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What Is Histamine Intolerance?
Histamine is a chemical that the body makes on its own. We can also eat foods that are rich in histamine.
Within the body, histamine plays an important role in inflammation, making the walls of blood vessels leaky.
Allergies—sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, and nasal congestion—are classics signs of histamine at work.
Histamine also acts a neurotransmitter, helping to regulate sleep. Histamine communicates with the gut, telling your stomach to produce more stomach acid.
Sandy, a reader of the Body Ecology Newsletter asks:
“I recently discovered that I cannot tolerate fermented foods due to histamine reactions. If it is so important for digestion, is there another way that I can get the same benefit of fermented foods?”
The Body Ecology Principle of Uniqueness tells us that your body is always changing—according to the seasons, where you live, your age, and your mood. What works for a friend or family member may not work for you.
Histamine plays an important role in inflammation in the body, related to allergies, and it also regulates sleep and stomach acid. Your body may experience histamine intolerance to food when it is no longer able to break it down.
The body becomes intolerant to histamine from outside sources (like food) when it is unable to break it down.
A couple of enzymes play a very important role in the breakdown of outside histamine. (1) Like digestive enzymes, these enzymes are active in the gut. Unlike digestive enzymes, you will also find a group of these specialized enzymes within the liver, where they focus solely on histamine and prevent it from entering the bloodstream.
But what happens when these enzymes don’t break down histamine or are sluggish? You begin to show signs of histamine intolerance. This can include:
- Gas, abdominal pain, and cramping
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Low blood pressure, racing heart beat, and panic attacks
- Rash or itching
- Dry lips
- Headache or migraine
- Mood swings
- Muscle tremors or twitching
Histamine in Cultured Foods
You will find histamine aplenty in fermented and cultured foods. This is because histamine is a byproduct of fermentation. (2)
Examples of foods that contain high amounts of histamine include:
- Fermented foods, like sauerkraut
- Aged meats
- Cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, and kefir
But wait! Your gut bacteria also naturally produce histamine. While you can remove foods from your diet that are high in histamine, it’s important to remember that the problem isn’t the histamine—it’s your inability to break it down.
Often, those with histamine intolerance find relief when they heal the lining of the gut.
This is because the lining of the gut produces a major group of enzymes that break down histamine. When the gut is wounded, it is unable to create enough enzymes to handle your unique histamine load.
4 Ways to Rebuild Your Histamine Tolerance
There are two places where histamine is broken down:
- The gut
- The liver
As we mentioned earlier, the body breaks down histamine with the help of specialized enzymes. When you are healthy, you can tolerate high-histamine foods, as well as the histamine that you naturally produce.
In order to rebuild your histamine tolerance, it is essential to repair the lining of the gut since the gut lining releases one major group of enzymes.
To do this, we recommend:
- Following the 7 Universal Principles of the Body Ecology Diet.
- Removing high-histamine foods in the beginning.
- Taking a probiotic that contains Bifidobacterium infantis and B. longum.
- Supporting the liver with herbs like milk thistle, artichoke leaf, wasabi, and sarsaparilla as found in LivAmend.
When it comes to probiotics, we suggest focusing on bifidobacteria—especially B. infantis and B. longum since these probiotics actually interfere with the histamine pathway and reduce levels of histamine. (3)
If histamine gets past the intestinal wall, it heads to the liver. This is also where you will find enzymes that specifically break down histamine. This is exactly why we recommend supporting the liver with milk thistle, artichoke leaf, wasabi, and sarsaparilla to rebuild histamine tolerance.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
The body naturally makes histamine, and it can also be found in the diet. Histamine can trigger allergies, and it helps to regulate sleep and digestion. You may find that your body has become intolerant to histamine from food sources if it is no longer able to break it down.
Signs of histamine intolerance include—gas, diarrhea, heartburn, acid reflux, panic attacks, eczema, asthma, insomnia, mood swings, migraines, and more.
Histamine is found in fermented foods, a staple of the Body Ecology Diet; histamine is a byproduct of fermentation. Histamine is also naturally produced by gut bacteria. You can often find relief from histamine intolerance as you heal the lining of your gut.
Use these four helpful steps to rebuild histamine tolerance and support histamine breakdown:
- Follow the 7 Universal Principles of the Body Ecology Diet.
- Temporarily cut out high-histamine foods from the diet.
- Take a probiotic rich in Bifidobacterium infantis and B. longum.
- Support the liver with milk thistle, wasabi, artichoke leaf, and sarsaparilla in LivAmend.
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- Maintz, L., & Novak, N. (2007). Histamine and histamine intolerance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(5), 1185-1196.
- Schwelberger, H. G. (2010). Histamine intolerance: a metabolic disease?. Inflammation research, 59(2), 219-221.
- Dev, S., Mizuguchi, H., Das, A. K., Matsushita, C., Maeyama, K., Umehara, H., ... & Fukui, H. (2008). Suppression of histamine signaling by probiotic Lac-B: a possible mechanism of its anti-allergic effect. Journal of pharmacological sciences, 107(2), 159-166.
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