It seems ever increasing that I have patients coming into my office complaining of hive-like reactions to something they ate or drank. What is going on here? Most commonly this is due to having histamine intolerance.
What is histamine?
Histamine is a molecule derived from the amino acid histidine, which is created from glutamic acid, carnosine, and possibly biotin. It is found in the digestive tract and the brain.
Histamine can cause the classic reaction of itchy skin to more serious reactions such as anaphylaxis. It has a variety of roles including:
* Modulating glutamate NMDA receptors
* Being a part of arousal and anxiety
* Activating the sympathetic nervous system
* Causing the release of stress-related hormones from the pituitary gland
* Supporting digestion and moving bowels
* Enhancing exercise
Each of these areas can then enhanced or suppressed if you have too much or too little histamine. So a balance of histamine levels is what we want to achieve.
Histamine + Mood
Histamine is utilized in the brain, which can result in change of mood. The mechanism as to how this affects mood isn’t 100% known. A correlation has been found between the amounts of histamine in the brain and the state of mood. For example, it is thought that low levels of histamine is associated with depression while high levels is associated with mania.
To balance histamine in the brain, we want to ensure we are consuming enough of the amino acid histadine and that our body has the ability to successfully break down and remove histamine.
How is histamine broken down?
As with any biochemical pathway, there are numerous agents involved. For histamine, there are three pathways, along with many enzymes and cofactors.
The three main genes paramount to processing histamine are HNMT, DAO, and MAO.
If any one of these genes is compromised, the removal of histamine is decreased and symptoms of histamine intolerance occur.
The key cofactors needed to support these genes are SAMe, vitamins B2, B5, and B6, copper, and iron.
Other reasons histamine may be accumulating
* An excess of histadine
* Taking too many methyl donors such as methylfolate and methylcobalamine with compromised MAO genes. Increased methylation increases the production of methylated histamine which in turn can cause an overabundance or trapping of methylhistamine.
* Other genetic polymorphisims: MTHFR, PEMT
* Gut bugs – some produce histamine and some block methylation
* Deficiency in the cofactors mentioned above
* Long term use of antibiotics, antacids, and even antihistamines
* Lifestyle factors such as stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and excessive alcohol consumption
* Hormonal imbalance such as excess estrogen
* Dietary – an abundance of fermented foods, aged foods, leftovers, citrus, fish, and high protein intake
* Enviromental burden
* Compromised digestive health: IBS, IBD, leaky gut, SIBO
Overview of all the roles histamine plays in our body
I love this photo as it does such an excellent job illustrating the complexity that histamine plays in our body.
What are ways to help overcome newly acquired reactions to foods?
* Increasing DAO enzyme
* Reducing histamine-rich foods
* Choosing the right probiotics
* Supporting digestive health
* Addressing dysbiosis
* Looking at lifestyle factors
Dr. Ben Lynch ND with Seeking Health
Dr. Paul Anderson, ND
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