Probably the most common “scenario” that more and more people are experiencing is allergies to various environmental factors (animal hair, pollen, dust, etc.) or various foods (gluten, dairy, corn, eggs, etc.) The symptoms are characterized by a massive release of histamine: runny nose, itching, itching of the eyes, sneezing, congestion, etc. But histamine is not just present in these situations. You were probably stung by a bee or mosquito and noticed the inflammation developing. This is mediated by histamine. Or you had a migraine after drinking more red wine and eating fermented cheese. And this has to do with histamine in the body. What exactly is going on?
What Is Histamine?
Histamine is a chemical messenger involved in the immune system’s response to inflammatory reactions. It is like an alarm signal, which notifies the body that there are potential attackers. Histamine causes blood vessel dilation, so that leukocytes can find and attack quickly the infection or problem. But it also has a central role in digestion, allergies, food intolerances, and in the functioning of the brain, acting as a neurotransmitter. It is produced by immune cells called basophils and eosinophils, but also mast cells, all of which are involved in allergic reactions, among others. Histamine is produced by certain species of bacteria found in the intestines. No wonder that all the digestive disorders that occurred in the modern era often have histamine intolerance as culprit! However, histamine itself is not the problem, but the inability of the body to determine its proper functioning.
The term “intolerance” is controversial and is not accepted by the entire medical community; many will say that this condition does not even exist. However, there is a lot of research in the field and specialized literature, which confirms the phenomenon.
Because it circulates throughout the bloodstream, histamine can affect the intestines, lungs, skin, brain and the entire cardiovascular system, contributing to a wide range of symptoms and conditions, which will be difficult to diagnose.
Symptoms that appear as a result of histamine intolerance are: digestive problems (diarrhea, stomach pain, cramps, flatulence), skin problems (eczema, hives), respiratory problems, migraines, nausea, tachycardia, rhinitis, red face, deep sweating, strong inflammation in mosquito bites, runny nose, nasal bleeding, asthma, insomnia.
If you suffer from such symptoms or occasionally have allergic reactions that are not necessarily associated with a particular triggering factor, then you may suspect histamine intolerance.
The body does not have the ability to degrade histamine with the two enzymes, Histamine N-methyl transferase and diaminoxidase (DAO), for the following reasons:
- mutations in the DAO gene that needs vitamin B6 and copper as cofactors, is polymorphic and reduces extracellular histamine (both from bacterial and dietary sources)
- mutations in the MTHFR gene that contribute to the regulation of methylation, necessary to reduce intracellular histamine.
- mutations in the HNMT gene that require SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine) as a cofactor, and this requires a properly functional MTHFR enzyme to produce SAMe. It is polymorphic and reduces intracellular histamine.
- mutations in the MAO gene that require vitamin B2 as a cofactor, is polymorphic and reduces tyramine, histamine and catecholamines (stress neurotransmitters).
* Note: Histamine n-methyl transferase requires methylation to function properly. Methylation is a key, vital cellular activity that contributes to detoxification, controls inflammation and balances neurotransmitters. Methylation disorders / defects can result in emotional and mood disorders, as well as multiple imbalances of the liver, pancreas, stomach, intestines, adrenal and thyroid gland.
All these genetic defects are quite common and can be easily determined with the help of a salivary genetic analysis. However, the correct interpretation of these analyzes is of particular importance.
Deficiency of diaminoxidase enzyme (DAO) can also be caused by existing conditions (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, food allergies, gluten intolerance, SIBO -Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, kidney failure, hepatitis, etc.).
Use of Medication.
A reduced level of the DAO enzyme can also be determined by the action of some drugs (cephalosporins, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, mucolytics, some general anesthetics, antidepressants, immuno-modulators, antiarrhythmics, antihistamines, H2 blockers).
Although the last two actually play a role in blocking excess histamine, they can further reduce the level of DAO in the body! Another proof that drugs do not cure, but only suppress symptoms.
Histamine overproduction can be caused by intestinal dysbiosis, because certain types of bacteria produce histamine and other types degrade it. Therefore, if there is an imbalance between these bacteria, histamine overproduction can be generated.
Foods Rich in Histamine.
People prone to intolerance should avoid a number of foods rich in histamine. In general, fermented foods, due to bacteria produced during fermentation, are the most common foods that cause negative reactions. Below is a more complete list of the most common foods to avoid:
- fermented alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, champagne)
- fermented foods: pickles, vinegar, soy sauce, fermented dairy products, etc.
- smoked meats
- dried fruits: apricots, plums, figs, kale, raisins
- citrus fruits and berries
- nuts and nuts (especially cashews, nuts and peanuts)
- avocado, eggplant, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms
- smoked fish and certain fish species: tuna, anchovies, sardines
But these restrictions do not have to be essential in life. Once you have balanced your gut flora and worked on the deeper causes of intolerance such as methylation, these foods can be reintroduced. Of course there is no guarantee that all people will be able to tolerate absolutely everything again; it depends on the tolerance threshold of each person. Even a healthy person can exceed her histamine tolerance threshold. Think for example of a “histamine bomb” like classic fast food pizza or even a combination of smoked fish, avocados, mushrooms, nuts, cheese and wine at one meal… For many people these foods won’t trigger any negative reaction, but for other people predisposed it can be a tragedy.
How Do You Find Out If You Have Histamine Intolerance and What Can You Do To Solve the Problem?
By analyzing blood markers diaminoxidase (DAO) and histamine, you can determine if you have a problem with histamine production and / or degradation in the body. Most of the times, in standard analyzes, only DAO is tested, but both markers are important to find out what really happens in the body.
For example, if DAO is at a normal level but histamine is high, it means that you do not have a problem with histamine degradation, but with its overproduction, perhaps due to intestinal dysbiosis. So solving the cause – the digestive problem – will most likely be the solution in this situation. Natural antihistamines that can be consumed are quercetin, bromelain and pycnogenol. As the beneficial bacteria in fermented lactates (Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, Lactobacillus bulgaricus) produce histamine, and are therefore contraindicated, a number of lactobacilli can, however, help in the degradation of histamine: Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacterium infantis.
Otherwise, if the DAO level is low and the histamine level is normal, then this pattern reflects a genetic or other problem. The supplement containing this enzyme can be taken but most of the time the negative symptoms will be remedied.
There are of course other markers that can provide a clearer view and confirmation regarding histamine activity and DAO in the body, including: homocysteine, genetic analysis (see above), total IgE, IgG, IgM, IgA, markers thyroid, etc. For example, from empirical clinical observations it has been determined that an increased basophil level of 1% or greater, over a longer period, may correspond to a histamine value of 60 or greater. A percentage of 2% or more of basophils, as a rule, correlates with a histamine value greater than 150.