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Histamine Intolerance: Could This Be Another Reason Why You Are Sick? 

Histamine intolerance is often accompanied by unexplained symptoms such as an itchy tongue and runny nose while eating certain foods such as bananas, avocados, or eggplant.  Sometimes patients experience a flushed face when drinking red wine, unpredictable menstrual cycles, or unusual headaches & anxiety. Any of these symptoms could be linked to histamine intolerance.
Histamine is a chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter, sending information between your body and your brain.  It is also a key player in the immune system, central nervous system, as well as your digestive tract.  Histamine is found in your stomach acid so it has a role in breaking down food as well.
However, histamine is most commonly thought of in relation to the immune system and seasonal and/or food allergies.  Histamine causes a sudden and rapid inflammatory response, setting off an alarm within the immune system that invaders are present.  As a result, white blood cells are called upon to swiftly identify and eliminate the foreign bodies.  It is the quick flood and build-up of histamine that can cause symptoms such as headache, itchiness, flushed face, and overall feeling inflamed and uncomfortable.
Histamine works through your bloodstream so high levels that aren’t broken down can potentially harm not only your gut but your lungs, brain, skin, and cardiovascular system. It is for this reason that symptoms can vary from person to person.

Symptoms Commonly Experienced with Histamine Intolerance/MCAS:

  1. Light sleeping and difficulty going to sleep
  2. Hypertension
  3. Dizziness or vertigo
  4. Migraines and/or chronic headaches
  5. Cramps
  6. Hives and/or flushing
  7. Anxiety
  8. Fatigue
  9. Irregular or quickened heart rate
  10. Sinus discomfort including congestion, sneezing,
  11. Asthma- Wheezing, labored breathing
  12. Nausea, vomiting

Histamine and Eczema

In addition to the symptoms listed above, excess histamine can make some existing conditions worse. Eczema is an example. Eczema is an inflammatory condition in the skin, sometimes called atopic (allergic) dermatitis. When high histamine foods are consumed, people with less than efficient histamine tolerance may experience an increase in the severity of their eczema.

Histamine and SIBO

SIBO is an intestinal motility disorder that leads to an overgrowth of good or bad bacteria in the small intestine, where few bacteria belong.  There are many causes of SIBO however diets high in sugar and refined carbs, antibiotics or other medications that disrupt your delicate microbiome, or physical obstructions in the gut such as scarring from surgeries or Crohn’s disease. You can learn more about SIBO here or more about the connection between Histamine and SIBO here.

Food sensitivities to foods high in histamine, almost always indicate there is something going on in your gut. You can learn more about the Histamine Intolerance Gut Health connection Here.

Histamine and Estrogen

The complexity of histamine intolerance extends to the interaction between histamine, estrogen, and progesterone in the female body. Mast cells are a key factor underlying these interactions, with the presence of both estrogen and progesterone receptors on mast cells. The binding of estrogen to mast cell receptors stimulates the expression of H2 and H3 receptors and induces rapid histamine degranulation, synthesis, and release. Estrogen can also influence endogenous histamine levels by down-regulating DAO activity. This ultimately leads to high histamine levels in the body.

Histamine and The Brain

Having excess histamine goes way above and beyond your typical allergy symptoms. Excessive histamine can also wreak havoc on the brain. Histamine has been shown to play a pivotal role in many psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety. Because histamine plays a role in the wakefulness of the brain, too much histamine can overstimulate the brain leading to anxiety and insomnia as well as restlessness.  Any unbalance in the chemical makeup of your brain is bound to cause unwanted effects. These side effects can vary drastically from person to person depending on what Histamine receptor (H1, H2, H3, H4)  is stimulated.  Brain fog, fatigue, and anxiety are all too common for people who suffer from MCAS and histamine intolerance.


Histamine Stress, Panic attacks, and Heart Palpitations

Histamine receptors are found throughout the body and as a result, histamine intolerance affects each of us in different ways. The symptoms that present themselves vary based on which of the four histamine receptors are being activated (H1, 2, 3, 4), and where. 

In the heart, histamine functions as a vasodilator, meaning that it widens our blood vessels, and therefore there is less resistance to blood pumping through the body which causes a drop in blood pressure.

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The combination of rapid heart rate and change in blood pressure can cause feelings of high anxiety, especially when they bring with them a pounding heart, shortness of breath, “flushing”, a rise in body temperature, dizziness, and/or redness in the face. Some people might feel that they are having a panic attack, when in reality the problem is excess histamine.

Inflammation in the brain caused by excess histamine has also been linked to anxiety as well as vertigo, vomiting, nausea and headaches. While the causes of histamine intolerance vary (and therefore so does the solution), a low-histamine diet is often a great place to start.

Microorganisms in the Gut (Gut Dysbiosis)

There are a large number of microorganisms that are capable of producing histamine. Many of the bacteria that live in the human large bowel produce histidine decarboxylase and are capable of converting the histidine in any protein that enters the bowel into histamine. Therefore, the more microorganisms that produce histidine decarboxylase that are present in the colon, and the greater the amount of protein material that enters the bowel, the higher the level of histamine in the digestive tract. From here, histamine can be conveyed through the bowel wall to various sites in the body- where they then cause a variety of symptoms.

Causes of Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance is caused by the body’s decreased ability to break down histamine. The next question we should be asking is,  “what would interfere with the bodies ability to do this?” Over loaded histamine levels are brought on by a number of factors.
  1. Gut Dysbiosis
  2. Small Intestinal Bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  3. leaky gut syndrome 
  4. Food Allergies IgE
  5. GI bleeding/Inflammation (Ulcers, Crohn’s)
  6. Histamine Rich foods (see list below)
  7. Food sensitivities
  8. Genetic mutations or SNP’s- can prevent the breakdown of histamine as well.
  9. Mold Allergies
  10. Mold Biotoxins (CIRS)
  11. Stress, High Cortisol Levels (Adrenal Gland Dys-regulation)
  12. Estrogen Dominance, Low Testosterone 
  13. Medications: can induce a vitamin deficiency that blocks the functioning of the DAO and HNMT gene. (You can read more about this below)

Nutritional deficiencies include Iron, Copper, Riboflavin (B2), B12, B6, SAMe, and vitamin C.  Deficiency in these vitamins can block the functioning of the DAO or HNMT enzyme.

Because the body already produces histamine naturally, histamine levels can quickly rise when the diet includes foods that are high in histamine, which causes the release of more histamine, and enzyme-blocking foods that inhibit the breakdown of histamine.
This is where my Histamine Intolerance Support Pack can help start the healing process. Learn why I chose each of these supplements.
Histamine Support_Pack_DrHagmeyer

Foods High in Histamine:

  1. Processed meats such as deli meat, hot dogs, bratwurst, pepperoni, salami, bacon
  2. Vinegar-rich foods such as pickles, olives, mayonnaise, relishes, dressings, ketchup
  3. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, soy sauce, kombucha, kefir, and pickled vegetables- Yes you read that correctly- The very foods you might be eating because of the gut-healing properties may be making you worse.
  4. Soured food such as sour cream, sourdough, buttermilk
  5. Dried fruit such as raisins, apricots, cranberries, dates
  6. Citrus fruits
  7. Aged cheese
  8. Raw and roasted nuts: peanuts, cashews, walnuts

Learn more about which foods are High in Histamine and should be avoided

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Foods that release Histamine: (Histamine Liberators)

  1. Fruits:
    • banana
    • papaya
    • pineapple,
    • strawberries
  2. Tomato
  3. Shellfish
  4. Wheat germ
  5. Cow’s milk
  6. Alcohol
  7. Chocolate
  8. Nuts
  9. Several dyes and preservatives
  10. foods that is reheated.

Learn more about Proteins, Preservatives and vegetables that are high in Histamine-

How to Break down Histamine

Enzymes in the central nervous system and digestive tract are responsible for breaking down histamine. The HMT enzyme supports break down in the central nervous system while diamine oxidase (DAO) plays a primary role within the digestive tract.  Because DAO is most responsible for breaking down histamine, any deficiency in DAO or the vitamins that active the enzyme need attention.
Order HistDAO here or our more Comprehensive Histamine Intolerance Support Pack 

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DAO deficiency can be caused by:

  1. Medications
  2. Inflammation caused by autoimmune disease such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, IBS.
  3. Foods that inhibit histamine break down by blocking the DAO enzyme.  Some of these foods include: alcohol, energy drinks, black tea, green tea, and mate tea
  4. SIBO
  5. Leaky Gut
  6. NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin)
  7. Immune modulators (Enbrel, Humira,Plaquenil) (Meds that are often prescribed for patients with Eczema and Psoriasis)
  8. Antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft, etc.)
  9. Antihistamines (allegra, Zyrtec, Benadryl)
  10. Histamine (H2) blockers (Pepcid, Zantac,Tagmet)
  11. Antiarrhythmics (propanolol, metaprolol, Cardizem, Norvasc)

**While it may seem that a histamine blocker would be beneficial, this type of medication ultimately drains the body’s DAO enzyme stores-ultimately leading to more histamine buildup.

Treating Histamine Intolerance

Identifying individual food sensitivities,Food Allergies, Eliminating all foods high in histamine for 4-6 weeks or longer depending on circumstances, is the best place to start.  It’s also important to uncover why the intolerance is present in the first place; this is where functional medicine can truly make a difference.  Perhaps the underlying cause is gut dysbiosis, SIBO, gluten intolerance, Hormones (Estrogen/Thyroid) Mold allergies, Mold Bio-toxins (CIRS), leaky gut, or a course of medication you’ve been taking.
Addressing the root cause of histamine intolerance, shifting the diet, improving gut microbiome, and replenishing DAO levels naturally help get the body back on track.
At, we strive to fully understand the needs and concerns of our patients and we will work closely with you to ensure your good health is restored. To help ensure your health is improved, we offer extensive testing and customized treatment programs as well as an overriding dedication to helping you get better.
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