I began to feel the difference when I found that I was sleeping through the night. For several years this had been a rare event, with sleeplessness kicking in at about 2am. Often during this wakeful period came stomach upheaval and nausea.
This brilliant result came after I had been eliminating histamine from my diet for a few weeks – helped with muscle testing the foods most affecting my system.
I had never heard of histamine intolerance – until last year when my daughter mentioned she had heard about it in a podcast. I listened and it fitted with the symptoms I had experienced during 2020. I had two periods, each lasting almost a m, of vomiting and diarrhoea, also exhaustion, brain fog and general unwellness. It was all very unpleasant and concerning!
What is histamine?
Histamine is a neurotransmitter and is an important part of the immune system – released into the body when needed to deal with invasions by pollen, foods, bacteria or viruses for example. It also helps with regulation of body temperature, sleep patterns, wound healing, memory, brain signals, muscles of lung and uterus as well as widening blood vessels and bowel movements.
I was delighted to realise that some of the irritating symptoms I had experienced for years were related to histamine intolerance!! The heat round my face and neck, difficulty in regulating my body temperature and ongoing digestive / gut problems.
Histamine is stored in the tissues of the body and in the blood – awaiting the signal for its release to deal with invasions through intake of food, drink, breath or through the skin. It is broken down within the body by the enzymes DAO (diamine oxidase) and HNMT (histamine N-methyl transferase). Without enough of these enzymes, histamine builds up over time.
So, in a nutshell, the problems start either because we have a low-capacity pot for storing histamine or have a low threshold of DAO or HNMT.
The way I see what happened to me is that my pot of histamine had filled up over time and without enough DAO or HNMT to deal with this amount, the pot overflowed – literally!!
How can this overflow happen?
Several factors may be involved:
- stress and fear cause histamine levels to increase
- foods / drinks high in histamine add to the existing pot
- foods that suppress the action of DAO or HNMT mean that histamine cannot be broken down – such as alcohol, some prescription drugs or vitamin C or Zinc deficiencies
- low capacity for histamine storage means that the pot fills quickly
What to watch out for:
There are several symptoms or clusters of symptoms that may indicate a histamine Intolerance. Here are some of them:
- Skin problems such as hives, rosacea, psoriasis, itching, flushed skin, eczema
- Swelling round the mouth, face and throat, with or without heat
- Throat tightening
- Excess mucus / nasal congestion / blocked sinuses
- Watering eyes, reddened round the eyes
- Sneezing to excess
- Digestive problems: heartburn, indigestion, reflux, diarrhoea, constipation, symptoms similar to IBS
- Symptoms similar to allergy reactions – though allergy reactions occur almost immediately after taking in the substance – histamine reactions can be 24 hours or more after the excess histamine had been taken in, making it hard to know what exactly you may be reacting to
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Anxiety / panic attacks / dizziness
- Drop in blood pressure
- Chest pains
- Headaches / migraines
- Sleep difficulties, insomnia, sleeping a lot without feeling benefit
- Confusion / irritability / brain fog
- Asthma / breathing difficulties
- Heart arrhythmia
- Severe period pains
- Chilly and shivering / Breaking out in a sweat
I don’t have all of these symptoms, nor do I have the severe type of intolerance that I have read about. I have been able to make a difference by watching what I eat. I haven’t been able to tolerate alcohol for years – it made me feel nauseous! I had gone off tea so no problem there. Tomatoes I had a love/hate relationship to – they are definitely off the menu. I had recently discovered the joy of fermented foods – no more of them. While mature cheese and processed foods were never a favourite!
I think we have to find our own special mix of great food – cooking most of it from scratch, using fresh ingredients. It has made a huge difference to me. And I can report that my exhaustion is retreating, and I feel well!!
Here are some of the foods that bring a lot of histamine into the body.
- Tomatoes / spinach / aubergines / possibly avocadoes
- Fermented foods / pickled foods – such as sauerkraut / soy sauce
- Tea – black tea in particular as it is fermented! Cocoa can also be fermented
- Caffeine in coffee, tea and chocolate (and some soft drinks)
- Citrus fruits
- Matured foods such as cheese or salami
- Food additives, flavour enhancers, and colourings
- Some prescription drugs also contain a lot of histamine – best to check the contents of any medication you are taking.
For me it has been a several week process of eliminating and discovering – the foods that cause the problem and those that don’t. We are all different, so my mix of food will be different from anyone else’s.
There are many websites covering this subject – and so a lot of information available. So you can read more if you think this is relevant for you – if you think it is then my suggestion is that you begin by eliminating some of the foods and drinks on the list above – the ones your body may have a sense are the ones that are not great for you. Or check them out with muscle testing.