Histamine and the Immune Response
What is Histamine?
Histamine is a chemical substance we all are familiar with at times in our lives, but for many it is a daily struggle. Most people are aware of the symptoms that cause allergies and hay fever. But, many are not aware that histamine may be playing a role in more than just common nasal congestion and sneezing. Histamine can be involved in many medical conditions. For instance, histamine can actually act as a neurotransmitter causing issues in the brain when out of balance.
The Histamine Response
This histamine chemical is made by our immune system to increase and promote immune reactions to ultimately and hopefully help with healing. At times, due to our exposures, the responses are more than we need and histamine reactions can become too great. Histamine is also found in food and can be made by bacteria in our gut as well. All of these sources can contribute to an overwhelming burden of histamine for the body. Keeping your histamine levels balanced can help with many diverse reactions, symptoms and conditions.
What symptoms can be related to histamine?
Histamine receptors exist in many tissues of the body which contribute to many conditions. As of this writing, we know of at least four different histamine receptors in different locations and systems. Each of these receptor types have unique responses depending on the cell type where they are located. Due to the fact that these receptors are in so many places it is not possible to list all the possible health issues that can occur due to histamine. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
Sinus Issues and Infections
Headaches- especially migraines
Blood Brain Barrier Permeability
Insomnia: please see: Insomnia and 10 tips to help with sleep
Anxiety and Depression
Tachycardia and arrhythmias
Swelling In extremities/tissues
High blood pressure
Histamine Receptor Types and Locations
These receptors are located on many different cells types so the consequences of high histamine can be diverse and more severe than just congestion. Many receptors are located in the brain and gut so these organ systems are responsible for so many diverse symptoms. Also, histamine can change which cell types are created from our bone marrow progenitor cells and therefore increase things like autoimmunity and blood brain barrier permeability. This can lead to the more and more common complaint of brain fog and depression. Allergies can have significant consequences when these things are perpetuated long term. Many say that allergies did not exist until the industrial revolution and increased toxins in our world. It is my belief that the more basic and traditional the food the less likely it will turn up immune reactions.
FOUR Types of Histamine Receptors:
H1 receptors– Throughout the body, brain and neurons, smooth muscle of airways and blood vessels. Can cause anaphylaxis, pain, pruiritis, permeability of membranes/swelling, flushing and issues with thermal regulation.
H2 receptors- Gastric Mucosa, Parietal Cells, Heart muscle, causes gastric acid secretion and vascular permeability, hypotension, headache, tachycardia, bronchospasm.
H3 receptors- most located in the central nervous system. Involved with regulation of dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine and norepinephrine receptors.
H4 receptors- Located in bone marrow and hematopoetic cells- modulates differentiation of myeloblasts and promyeloblasts. Can cause increased TH17 cells and promote autoimmunity. Also can cause blood brain barrier permeability and brain fog.
Functional Medicine Strategies to High Histamine
Decrease consumption of high histamine foods and foods that release histamine in the body
Decrease consumption of artificial preservatives and chemicals to decrease immune activation
Decrease exposure to histamine releasing substances in the air (pollution, mold, pollen, chemicals)
Improve breakdown of histamine in the gut (improve microbiome diversity) please see: Healing your Gut and a Healthy Microbiome!
Increase DAO levels and HNMT anzyme levels that breakdown histamine
Decrease exposure to electromagnetic fields which degranulate mast cells and increase histamine release- please see: How Electromagnetic Radiation Relates to Health and How to Protect Yourself
Consume more mast cell stabilizing foods containing Quercitin
Which Foods contain High Histamine?
Histamine is a substance that activates the immune system and cause many, many symptoms. It can be produced and released by our own immune mast cells, but can also be found in certain foods themselves. Generally, the more histamine in the food, the more it can add to symptoms in our body. Some of these foods are very healthy from other perspectives so it is important to note that the amount is more critical in combinations. Also, small amounts of these substances may not cause issues. Foods that are fermented or old are more likely to contain higher histamines. In general, the fresher the food, the less histamine it may contain. Here are some of the highest histamine containing foods:
High Histamine- monitor symptoms or consider decreased consumption
ANY Protein leftovers (prepared food over 24 hours old)
Cashews, Walnuts, Peanuts – any old grains or nuts
All vinegars except gluten free distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar which are lower
Condiments also can contain vinegar (olives, mustard, ketchup)
Dried fruits (dates, prunes, apricots, raisins)
Banana (unripe /greener has less)
Especially Red wine, champagne and Prosecco
Gelatin and Collagen powders
If I am concerned about your histamine levels I will likely advise certain probiotics that help to break it down. Also, quercitin can prevent mast cells from releasing histamine. Cut back on exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields as well as they can trigger mast cells to release histamine. How Electromagnetic Radiation Relates to Health and How to Protect Yourself DAO and Histamine N-methyl transferase are enzymes that can help in the removal of histamine.
None of this is intended to treat or diagnose any individual medical conditions. Please always seek medical attention and work with your physicians to diagnose and treat your unique situation.
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