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What is histamine and why should you avoid it? Learn about the benefits of following a low-histamine diet and reduce your allergic reactions.
When you read the word histamine, you probably immediately associate it with antihistamine, which are drugs for allergy sufferers. However, histamine is not inherently bad. In fact, it’s your body’s way of letting you know you’re allergic to something in your environment or something you consumed.
Histamine is a chemical released by your mast cells when you encounter an allergen. Histamine becomes a problem when it’s constantly elevated which too often leads to a troublesome histamine reaction.
How do you know if you’re experiencing a histamine reaction? You’ll likely experience some, if not all, of the following symptoms: itchy, puffy, red, or watery eyes; runny or swollen nasal passages; sneezing or coughing; and even swelling or rashes. This is an immediate histamine response to something you ate or something in the air or immediately surrounding you.
Some people also have histamine intolerance, which occurs when histamine in your body is unable to be metabolized and detoxified effectively. Histamine intolerance presents in a wide range of symptoms that usually can’t be attributed to anything else, such as headaches, dizziness, facial swelling, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and more.
Luckily, there are natural steps you can take to lower your histamine levels!
1. Follow a low-histamine diet
One of the most common causes of histamine intolerance is the overconsumption of high histamine foods. Often, you aren’t even allergic to these foods. They simply have higher levels of naturally-occurring histamine that trigger your body’s own histamine response.
Follow a low histamine diet that eliminates high histamine foods and calms your body’s inflammation. Incorporate fresh foods like fruits and vegetables (avoiding high histamine ones), fresh meat and seafood, and whole grains.
2. Use an air purifier
Using an air purifier is an excellent way to decrease your exposure to irritating allergens and toxins in your environment. Air purifiers take in the air in your environment and filter histamine-causing allergens like pet dander, dust, pollen, and mold spores. Investing in a high-quality air purifier with a HEPA filter will ensure that your home environment won’t trigger a histamine reaction.
3. Reduce pollen exposure and wash your hair before bed
Pollen is one of the most common aggravators for histamine release. Sensitive individuals breathe in pollen, which causes histamine release in the body. Known as “hay fever” or “seasonal allergies,” pollen can actually irritate you year-round depending on where you live.
Watch your weather app for high pollen days and stay indoors if possible. It’s also a good idea to wash your hair before bed to avoid transferring pollen or dust from your hair to your pillowcase (which you may not change for several nights).
4. Eat foods rich in vitamin C
Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine, which means it can lower histamine levels and mitigate allergic reactions and symptoms. Consume plenty of Vitamin C rich foods, like tropical fruits, citrus fruits, broccoli and cauliflower, and berries.
5. Take a probiotic
If your gut isn’t healthy, you’ll likely experience far more allergic reactions and develop elevated histamine levels. A strong gut lining and a diverse gut microbiome is essential for a healthy immune response, as around eighty percent of your immune system is in your gut. Allergic reactions and constantly elevated histamine levels also damage your intestinal lining further. Taking a high-quality probiotic or eating foods with probiotics can do wonders for your gut health.
6. Avoid high-histamine foods
Certain foods are higher in naturally-occurring histamines. Try eliminating high-histamine foods from your diet for at least thirty days to see if you notice an improvement in your symptoms.
Some high-histamine foods include aged or preserved meats such as smoked or cured meat, aged cheeses, fermented foods, and alcohol. Cocoa, certain nuts, avocado, banana, shellfish, tomatoes, citrus fruits, legumes, and strawberries are other foods high in naturally-occurring histamines.
In general, avoid packaged or canned products and turn to fresh foods. Histamine levels in foods can increase as they age, so it’s always ideal to cook fresh food daily when you’re battling histamine.
7. Take a natural antihistamine
You can turn to a natural antihistamine for relief if your symptoms are impeding your daily life. Look for herbal medicines or supplements that contain natural histamine blockers such as quercetin, turmeric, stinging nettle leaf, Vitamin D, or Vitamin C. I like Natural Dhist (affiliate link).
8. Try a neti pot to clear out sinuses
A neti pot is a great way to naturally support your body during allergy season. Neti pots irrigate your nasal passages (an ancient Ayurvedic tradition) to help clear debris such as pollen, dust, and excess mucus. Clearing out irritating debris will allow you to breathe more easily and reduce nasal swelling.
FAQs About Lowering Histamine Naturally
How do you clear histamine from the body?
Because histamine build-up can occur as a result of deficient DAO (diamine oxidase) levels, it’s important that you support your DAO levels in order to clear histamine from your body.
In addition to eating foods high in DAO co-factors like saturated fats, omega-3 fats, minerals, and B-vitamins, you can take DAO supplements. Avoid DAO-blocking foods like caffeinated beverages and alcohol. Of course, you should also be following a low histamine diet, avoiding environmental allergens, and focusing on gut healing to address the root cause of your histamine build-up.
What is a Histamine Intolerance Test?
Histamine intolerance is difficult to diagnose because it does not present itself as a strict set of undeniable symptoms. Instead, your symptoms may be different depending on what you eat, what you’re exposed to in your environment, and any other medical conditions you may have.
There isn’t a set test for histamine intolerance since skin prick tests only test for a histamine reaction to a specific allergen, not a consistent build up of histamine. The best way to test for histamine intolerance is by following a low histamine diet for at least thirty days, then slowly reintroducing high-histamine foods and monitoring your symptoms. If your symptoms reduced or disappeared on a low-histamine diet but reappeared after incorporating high-histamine foods, you likely have histamine intolerance.
How long does it take to lower histamine levels?
This will depend on how aggressive you are about clearing histamine from your system. If you are following a low-histamine diet, supporting your DAO levels, and avoiding environmental allergens, your histamine levels should begin noticeably lowering in a short period of time. If you continue to ingest high histamine foods and take in environmental allergens, your histamine levels will remain elevated.
Do my hormones cause higher histamine?
This will depend on your individual hormone levels, but yes–hormones do influence your histamine levels. Mast cells store and produce histamines, but they also have estrogen receptor sites. This means that estrogen can cause the production and release of histamine; it also decreases DAO levels, so estrogen can certainly cause higher histamine levels.
Progesterone naturally lowers histamine levels, so if you have estrogen dominance (and thus, lower progesterone) you’ll have higher histamine levels.
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