The role of histamine
Histamine is a chemical that's produced in the body as part of our natural immune response.
When our immune system is triggered by a food intolerance or an allergen in the environment, histamine is released from mast cells and travels through the blood stream.
Most of us are familiar with histamine triggering sneezing, coughing, watery eyes and itchiness when we come into contact with pollens or animals. The immune response is to try to expel the allergen from our respiratory system.
Histamine plays other roles in the body. It is a neurotransmitter and also has a role in healthy digestive function.
What is histamine intolerance?
Histamine intolerance occurs when there is a build up of histamines in the blood stream and the body is no longer able to break it all down.
High histamine levels are often the result of diet choices, high levels of stress, imbalances in gut bacteria, enzyme deficiencies or high estrogen levels.
Unfortunately the foods that cause problems are those that are healthy or delicious.
Common foods containing or triggering histamine:
aged foods eg. aged cheeses and leftovers
fermented foods eg. wine, miso and kombucha
ripe foods eg avocado and banana
products made from tomatoes
some fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds
Common symptoms that may be caused by histamine:
Nasal congestion, sinus congestion, sneezing, runny nose, difficulty breathing
Abdominal pain after eating, reflux, gluten sensitivity, bowel changes
Brain fog, sleepiness, insomnia, anxiety, depression, dizziness, vertigo, irritability
Menstrual changes, fluid retention, PMS with mood changes, migraines with a period
Heart palpitations, hypertension, racing heart, arrhythmia's, joint pain
It is important to understand that all of these symptoms could be caused by something other than histamine intolerance.
However if you regularly experience several of these symptoms, then I would suspect you have a histamine intolerance and we can treat it.
Treating histamine intolerance
The best test for histamine intolerance is an elimination diet to remove high histamine foods and foods that trigger histamine from 1 to 4 weeks.
It is usually possible to notice an improvement after only one week if histamine intolerance is present. If symptoms improve, then these foods should be avoided for a longer period before careful reintroduction.
I additionally encourage stress management and treating menstrual problems if they are also part of the health picture.
It is not unusual to develop histamine intolerance during peri-menopause, when estrogen and progesterone levels are fluctuating.