Have you ever been in one of those complicated relationships, where your buddy becomes a little overprotective or where that friend sets off to protect you from harmless “dangers”? This can cause you trouble and may turn your life upside down.
That’s exactly how it is with our relationship with histamine, the overprotective friend in this story.
In this article, we’ll answer some interesting questions on histamine. What is it? Why is it important for the human body? What causes high histamine in your body and what happens then?
And finally, how can you lower elevated histamine levels to regain your normal body functions?
What Is Histamine and What Does It Do to Your Body?
Histamine exists in your body for a reason or actually many reasons.
- It protects you from foreign objects that invade your body.
- It helps release gastric acids in your stomach.
- It helps send messages between cells and keeps your brain awake.
The role histamine plays in your immune system is the one we’re interested in here in this article.
Histamine is a chemical released from certain cells in your body; mast cells and basophils, whenever the body is attacked by foreign invaders. Then, histamine tells the blood vessels to increase the blood flow to the affected area.
The blood flow brings along an army of white blood cells that will attack the invading object.
In addition to protecting your body, and depending on the foreign object’s type, this defense mechanism may also result in some annoying allergic reactions.
The symptoms may be felt in your eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract.
These symptoms may include nasal congestion, sneezing, swelling, itching, vomiting, diarrhea, or even blocked breathing.
After doing its job, histamine is broken down in your body by two enzymes. One of them is called diamine oxidase (DAO).
Sometimes histamine is released even when harmless substances enter your body, e.g. pollen, certain foods, or animal hair. That’s what allergy is about and here’s where the complicated part of the relationship makes its appearance.
What Are the Symptoms of High Histamine Levels?
Having too much histamine may trigger reactions similar to the reactions your body has whenever it’s attacked by a foreign substance. Your body will treat the excessive histamine as an enemy, not the friend it’s supposed to be.
You may experience some of, or all, these symptoms:
- Dizziness, headaches, or migraines
- Chronic fatigue
- Nasal congestion and runny nose
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Hives and/or itching
- Irregular menstrual cycles
In rare cases it may even cause sleep problems, low blood pressure, tremors, swelling in the areas around the lips, eyes, and the throat, or loss of consciousness
How Can You Lower Histamine Levels in Your Body?
These symptoms can affect your life negatively. If you find yourself in need of some changes to function properly, there are some simple steps that you can take to lower your histamine levels.
Of course, you have to consult your physician before you take any of these measures.
1. Eat Low-Histamine Foods
Research suggests that it may be due to being stressed all the time, taking certain drugs, eating certain foods, or having some medical conditions.
Avoid high-histamine foods
Histamine is found in many foods and drinks, especially aged and fermented foods. Some foods may even trigger the body to release more histamine. Here’s a list of only some foods and drinks that play a role in favor of histamine overproduction.
- Aged cheeses
- Preserved meats and canned foods
- Shellfish and canned fish, like canned tuna
- Vinegar and yogurt
- Nuts and legumes
- Some fresh fruits, like pineapple, most citrus fruits, strawberries, cherries, bananas, and tomatoes and in dried fruits
- Some herbs and spices, like cinnamon, chili powder, cloves
- Some vegetables, like spinach, eggplant
- Salty and sweet snacks with preservatives, chocolate, and cocoa
- Green tea
- Old leftover foods
A great way to find out which foods are triggering the symptoms is by keeping a food journal. Tracking your daily intake of foods and drinks may help you eliminate whatever it is that causes histamine levels to increase.
Try to stay away from the high-histamine foods for at least one month to see if your symptoms are relatively alleviated.
In addition to avoiding foods that have or trigger the release of high histamine levels, you can include some foods to your diet that are low in histamine. The keyword here is eating fresh foods. Stay away from aged, fermented, canned, preserved, or smoked foods.
Histamine levels increase as these foods age, so preparing fresh meals is always a good idea when you’re working to lower your histamine levels.
Go for low-histamine foods
Some good options to include in your low-histamine diet are grains, like rice, quinoa, and whole-grain products, like bread, pasta, cookies, and crackers.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, except the ones mentioned above. Try to enrich your diet with leafy greens and herbs such as parsley, cilantro, oregano, dill, and thyme.
Foods rich in vitamin C, such as broccoli and cauliflower are great for reducing histamine levels.
Always buy fresh chicken, meat, and seafood. Another low-histamine food that’s rich in proteinis pure peanut butter. Cooked egg yolk is also a great source of protein that can work well with your low-histamine diet. And for cooking, it’s best to use olive oil and coconut oil.
If you’re into fresh dairy products, you can enjoy your butter and cream cheese. And if you’re looking for low-histamine alternatives to dairy milk you can get coconut, rice, hemp, almond milk.
Herbal teas, excluding green, black, and mate teas, can be a nice addition to your daily routine.
2. Boost Your DAO Levels
Some people eat a diet low in DAO, the enzyme that breaks down histamine in your system. In other cases, this enzyme doesn’t work properly to break down histamine in your body.
This can be caused by underlying medical conditions, genetics, or just eating foods that reduce DAO levels or effectiveness.
When there isn’t enough DAO in your body or when it doesn’t function properly, you’ll end up having abnormally high histamine levels. In the long run, that may cause histamine buildup and you’ll have some annoying symptoms.
Foods to avoid
Foods that may affect the DAO’s ability to do its job are, for example,
- Green, black, and mate tea
- Energy drinks and Caffeinated beverages
- Raw egg whites
- Some kinds of yogurt
There are also several medical conditions that may lower your DAO levels, such as some vitamin deficiencies, stress, or some intestinal and liver conditions.
Moreover, some medications, both prescription or over-the-counter drugs, can have the same effect on your DAO levels.
When you have enough DAO in your body, histamine is broken down, and there’s nothing to worry about.
Sometimes you’ll need to boost your DAO levels to clear your body of excessive histamine. Nutrients that help boost DAO levels in your body include omega-3, healthy saturated fats, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B-12, and iron.
Include these foods in your diet
Eat these foods to enhance your DAO levels and consequently lower your histamine:
- Olive oil
- Fresh fish like mackerel, tuna, and wild-caught salmon
- Cashews, walnuts, and almonds
- Grass-fed butter, beef liver, and meat
- Avocado and pumpkin
- Eggs, unless you’re sensitive to them
- Dark leafy greens and broccoli
- Lentils and beans, especially white beans
If for any reason you can’t get the nutrients you need to lower your histamine from food, you can always get them from supplements.
Take some vitamins, such as vitamins D, C, B-6, B 12, and B1. Moreover, look for minerals that are very helpful too, like copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and calcium.
At the beginning of your meals, take DAO supplements containing other enzymes that break down protein, fats, sugars, and fiber.
Don’t forget to ask your doctor before attempting to take any medicine.
3. Treat any Conditions that Boost Histamine Levels
Some medical conditions may interfere with DAO production in your body, contributing to an increase in histamine levels. Leaky gut is one of them.
That’s where the lining of your intestine is inflamed and damaged. And most of the DAO exists in the intestines. So with damaged intestines, the body produces less DAO, hence more histamine.
Getting a reaction to excessive histamine will consequently further damage the lining of the intestines and you’ll find yourself amid a vicious cycle.
Getting an early diagnosis and treating this condition may speed up your recovery process.
4. Stay Away from Stress
Stress can contribute to increasing your histamine levels, as the body is prompted to release many chemicals, one of them is histamine, to cope with stress.
Easier said than done, but you have to step in to reduce stress in your life when you’re trying to lower histamine. You can do a bunch of things to help keep stress under control, including taking supplements to lower your cortisol levels.
First, determine what causes stress in your life and try to work it out. You may also want to set your priorities so that you don’t feel overwhelmed all the time by your family, work, or social obligations.
Another tip is to improve your sleeping habits. Sleeping well at night is essential for all your body functions. Start to exercise and meditate. Even a long walk can be helpful.
5. Avoid Environmental Allergens
Being surrounded by allergens may worsen the problem by releasing more histamine. So, you have to steer away from places and situations where your body is exposed to substances that trigger histamine release.
Follow these steps to relieve your symptoms and lower histamine in your body.
Keep your home free of allergens
Try to remove dust, pollen, or animal hair regularly.
Get rid of any clutter that may collect dust. You can also invest in an air purifier with a HEPA filter to decrease your exposure to irritants at home.
Clear your nasal passages of irritants
Try steam inhalation or neti pots. Steam inhalation is a no brainer. Just bring a bowl, add half a cup of hot water and some drops of essential oils. We suggest peppermint, thyme, eucalyptus, or oregano. With your eyes closed and a towel covering your head and the bowl, inhale the steam coming out of the bowl.
A neti pot, an ancient procedure, is used to clear your nasal passages for better breathing and less congestion. Its mechanism works pretty similar to that of a regular saltwater wash that you pour into your nostrils to clear them up.
Keep an eye on the weather
Try to avoid going outdoors a lot in allergy seasons, because being exposed to pollen may aggravate your symptoms and in turn release more histamine in your body.
When produced in normal amounts, histamine works in your best interest. It has many functions in the human body.
It works as a neurotransmitter for cell communication, it releases gastric acids for digestion, and it helps protect your body from various dangers.
Sometimes it doesn’t go this way. Histamine overproduction may cause many annoying, sometimes dangerous, symptoms. That can happen for a variety of reasons, such as some medical conditions, eating habits, genetics, or just stress.
It’s important to identify the causes to be able to handle the problem. But you can take many steps to lower histamine levels in your body.
Some changes in your habits, diet, stress levels can go a long way in this process, most of them were discussed above. Keep these steps in mind and start implementing them today. And even if you start small, remember that baby steps are the best way to take on a big task.