In this article, we cover everything you need to know about the connection between histamine and hormones including how histamine works, signs and symptoms of histamine issues, the link between histamine and symptoms of high estrogen and what you can do to support and lower histamine levels naturally in your body.
What is histamine?
Histamine is a chemical that is found in the cells of your body, it is most well known for its role in the body’s immune and inflammatory response (hello hayfever, itchy skin and runny nose!). But it also plays an important role as a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) and plays an important role in the gut.
Histamine also has an intricate involvement with estrogen and therefore it is an important chemical to understand when addressing any hormone imbalance.
How does histamine work?
Histamine is stored in what are called mast cells in nearly all the tissues of the body. When histamine is released from these mast cells (for example in a IgE response to immune activity, virus, dust, pollen, bacteria, toxins, inflammation, foods and more) it causes many physiological effects including the dilation of blood vessels (which allows other immune cells to enter), accelerated heart rate, and stimulates gastric acid.
Although histamine is often thought of as negative, it is extremely beneficial and a very important part of our immune response. Histamine is only a problem when it is out of balance.
This leads us to histamine intolerance, a term that basically describes an over-accumulation of histamine often due to an inability to break down or clear histamine from the body.
Why can't I clear histamine?
There are many reasons you may not be clearing or breaking down histamine properly.
One of the most common reasons is high histamine dietary intake. Foods such as tomatoes, chocolate, avocados, dried fruits and alcohol are all high in histamine and may be contributing to accumulating levels in the body.
It may be that your genes leave you predisposed to high histamine. For example, the DAO (diamine oxidase) gene is correlated to the DAO enzyme that breaks down histamine in the gut. The HNMT gene is linked to histamine activity. Specifically HNMT helps with the breakdown of histamine, therefore variations on the HNMT gene can result in poor histamine breakdown, and result in high histamine levels in the body.
Other triggers for high histamine include chronic stress, gut inflammation, high estrogen (more on that below) and mould.
Signs and symptoms of high histamine
Sometimes you may not initially know you have a histamine problem, as the symptoms can vary widely, and responses may occur many hours after you have eaten certain foods. But here are some of the common signs:
- Itchy skin
- Runny nose
- Heavy or painful periods
- Headaches and migraines
- Digestive disturbances
- Anxiety and irritability
Histamine and hormones
Last but not least, it is important to mention the connection between histamine and hormones, specifically estrogen.
Estrogen can stimulate mast cells to release histamine. Not only does estrogen stimulate histamine but histamine also encourages the ovaries to produce more estrogen. The result is a vicious cycle of high estrogen and high histamine! In addition, estrogen also down regulates the DAO enzyme, leading to even poorer clearance of histamine inside the body.
Therefore if you are struggling with signs of high estrogen like PMS, painful or heavy periods or hot flushes, it is important to understand if histamine is an issue for you. Often women in perimenopause may experience new symptoms of high histamine, as estrogen can fluctuate wildly in the early stages of perimenopause.
How can you support histamine levels?
It is important when dealing with histamine to understand if the issues is due to too much histamine entering the body, accumulating in the body or if there are issues with histamine leaving the body.
Working with one of our practitioners or testing with FUTURE WOMAN are great ways to figure this out.
4 easy ways to reduce histamine
- Eat a low histamine diet. This means reducing foods such as tomatoes, avocados, spinach, chocolate and alcohol.
- Reduce environmental irritants such as mould.
- Eat natural antihistamines such as turmeric and stinging nettle (in a tea).
- Rule out high estrogen and support healthy estrogen detoxification such as daily bowel movements.