Histamine Intolerance 101

Dandelion histamine

Histamine intolerance is often found in chronic health complaints that have a mystery component. It can be a complex condition, and historically doctors have been unfamiliar with it. That has been changing over the last several years as many people are having challenges with histamine and mast cell activation syndrome (especially with the prevalence after Covid-19 infection!), but many people are still in the dark about histamine.

What is histamine?

Histamine is a vital chemical that is part of our immune system, and most famous for its role in an allergic response. Commonly histamine plays defense in the immune system, and it’s job is to respond to allergens to tell the body to get rid of it! Histamine is also responsible for telling the stomach to produce stomach acid and communicating messages to the brain. Histamine Intolerance occurs when the body has a build-up of histamine, typically due to producing too much, not breaking it down, or both. The more histamine the body has, the more intolerance the body becomes to it!

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance

  • Allergies
  • Chronic nasal and/or sinus congestion
  • Hives
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual pain
  • Anxiety, depression, and/or PMDD
  • Insomnia
  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Difficulty regulating body temperature
  • Motion sickness
  • Blood pressure changes

It’s worth talking to a healthcare provider if you have two or more symptoms on the list.

Possible Causes…

Histamine intolerance isn’t caused by just one thing. It usually has genetic, environmental, and lifestyle components. The main enzyme that breaks histamine down is called DAO, and certain medications and digestive disorders can reduce enzyme levels. Other potential causes include:

  • Overgrowth of gut bacteria (dysbiosis), SIBO, and leaky gut
  • Estrogen-driven hormone conditions like endometriosis, PMS, and dysmenorrhea
  • Chronic mold exposure
  • Exposure to high levels of dust and pollen
  • Chronic high alcohol consumption
  • High stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue and burnout disorders
  • Nutrient deficiencies & more

How is histamine intolerance diagnosed?

Histamine intolerance is often missed because it’s a cluster of signs and symptoms that tend to ebb and flow over time, and symptoms often are random and mimic allergic reactions. The body’s ability to tolerate histamine will be different based on stress, hormones, diet, sleep, and other factors and so symptoms tend to correlate with how full the so-called ‘histamine bucket’ is on a given day. There is no proven test for histamine intolerance. A skilled clinician who is familiar with the condition can help to identify the underlying cause(s) and create a plan for relief!

Treating Histamine Intolerance

Treatment focuses on 1) identifying contributing underlying factors (this is most important!), 2) managing stress levels, and 3) using a low-histamine diet (ideally for the short term) to help with symptom relief.

Other treatments can include certain medications, supplements to help the body reduce histamine, environmental changes, and more!

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