Understanding Histamine Intolerance: Symptoms, Causes, and Natural Remedies

During my niece’s recent visit to the doctor, her primary concerns were allergies and mild anxiety. Following allergy testing, it was determined that she has histamine intolerance. The doctor prescribed OTC medication and nose drops to alleviate her symptoms. Although her case is not severe, it has sparked my curiosity to delve deeper into histamine intolerance, including their causes and strategies for managing them through lifestyle modifications and dietary changes. Understanding more about this condition will empower me to provide better support and guidance to my niece as she navigates her allergy journey.

In this article, we will explore what histamine intolerance is, its symptoms, potential causes, and how it can affect the body. I will also delve into natural remedies, including dietary recommendations and the best natural antihistamines to alleviate symptoms.

What is Histamine Intolerance?

Histamine Intolerance (AKA enteral histaminosis or sensitivity to dietary histamine) occurs when the body has difficulty properly metabolizing histamine, a compound naturally produced by the body and found in certain foods. Histamine plays a crucial role in the immune response, regulating stomach acid, and neurotransmitter function. However, in individuals with histaminosis, the body accumulates excess histamine, leading to a variety of symptoms.

Is Histamine Intolerance a type of Allergies?

Histamine intolerance is not the same as allergies, although they can share similar symptoms. Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to specific allergens, such as pollen, pet dander, or certain foods, triggering an immune response and releasing histamine. On the other hand, sensitivity to dietary histamine is a condition in which the body has difficulty breaking down and metabolizing histamine, leading to an accumulation of histamine in the body and causing symptoms similar to allergies. However, histamine intolerance is not an immune response like allergies.

While allergies involve an immune system reaction, histamine intolerance is related to the body’s ability to process histamine. It is important to differentiate between the two because the treatment and management approaches may vary. Allergies often require avoiding specific allergens or taking allergy medications, while histaminosis typically involves reducing histamine levels in the body through dietary modifications and other lifestyle changes. If you suspect you have either condition, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management plan.

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance can manifest in various ways, and symptoms may vary among individuals. Common symptoms include:

  1. Headaches/migraines
  2. Flushing or redness of the skin
  3. Itchy or watery eyes
  4. Runny or congested nose
  5. Digestive issues (nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea)
  6. Fatigue or drowsiness
  7. Skin rashes, eczema or hives
  8. Anxiety or irritability

Causes and Prevalence of Histamine Intolerance

The exact cause of histaminosis is still under investigation, but several factors may contribute to its development. These include a deficiency of diamine oxidase (DAO), an enzyme responsible for breaking down histamine, and an imbalance between histamine production and degradation in the body. Genetic factors and certain medical conditions can also increase the risk of developing histamine intolerance.

While sensitivity to histamine is relatively rare, its prevalence may be underestimated due to its similarity to other conditions and lack of awareness. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis if you suspect histaminosis.

Histamine and Anxiety

Histamine can have an impact on the nervous system and may contribute to feelings of anxiety or irritability in some individuals. However, the relationship between histaminosis and anxiety is complex and varies from person to person. A study conducted by European scientists found a link between anxiety disorder has a higher sensitivity to histamin. Managing histamine levels through dietary and lifestyle changes may help alleviate anxiety symptoms in those with histamine intolerance.

Flushing Histamine with Water

Drinking an adequate amount of water is crucial for overall health and can help flush out excess histamine from the body. Staying hydrated supports kidney function and encourages the elimination of histamine through urine. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day and consider increasing your intake during periods of increased symptoms or exposure to triggers.

The Best Natural Antihistamines

Natural antihistamines can help alleviate symptoms associated with histaminosis. Here are some of the best natural antihistamines:

  1. Quercetin: Found in foods like apples, onions, berries, and leafy greens, quercetin helps stabilize mast cells and reduce histamine release.
  2. Vitamin C: Known for its antioxidant properties, vitamin C acts as a natural antihistamine. Incorporate citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, and bell peppers into your diet.
  3. Bromelain: Found in pineapples, bromelain has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce histamine levels.
  4. Nettle Leaf: Nettle leaf is a natural antihistamine and can be consumed as a tea or in supplement form.

Dietary Recommendations for Histamine Intolerance

Managing histamine intolerance involves following a low-histamine diet and avoiding foods that trigger symptoms. While individual tolerances may vary, here are general dietary guidelines:

Foods to Avoid

  • Fermented foods (sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir)
  • Aged cheeses
  • Smoked or processed meats
  • Shellfish and certain types of fish (tuna, mackerel)
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based products
  • Spinach and eggplant
  • Chocolate and cocoa products
  • Alcohol, particularly red wine and beer

Foods to Enjoy

  • Fresh, unprocessed meats and poultry
  • Fresh fruits (except citrus)
  • Fresh vegetables (except spinach and eggplant)
  • Gluten-free grains (rice, quinoa, millet)
  • Herbal teas
  • Seeds and nuts (except peanuts)
  • Olive oil

Histamine intolerance can significantly impact one’s quality of life, but with proper management and lifestyle adjustments, symptoms can be alleviated. Understanding the condition, identifying triggers, and following a low-histamine diet with natural antihistamines can provide relief and support overall well-being. If you suspect histamine intolerance, consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized guidance to manage your symptoms effectively.