blockers like Pepcid, Zantac, Tagamet
- Diet can also be a major factor for histamine intolerance. There are many food items that can increase histamine build up in our body. In the following paragraphs, there is a list of food items that are to be avoided and a list of food items that are good to be taken to inhibit histamine intolerance.
List Of Food With High Histamine
A normal diet should contain a moderate level of histamine to carry out the normal functioning of the immune system. However, there are a few foods that can increase the histamine levels of your body. They are underpinned below:
- Alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, and champagne
- Fermented food items like vinegar, soya sauce, bread, yogurt, etc.
- Vinegar rich foods like pickles, mayonnaise, etc.
- Cured non-vegetarian products like meat, salami, ham, bacon, pepperoni, hot dogs, etc.
- Some dried fruits like apricot, date, fig, peach, raisins, etc.
- Nuts like cashew, peanuts, almonds, and walnuts
- Vegetables like spinach, avocados, and eggplant
- Citrus fruits like oranges, sweet lime, etc.
- Aged cheese
- Few energy drinks like green tea, black tea, and red bull
Apart, from this, there are some food items that release histamine upon consumption. They may develop an excess of histamine in the body, so are best to be avoided or taken in low amounts. Some of the histamine releasing foods are:
- Alcohol beverages
- Fruits like banana, papaya, strawberries, and pineapple
- Dairy products like cow’s milk, and chocolate
- Many artificial preservatives and dyes that are added to packed processed food
List of Food With Low Histamine
Now that you know what are the histamine rich and histamine releasing foods, you should also know the foods that are low in histamine. If you eat these food, you can resolve or maintain the histamine levels of your body. Down below is a list of food items that are low in histamine
- Freshly cooked meat and other poultry products
- Gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa
- Peanut butter
- Fruits like mango, pear, watermelon, kiwi, apple, grapes, and cantaloupe
- All the fresh vegetable except tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, and avocado
- Dairy products like coconut milk, hemp milk, almond milk, and rice milk
- Herbs and spices
- Olive oil and coconut oil
How To Diagnose Histamine Intolerance
Diagnosing histamine intolerance is a tough job as the symptoms are related to many other disorders. Because of this, before diagnosing histamine intolerance, the doctor will figure out the chances of other possible disorders or allergies that cause similar symptoms. For diagnosing, the doctor may even ask you to have a low histamine diet for two weeks.
Additionally, the doctor may also take a blood sample to find the DAO level in the body. DAO deficiency suggests histamine intolerance. A few years ago, a new technique is developed for diagnosing histamine intolerance. It’s a prick test that effectively diagnoses the condition. The prick test is simple, easy, and give immediate results.
A low histamine diet is an effective treatment to treat histamine intolerance. It is challenging for people to follow it if they are already on some other diet. The amount of histamine that can be intolerated varies from individual to individual. Apart, from taking a low-histamine diet you should also try to avoid foods that block DAO.
For this, you have to completely remove foods rich in histamine from your diet fora round three months. Once you see improvement, you can slowly add them to your diet. The food low in histamines are mentioned above you can take a combination of these foods to get the benefit.
People who have deficit DAO can take supplements to increase its production. Increased level of DAO will increase the degradation of histamines fro your body and thus will provide you relief. However, the range of DAO supplements is sparse and it’s a costly option. If you can afford, you should go for it. Don’t go for these supplement until recommended by a doctor. You can’t check your DAO level on your own. The doctor has to perform a test for the same. If your levels are low, supplements would be prescribed for you.
3.Low Protein Diet
Histamine is made from amino acids. Amino acids are derived from proteins, so foods that are high in protein ultimately affect the histamine levels of our body. Moreoff, the histamine levels are further increased when the food is in the gut. Thus, try to cut down your protein intake when suffering from histamine intolerance.
How Does Histamine Break Down?
Histamine, when consumed from food or once formed, is degraded by use of enzymes. There are two important enzymes required for histamine degradation. The first is in the central nervous system, histamine N-methyltransferase (HMT). The second enzyme is in the digestive tract, diamine oxidase (DAO).
Causes of Low DAO
DAO deficiency or low DAO alters the metabolism of histamines. It is located in the intestinal mucosa and works during digestion of the food. With its alteration, there arises a gap between the histamine ingestion and histamine that is released from the body. This gap causes adverse effects on health.
The main cause of it is genetics. Some people genetically have it in low amounts. Apart, from this, there are some medical drugs and medical conditions that may decrease its level. Some of the medical conditions and medical drugs that lead to low DAO level are as follows:
Medical Conditions Causing Low DAO
- Gluten allergy also is known as gluten intolerance
- Leaky gut
- DAO blocking foods like alcohol spicy, energy drinks, and tea
- Genetic mutation
- Inflammation occurring from peptic ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease.
Medications Causing Low DAO
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin
- Antiarrhythmics like Norvasc, Cardizem, and propranolol
- Antihistamine like Allegra
- Immune modulators like Humira, Enbrel, Plaquenil)
- Histamine (H2) blockers like Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac
Histamine intolerance is a short-term condition that can be treated easily through supplements and diet. It’s not a disease but an adverse reaction of our immune system when fighting with foreign invaders. It’s not at all a serious condition. If you face any of the following symptoms, get a checkup done with your doctor. Histamine intolerance should never be self-diagnosed as it has symptoms similar to infections, allergens, or diseases.