You wake up repeatedly through the night: you’ve allergies out the wah-hoo, your skin is inflamed, you have itchy spots that drive you mad you can’t even mention, your uterus is irritable and your nervous system feels like it has been flayed with stinging nettles. It’s official, you’re what’s technically referred to as a histamine mess. Fortunately for you, there is still hope. How can we balance out histamines for a healthy life?
The problem with the allergy and food sensitivity model is that it doesn’t look below the surface. The great thing about the Histamine-intolerance model is that it doesn’t matter if you’re sensitive to peanuts, pollen or constructive feedback – the underlying mechanism is the same.
What are Histamines?
The thing about Histamine is that it’s involved in just about everything from the sleep-wake cycle to sexual arousal. To exercise is to produce histamine, to eat is to histamine, to work, to sweat, to fast, to be sick, to be stressed or to orgasm. Histamine has its biochemical little fingers in all of your most intimate little biological pies.
I say this from the outset because where most people go wrong is that they think histamine is the bad-guy. Hollywood trained you all wrong, I’m sorry. There are never any true bad guys if you look deeply enough – just the tragedy of the human condition…
The problem isn’t the histamine itself as histamine is simply a biochemical wheelbarrow that your body uses to do all sorts of useful things like maintain consciousness. If you don’t believe me then try having a few anti-histamines before going for a long drive. (No Johnny he was just trying to be funny, don’t try doing that – ever!)
The problem occurs when you produce histamine faster than you can clear it – which places the emphasis on your liver (once again) which is central to the histamine clearance cycle. When you can’t clear histamine as fast as you make it you have the constellation of symptoms I alluded to previously which can also include things like tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) nausea, asthma and chronic pain.
Because histamine is involved in your body’s alarm response (think insect bites and poison ivy) then it can also lead to panic attacks, impatience, anxiety and learning disorders.
In some tragic individuals the already anti-social combination of psychological histamine intolerance symptoms takes place against a back-drop of INCREASED libido, which is surely evidence of the absence of a benevolent creator being.
“Ok, got it Jimi – quit trying to be clever and tell us something useful.”
Eliminating triggers in food
Well the first step can indeed be limiting some foods that definitely won’t help:
- All dairy – but especially fermented dairy
- Processed meats, aged foods and leftovers
- Peanuts . (this list gets worse I promise you)
- All fermented foods, yeasts and vinegars,
- soy, fish & tomato sauces.
- Caffeine & Cacao. (I warned you)
- Spices in general (including curcumin)
“You said ‘some foods’ damn you!”
- Berries, Nightshades & Dried fruits
- Sulphites and preservatives in general
- Paracetamol, aspirin, NSAIDs, Antacids and anti-histamines
After this, at a physiological level it’s generally about liver care and gut repair. This is because the gut is rich in the inflammatory Mast Cells that release histamine, but it also balances TH1 Vs TH2 immune responses and TH2 activates Mast Cells (as do Lectins).
The frustrating thing for these folk is that some probiotics (L Casei) and other gut-repair foods like collagen, gelatin and a protein high GAPS or Paleo-style diet all INCREASE histamine (and glutamate).
From a Traditional-Medical perspective the Choleric-Pitta / wood type is the most susceptible to this pattern as many TCM or Ayurvedic practitioners will have already noted – but other constitutions can find themselves here too. There’s actually also a neat little dovetail between the psychological picture of the under-methylated and that of the over-histamined and vice-versa.
Calming the body and brain
Quercetain is the nutraceutical that is generally recommended on most blogs, but the magic-bullet approach almost never works in such cases. It’s about learning your body-mind, managing your stress/ activity levels and cycling off the foods, drugs and activities that deplete your histamine-clearing enzymes. Stabilizing the mast cells is a must, as is calming the brain by boosting GABA.
Although the vast majority of herbs will make sensitive histamine prone folk worse, I do make a series of Herbal Anti-Histamine products that I’ve found helpful over the years …but no, the answer doesn’t come in a pill.
The thing to remember is that histamine is a stimulating but natural part of your biochemistry that you evolved to cope with just fine. If you’re feeling over-stimulated to the point of being anxious, irritated and inflamed then now is a really good time to start asking Why? As my clients all get reminded on their confirmation text when they book in:
“You have lived and chosen and eaten and worked your way into this situation, now you are going to have to live and choose and eat and work your way out of it”.
With heartfelt love, deep compassion and a splash of B-grade humor to the itchy and inflamed out there.
This article is reprinted from the author’s page and is used with permission.
Over the last 22 years of clinic practice I have had the opportunity to research and practice some of the most respected traditional medical systems; these include the Chinese, Tibetan, Indian and Persian traditions. I have also been fortunate enough to work in a series of community health and international aid initiatives. https://www.doctorjimi.com
Mike G says
This is an excellent article. It’s helped make me aware of the role of histamines in the body and their function and control. It’s the implementation of the recommendations (the work part) that is difficult. Where can I get professional help?
Great article and I appreciate the links to the added resources (and humor 😉 I am new on the this histamine journey and trying to learn as much as possible to help combat my newfound histamine issues (thanks 2020!) and so far most everything I have tried outside of taking fairly strong doses of anti-histamines has not seemed to help much. the research and self experimentation continues…