When most people hear the word “histamine” they think “allergies”. What if I was to tell you that histamine plays key role in a myriad of bodily processes namely:
Brain & neurotransmitter function
Food allergies & intolerances
Mental & behavioral disorders such as schizophrenia, bi-polar, OCD and ADHD
A histamine response is mediated by our basophils (white blood cells) causing those common allergy responses we’ve come to know and well loathe such as nasal drainage, sinus congestion, sneezing and itchy and eyes watering like a tap!
Did you know? Histamine is also a neurotransmitter and directly influences brain function and behaviour”.
During the 1970’s Dr. Carl C. Pfeiffer a renowned researcher in the area of mental health found a direct correlation between high and low histamine and certain mental illnesses. He hypothesised that problems in a persons biochemical processes known as “methylation” was a significant factor in mental illnesses. You may be wondering what the hell is methylation! Well the process of methylation directly affects the formation and breakdown of numerous brain neurotransmitters namely serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and histamine. Dr Pfeiffer realised that because methylation reactions break down histamine, this could allow him to identify a person’s methylation status by examining their histamine levels in their blood. The successful treatment of Dr Pfeiffer’s mental health patients during this time was largely focused on this. Dr William Walsh has trained many practitioners on the use of whole blood histamine as a way to determine a patients methylation status amongst mental health patients.
According to Dr’s Pfeiffer and Walsh’s research the following symptoms are associated with “high” and “low” histamine types.
“High histamine types” are typically those suffering from:
“Low histamine types” are typically those suffering from:
Did you know? Histamine is also crucial for digestion, through the control of stomach acid secretion. Histamine can also be produced in response to certain food allergies and intolerances.
Also a type of Histamine known as H2 prompts the stomach to secret acid. Too much or too little histamine is often the cause of acid reflux!
Histamine & Food Allergies
There are a number of foods which are known to contain significant levels of histamine. An intolerance to histamine can occur in almost any individual, however certain individuals with GI inflammation, leaky gut and intestinal toxicity tend to be more susceptible that others.
Some of the histamine-containing foods include:
Fermented foods: sauerkraut, yogurt, and wine and beer
Dried, smoked & cured meats
Low histamine containing foods. These include:
Most fresh animal proteins are relatively low in histamine
Histamine and Genetics
Research into this area has revealed that a gene known as DAO (D’amino acid oxidase) transcibes the DAO enzyme which degrades histamine within the gut (1). Persons with the DAO gene mutation are more likely to have high histamine levels.
DAO is also involved in numerous other processes including the metabolism of glutamine (a key excitatory neurotransmitter) found to be elevated in individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders (2).
Even if you get the all clear on the DAO gene mutation, you may very well still have low DAO enzyme activity, meaning your bodies ability to breakdown histamine is significantly slowed. Causes of low DAO enzyme activity include:
Certain drugs such as: NSAIDs, acid-blocking medications, anti-depressants, immune suppressants
GI inflammatory conditions: Crohn’s, IBS, colitis
- Coeliac disease and gluten intolerance
Controlling Your Histamine
Certain individuals with high histamine are considered to be “undermethylated”. This suggests they have too few methyl groups needed to break down histamine. 4 key nutrients that support undermethylators:
- Vitamin B-6
- SAMe and the amino acid L-methionine
- Betaine hydrochloride
Also the following nutrients and herbs help to increase histamine breakdown in the gut, and modulate histamine release during an allergy flare up.
- Silk tree
- White mulberry
- Vitamin C
- Stinging nettles
By Megan Maitland
2) Madeira C, Freitas ME, Vargas-Lopes C, Wolosker H, Panizzutti R (April 2008). “Increased brain d-amino acid oxidase (DAAO) activity in schizophrenia”. Schizophr. Res. 101 (1–3): 76–83.