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Histamine, Gut Histamine or Both?

One of the most important markers I look at for my clients is the level of histamine in the gut.

What IS histamine exactly?  It’s a neuro-immune modulator, a chemical made by the immune system, to get rid of things that don’t belong – part of your defense system.

When an “agitator” is recognized by the body there is a message sent to your body’s mast cells to release histamine and they then flood your system – the symptoms we experience are the reactions of histamine on specific cells or organs – they increase blood flow to the area that is in harm’s way and will trigger a response (inflammation) to get rid of the “allergen” to protect the cell/organ.  The inflammation caused by histamine draws attention to other immune cells to come in and correct the problem.  Think of spring allergies – pollen triggers the release of histamines which travel to the mucous membranes in the nose, increase blood flow and mucous and you’re left with a stuffy and runny nose.  But this was for your protection! 

If you’ve ever suffered with allergies, then you know about histamine!  Think Benadryl or Claritin or Zyrtec – those are ANTI-histamines (Histamine-1 [H1] receptor antagonists to be exact).

But when there is a never-ending release of histamines you can get systemic responses and symptoms:

  • Migraines
  • Bloating 
  • Feeling sick
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Edema
  • Muscle aches
  • Pain
  • Stuffy nose
  • Asthma
  • Hives
  • Dizziness
  • Psoriasis 

While inflammation is essential to healing – chronic and uncontrolled inflammation is a problem!

But did you even know histamine was IN the gut??

Histamine is in the gut in rather large amounts.  If you think about it the gut is one of the organs that has direct contact with the outside world so must constantly be on alert, looking for invaders.  The same holds true for the lungs.

How many people are on medications like Zantac and Pepcid?!  Well, those are actually Histamine-2 (H2) receptor antagonists. 

For example, we have a peptide in our gut called gastrin – gastrin’s job is to cause the release of histamine in the stomach which in turn produces stomach acid. 

Histamine blockers block gastrin and histamine production in stomach therefore lower stomach acid.

Where there’s histamine there’s inflammation and what I see daily is the buildup and unusually high amounts of histamine in the gut in about 75+% of labs I review. 

But, did you know this is one of the greatest factors in food sensitivities? 

This is EXACTLY why I say you can food test for “allergies” or sensitivities all you want but simply eliminating those foods will never solve your problem.  It’s not WHAT you’re sensitive to – it’s WHY you are sensitive!  Simply eliminating those foods does not lower your histamine!

Then how does it all work?

In a normal world/body, after histamine is released, it then SHOULD be degraded by 2 enzymes – DAO (diamine oxidase) and HNMT (histamine-N-methyltransferase).  It is thought that DAO works outside of the cells to degrade histamine while HNMT works inside of the cells.

These enzymes are most highly concentrated in the gut.

There have been numerous studies looking at histamine concentrations following a pro-inflammatory meal.  Think about that…one meal changes the cascade of histamine!

But if you are one of those who have high gut histamine (think bucket overflowing with water [histamine]) then think of one meal that your body considers agitating – and you’ve just added more water to that bucket and it’s overflowing even more giving you excess symptoms – usually presenting as strong “food reactions/sensitivities”.

As I mentioned above, we have tools in place that once our bodies release histamine that it doesn’t stay around very long and cause long-term problems.

 

WHY SO MUCH HISTAMINE IN THE GUT THESE DAYS?

Diet for one – our Standard American Diet (SAD) sucks the life out of us literally.  But if you suffer with high gut histamine, did you realize that even “healthy foods” like fermented foods (raw sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, etc.) are super high in histamine?

Did you know strawberries and spinach are high in histamine?  Also, alcohol.

But, once again, the problem isn’t the food – it’s WHY YOU HAVE HIGH HISTAMINE – always getting back to the “WHY”!

So, removing high histamine foods can help symptoms short-term but we need a permanent fix, right?!

Some have a deficiency in DAO – this can be acquired.  Acquired DAO deficiency can be seen in gastrointestinal diseases like SIBO, IBS, IBD (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis) but also with increased alcohol consumption and medications like ibuprofen, histamine blockers, anti-depressant, antibiotics, etc.

But my experience is that it is due to more than DAO deficiency but to a fully dysfunctional gut microbiome (due to poor diet, medications, antibiotics, glyphosate, and more).

Taking the wrong probiotic can be a HUGE factor too!

Some probiotic strains actually raise histamine levels like Lactobacillus species like L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L.  delbrueckii, L. lactis, and L. reuteri. 

Then there are pathogenic species that cause a rise in gut histamine as well, such as Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Enterococcus faecalis and some types of E. coli.

But then you have certain strains of bacteria help degrade histamine.  Many strains of Bifidobacterium will lower levels of histamine in the gut, particularly B. infantis.  But there are some strains of Lactobacillus that help to break down histamine as well, such as L. plantarum, L. Rhamnosus, L. salivarius.  We know very well that antibiotics and glyphosate kill Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species.

What the heck does all this mean?!?!

What it means is that we must find the source of the histamine overload in the gut. 

Is it from pro-inflammatory meals (even perceived as “healthy meals”)?

Is your gut microbiome low in the histamine-reducing strains?

Is it high in the histamine producers?

Do you take the wrong probiotic for you?

Honestly, I love the BiomeFX test because it shows me so much including histamine levels – so I get to see the depth of levels of inflammation in the gut as well as the status of the health of the gut microbiome altogether!

But in addition to this I look for leaky gut, or the deficiency of a specific gut microbe called Akkermansia muciniphila.  I absolutely love this bug!  Its job is to “eat” the mucous lining of the gut.  By doing this it allows for the lining to regenerate and always be in tip-top shape preventing leaky gut.  When it’s deficient then leaky gut is highly possible.  I see this in at least 50% of clients.

When you have the perfect storm of leaky gut and high histamine you can see all those symptoms I listed above as well as a host of other possible health issues including autoimmune diseases and cancers. 

The gut lining is designed to be a tight and locked door with a “bouncer” – only allowing the right things in and out of the gut.  If that door is left wide open anything can cross into the blood stream and “freak out” the body with things it would not normally see – then you have a highly over-reactive system.

I know I say it all the time but there is no health without gut health and whenever there is a histamine problem – you MUST look at the gut!

Stay Well!

Dr. K

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Find someone local to you to sell you eggs who cares for their chickens like I do.  Mine are as organic as they can be without certification as that certification really means very little.  I’d take a pastured egg from a trusted source than a store-bought organic egg any day!

Hope you have an EGGcellent day! 😉

Dr. K

 

 

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