This blog discusses histamine and what it has to do with your chronic symptoms and which supplements including probiotics that might be helpful.
First a quick overview of histamine. Histamine is a protein involved in your immune system, gut regulation and as a neurotransmitter in the brain, spinal cord, and uterus. Histamines help regulate wakefulness and sleep. Histamine triggers the release of stomach acid to aid in digestion. Some people find a marked reduction in acid reflux and/or GERD after getting their histamine better balanced.
Histamine is also key to the inflammatory response and increases capillary permeability so white cells can more readily engage pathogens in affected tissue. You have no doubt heard about anti-histamines that are routinely used in the treatment of allergy symptoms and because they work on the sleep/wake cycles drowsiness is a common effect of that type of therapy.
The body has to keep a balance of histamine production and histamine breakdown and if breakdown is a bit slow you can develop what is called histamine intolerance. You probably wouldn’t have real histamine intolerance but just an excess of histamine. For this article, we will continue to talk about intolerance to be consistent with what everyone is calling it even though that isn’t technically correct in my humble opinion.
Symptoms of histamine intolerance can include: headaches, nasal congestion, fatigue, hives, digestive issues, irregular menstrual cycle, nausea, vomiting. More severe cases might have: abdominal cramping, tissue swelling, high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, anxiety, body temperature regulation issues, dizziness.
These are fairly common complaints so it is good to know something about histamine and how to control it.
Food and Diet
Histamine is broken down via the enzyme DAO or diamine oxidase. You might have DAO problems from certain medications that block or prevent production of DAO, GI disorders such as leaky gut syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, histamine rich foods that reduce DAO effectiveness, foods that block DAO enzymes or trigger histamine release.
Foods that are high in histamine include:
- Alcohol and other fermented beverages
- Fermented foods and dairy products like yogurt and kifer
- Dried fruit
- Processed and smoked meats
- Aged cheese
Foods that trigger a histamine release include:
- Wheat germ
- Citrus fruits
- Food dyes
Foods that tend to interfere with DAO include:
- Black tea
- Mate tea
- Green tea
- Energy drinks
For histamine problems, alcohol achieves the triple whammy being high in histamine, increasing the release of histamine and interfering with histamine breakdown.
Foods that tend to be low in histamine include:
- Fresh meat and fish
- Non-citrus fruits
- Gluten-free grains like quinoa and rice
- Dairy substitutes like coconut milk and almond milk
- Fresh vegetables (except tomatoes, avocados, spinach, and eggplant)
- Cooking oils such as olive oil
Most people will probably self-diagnose their histamine problem. The level of expertise for such methods will depend on how well you understand your body and how good an observer you might be.
One way to check on your histamine reaction would be to go on an elimination diet for two to three weeks. You would remove any high histamine foods or high histamine trigger foods for that time and slowly reintroduce them into your diet to see what reaction you might notice. You will not find a histamine-free diet but eliminating these major offending foods can make a dramatic difference for those with excess histamine.
When you try your histamine elimination diet, don’t forget the supplements. We will talk about probiotics in a bit but first, which supplements are most likely to help you control histamine?
- Vitamin C has been shown in numerous studies to help manage histamine intolerance. Supplementation is recommended because high vitamin C fruits like oranges are restricted on a histamine elimination diet.
- Quercitin can help block histamine release from mast cells.
- Bromelain is from the stems of pineapple plants. Sorry, but eating pineapple fruit won’t help with your bromelain levels. You will need the supplement made from the stems. Bromelain has been shown in studies to reduce symptoms of histamine intolerance.
- Stinging Nettles also has been shown in studies to reduce histamine intolerance symptoms. One double-blind study of 69 patients with allergic rhinitis rated it more effective than placebo in reducing these irritating symptoms.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) can likewise inhibit histamine release from mast cells. NAC is often used as an assistant for maximizing the effects of other supplements for reducing histamine release. NuMedica supplements offer antioxidant support by acting as a scavenger for reactive oxygen species (ROS).
- Probiotics are a bit complex with respect to histamines. Probiotics can also be an important component of your histamine control and elimination diet diagnosis.
Strains that tend to raise histamine include:
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus case
- S. thermophilus
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii
- Bacillus Coagulans SL5 (not MTCC 5856)
Probiotic strains that lower histamine include:
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Lactobacillus gasseri
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Lactobacillus salivarius
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum
Lactobacillus reuteri seems to raise histamine levels but also increases cAMP that helps reduce inflammation so L reuteri can probably be safely used by histamine intolerant people.
Some strains are histamine neutral and include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus Lactis
- Lactococcus Lactis
To save you some time hunting for an appropriate probiotic, Floragenix by Bettergenix has a good histamine control complement of bacteria and should be well tolerated.
We are checking into some other supplements like Neurobiolix GI Hist Support, DaVinci Aller-DMG, Thorne Quercenase and others. I wouldn’t expect any of these to work without making some dietary modifications as suggested above but some will find some supplement support to give them that extra bit of relief.
It will take some time to get this dialed in but if histamine is part of your problem, you will find this to be a worthwhile approach.