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Histamine Intolerance – Signs and symptoms of histamine intolerance and natural treatment for allergies and skin conditions

Histamine Intolerance – Signs and symptoms of histamine intolerance and natural treatment for allergies and skin conditions

Histamine Intolerance – Signs and symptoms of histamine intolerance and natural treatment for allergies and skin conditions

Histamine intolerance is often a key underlying cause of skin conditions and allergies that affect people in Perth and Australia-wide.  Histamine intolerances are often caused by bacterial overgrowth, SIBO, low methylation, a poor functioning DAO enzyme in the gut, high oxalates, and insufficiency of key nutrients such as B6 that support the clearance of histamine.

Allergies and skin conditions affect many of us, with varying degrees of severity. As the symptoms of histamine intolerance vary so greatly, its existence has been greatly underestimated in the medical community. 1

Many people look for a natural alternative to taking antihistamines with active ingredients fexofenadine hydrochloride, pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, fexofenadine, and cetirizine in medications such as Telfast and Zyrtec. These can all cause unwanted side-effects and may not always be totally effective in eradicating your symptoms. 

A Functional Medicine approach will look for root causes of your histamine intolerance symptoms prescribing natural remedies for allergies and individualised food and lifestyle measures that can intervene to modulate your immune response and decrease symptoms. 

Advanced Functional Medicine, an allergy specialist clinic in Perth treating patients Australia wide, will conduct a number of tests to identify the root cause of your skin conditions and allergies to find the best path to wellness.  

What is histamine intolerance?

Histamine plays a vital role in several of our body’s functions. We need a certain amount to live and function, but too much of it can cause painful symptoms involving the skin, the brain, lungs, heart, and digestive system.

Histamine intolerance is not sensitivity to histamine, but an indication that you’ve developed too much of it and that your body is unable to break it down sufficiently. 

This is due to the reduced activity or presence of an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO), which is mainly responsible for breaking down histamine and other biogenic amines ingested through food. 2

The reactions are diverse and often mimic the symptoms of an allergy. Those who are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all suffer unnecessarily.

Bacterial overgrowth and the histamine bucket

Other key factors that result in histamine intolerance include bacteria overgrowth in the gut and SIBO.  Overgrowths of bacteria produce histamine in your body, of which your body can only process so much at one time.  

There is often referred to having a histamine bucket in your body, if that bucket fills up with histamines and overflows in your body you will experience histamine intolerance symptoms.  If your bucket is already nearly full due to the bacteria in your gut or SIBO creating histamine, then when you eat foods containing higher histamine levels such as processed meats, cheese, fermented veggies or drink wine, you have a histamine reaction. 3

MTHFR and histamine intolerance Perth

Histamine requires methyl groups to be processed and cleared from the body through the HNMT enzyme.  Low levels of methylfolate, B12 and cofactors such as B2 and B6 can result in poor methylation and therefore an sluggish HNMT enzyme.  

Addressing methylation and required vitamin cofactors can be one of the root causes of histamine intolerance.

Symptoms of histamine intolerance Perth

histamine intolerance symptoms
Image source: Dr Jill

Histamine is associated with common allergic responses and symptoms. Many of these are similar to those from histamine intolerance.

Histamine is incredibly powerful. For example, in the case of someone who’s severely allergic to peanuts, the smallest taste can trigger a strong histamine response. When histamine is unleashed, it sends inflammatory signals throughout your body – to your gut, nose, throat, mouth, skin, and lungs. Histamine is the chemical that’s largely responsible for the trademark allergic reaction.

While they may vary, some common reactions associated with this intolerance include:

In the skin:
  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Skin rashes
  • Psoriasis
  • Inflammation or swelling
  • Acne
  • Extreme reaction to insect stings 
  • Itching, especially if you look at the itchy skin and there’s no rash or anything visible there as the cause of itching 
  • Sinus issues (Sneezing, and nasal congestion)
In the head and face:
  • Runny nose and weepy eyes
  • Headaches
  • Hayfever
  • Flushing of the face and/or chest
  • Swelling of eyes, lips and throat 4
Other symptoms include:
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms
  • Bloating, intestinal gas, which can mimic or coincide with SIBO
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abnormal menstrual cycle and cramping
  • Acid reflux
  • Indigestion
  • Accelerated heart rate 
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Low blood pressure
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Tissue swelling
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty regulating body temperature 5

What causes high histamine levels?

Histamine is a chemical responsible for a few major functions:

  • communicates messages to your brain
  • triggers release of stomach acid to help digestion
  • releases after injury or allergic reaction as part of your immune response

When histamine levels get too high or when it can’t break down properly, it can affect your normal bodily functions.

You naturally produce histamine along with the enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO). DAO is responsible for breaking down histamine that you take in from foods.

If you develop a DAO deficiency and are unable to break down histamine, you could develop an intolerance.

Some reasons your DAO enzyme levels could be affected include:
  • Medications that block DAO functions or prevent the production
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin)
  • Antidepressants (Cymbalta, Effexor, Prozac, Zoloft)
  • Immune modulators (Humira, Enbrel, Plaquenil)
  • Antiarrhythmics (propanolol, metaprolol, Cardizem, Norvasc)
  • Antihistamines (Allegra, Zyrtec, Benadryl)
  • Histamine (H2) blockers (Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac)
  • Histamine-rich foods that cause DAO enzymes to function improperly
  • Foods that block DAO enzymes or trigger histamine release

Some people may have an impaired ability to break down histamine due to a genetic polymorphism in the DAO gene. This means that your DAO gene may not effectively breakdown histamine as compared to individuals without the genetic mutation. 

If your DAO gene contains certain mutations (also known as “SNPs”), you may have an increased risk of developing histamine intolerance. Genetic testing can help determine if you have these mutations; however, a mutation in this gene doesn’t guarantee that you will have histamine intolerance. As mentioned previously, methylation is key here in processing and clearing histamine from the body

Hormones and histamine intolerance Perth

Women tend to experience more histamine intolerance than men, which may be related to an imbalance of female sex hormones. Estrogen is also thought to activate histamine release from immune cells. So, if the amount of estrogen produced is much higher than the amount of progesterone—as seen in estrogen dominance—more histamine is released and may lead to worsening symptoms. 6

Gastrointestinal disorders are another contributing factor for developing a histamine intolerance:

Bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and histamine intolerance Perth

Bacteria grows when food isn’t digested properly, causing histamine overproduction. Normal levels of DAO enzymes can’t break down the increased levels of histamine in your body, causing a reaction.  The bacteria overgrowth in the small intestine produce their own histamines causing your levels to be constantly high.

Leaky Gut and histamine intolerance Perth

Since your intestines are where most of the DAO enzyme is produced, your body may produce less DAO when the gut is inflamed or damaged, thus leading to a build-up of histamine. Poor digestion, eating processed foods, and drinking alcohol can all damage your intestinal lining.

High histamine foods

If you’re experiencing strange reactions to certain foods that most would consider healthy, you may be suffering from histamine intolerance.

For anyone experiencing histamine intolerance, strict adherence to a low-histamine diet is necessary for a period of time, particularly while clearing bacterias or addressing other underlying causes such as methylation and nutrient imbalances. After that, higher histamine foods can be trialed back in the diet and higher amounts of histamine may be tolerated depending on the person. 7

A healthy diet contains moderate levels of histamine. However, there are some foods high in histamine that can trigger inflammatory reactions and other negative symptoms.

High histamine foods include:

  • alcohol and other fermented beverages
  • fermented foods and dairy products, such as yogurt and sauerkraut
  • dried fruits
  • avocados
  • eggplant
  • spinach
  • processed or smoked meats
  • shellfish
  • aged cheese

There are also a number of foods that trigger histamine release in the body, known as ‘Histamine Releasing Foods”.

Histamine releasing foods include:

  • alcohol
  • bananas
  • tomatoes
  • wheat germ
  • beans
  • papaya
  • chocolate
  • citrus fruits
  • nuts, specifically walnuts, cashews and peanuts
  • food dyes and other additives

Foods that block DAO production include:

  • alcohol
  • black tea
  • mate tea
  • green tea 
  • energy drinks 8

Curing histamine intolerance Perth

Identifying and treating the major underlying causes of histamine intolerance is crucial to having a long-lasting recovery and being able to again eat a normal amount of foods that contain histamine.  Treating gut dysbiosis, bacterial overgrowth, SIBO, improving methylation, and fixing nutrient imbalances is the key to overcoming histamine reactions.

Certain individuals have less DAO in their gut causing them to always be somewhat intolerant to histamines.   While there is still a question on whether one can fully cure all individuals with histamine intolerance, you can definitely see major improvement when you work on the above measures.

Effectively healing a leaky gut to improve histamine intolerance often requires removing food sensitivities, following a wholesome diet, reducing stress, and supplementing when necessary. 

Probiotic supplementation may be used as many people with histamine intolerance cannot tolerate fermented foods (natural sources of probiotics). Some probiotic strains may be helpful in reducing or breaking down histamine formation in the body. 

Controlling histamine levels with a low histamine diet

It is difficult for research studies to accurately measure the amount of histamine in all foods, so a personalized elimination diet from a functional medicine health practitioner can be very beneficial. 

If you have histamine intolerance, incorporating low-histamine foods into your diet can help reduce symptoms, particularly while the underlying causes are being addressed. There’s no such thing as a histamine-free diet. 

Low-histamine foods

  • fresh meat and freshly caught fish
  • non-citrus fruits
  • eggs
  • gluten-free grains, such as quinoa and rice
  • dairy substitutes, such as coconut milk and almond milk
  • fresh vegetables except for tomatoes, avocados, spinach, and eggplant
  • cooking oils, such as olive oil
low histamine food

Natural antihistamines

  • Ginger is a histamine blocker or antihistamine but is also great for the immune system. Shave off a small piece of ginger and put it in a mug. Pour hot water over it and steep for 3-5 minutes. Then drink and enjoy it.
  • Thyme is a herb with very high levels of vitamin C along with a variety of other anti-inflammatory compounds, which work together to help block histamine and also prevents the release of histamine from mast cells. Use it liberally in food during cooking or prepare a tea with it.
  • Watercress is a very potent antihistamine and can easily be used in salads or sautéed in coconut oil and garlic, which can also decrease the release of histamine from mast cells.
  • Capers have one of the highest levels of quercetin available in nature. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant that can accomplish both jobs: stabilizes mast cells and acts as an antihistamine. Fresh capers are best but even those preserved in salt are a great option.
  • Turmeric is a spice that can prevent the release of histamine from mast cells and can even inhibit anaphylactic reactions. It can be used in cooking or can be made into tea. 

Advanced Functional Medicine and histamine intolerance Perth treatment

People with histamine intolerance deal with a barrage of unexplained symptoms, often affecting digestion, that doesn’t make much sense to them and their health care providers but continues to make life pretty difficult. 9

At Advanced Functional Medicine, we recommend thorough testing to understand your underlying causes of histamine intolerance and healing the gut with diet, personalized testing, and using a targeted treatment program to clear your symptoms. 

allergy test perth

If you are looking to understand why you are having allergy reactions, skin issues, or continually need hayfever medication get in touch with us via the form below or book an appointment today.

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Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper - ND is the founder of Advanced Functional Medicine Australia. He is a Naturopathic Doctor with extensive functional medicine training from leading practitioners in the USA and worldwide.

He is leading the way with advancements of functional medicine, clinically implementing worldwide best practices in Functional Medicine throughout Australia.

Jarrod consults in person from Perth, Western Australia and also online via Telehealth throughout Australia and worldwide.

If you are looking for personalised treatment, we highly recommend contacting Jarrod Cooper’s Advanced Functional Medicine clinic in Australia.

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  1. […] the system isn’t overstressed. However, if your body becomes overstressed from gut inflammation, food allergies, physical exhaustion, too much exercise, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, chronic infections, and […]

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