Early on while working with our integrative pediatrician on dietary changes and the incorporation of a handful of supplements (which we’ve since discontinued), we noticed that our son’s eczema drastically increased. What were once small little dime-sized rough spots on his skin, grew into an angry head to toe rash covering most of his body. Assuming it was something his skin was coming into contact with, I overhauled household items he was frequently exposed to – cleansers, detergents, fragrances, switched to organic cotton, etc. and he was still inflamed.
When that didn’t work, we proceeded with IgG food sensitivity testing. Despite removing over 30 different food sensitivities, gluten, dairy, soy, glutamate and cleaning up his chemical exposure, he was still reacting. It took taking a simple family trip to discover that his eczema had substantially improved. Of course, upon our return home, the eczema was back with a vengeance. So what was it? Histamine. While traveling, I had intentionally left his probiotics at home because they needed refrigeration and we were eating fresh food (no leftovers). As a way to save time in the kitchen back home, I would double up on meals and freeze them for a later date. Turns out he was reacting to the histamine levels found in, or release from, these sources. Once we removed these high sources of histamine his skin was almost 100% better
So here is my understanding of why this was problematic for us. Similarly to microglia, mast cells (a type of white blood cell) are another sort of SOS for the immune system. They are also known as the “first responders” and initiate the immune and nervous system response to a sensed invader, threat or allergen. When the body senses an invader, threat or allergen, mast cells release histamine as a sort of SOS for the immune system. This is exactly what occurs when histamine causes flushing or red skin around a bug bite, which is typically a good thing. However, this can become problematic when the body is chronically inflamed and dealing with immune activation because those mast cells are chronically activated (Mast Cell Activation Disorder MCAD) and releasing histamine. Therefore, adding additional sources of histamine will only further tip the bucket, resulting in more of a reaction. A histamine type reaction doesn’t always have to be eczema. It may manifest in the form of flushing, irritability, hives, bloating, itchy eyes, runny nose, night waking, carsickness, bloody nose and so on. For a period of time, we were able to manage his symptoms by limiting the amount of high histamine foods he was consuming a day.
Initially, the biggest changes we made in reducing histamine were limiting meat to once a day, strictly avoiding processed or leftover meat, eliminating probiotics/ferments and limiting how many high histamine foods he consumed in a day. We even tried low histamine probiotics but discovered he couldn’t even those. His most reactive histamine foods are indicated in our original rotation diet, here. We were often most reactive to histamine, following a good homeopathic remedy as part of the healing reaction. Because of this, we have also had to occasionally incorporate the use of histamine lowering herbs () and the homeopathic remedy (Histaminum).
Some Food Highest In Histamine or Increase Histamine Production
- Aged Food (meats-cured, dried fruit, etc)
- Fermented Foods (
- Tomato/Tomato-Based Products
- Legumes (especially canned)
Symptoms Associated With High Histamine
- Eczema/Dry Patches of Skin
- Itchy Skin/Eyes
- Night waking
- Bloody Nose
- Car Sickness
- Seasonal Allergies
What Would Cause You To Be Sensitive To Histamine?
- Underlying Infections
- Underlying Pathogens
- Various Activated Gene SNP’s (MTHFR, DOA-breaks down excess histamine, MAO, etc.)
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- High Levels of Glutamate
Histamine & Glutamate
Like glutamate, histamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter and based on my experience with the REID Facebook Group, there is a large sub-population of people sensitive to glutamate that are also sensitive to histamine. Through working with Dr. Reid, I discovered that sure enough, glutamate activates mast cells, which release histamine in return. So, reducing glutamate became key to our healing. Additionally, excess histamine can increase glutamate, resulting in unwanted behaviors/symptoms. One of the ways in which this occurs is by inhibiting GABA. Another way this can occur is by initiating the inflammation and immune responses, which both promote glutamate production. We’ve also witnessed slight histamine flares in response to the toxicity of homeopathic die-off. Today, we no longer outwardly suffer from histamine or mast cell issues. I believe that this has resulted from keeping a low glutamate diet, incorporating histamine lower herbs and working on lowing our overall inflammation and immune activation with homeopathy. This process took time but I am thankful we are in a better place now.
How To Naturally Lower Histamine
General: Work to lower excess glutamate & histamine by combatting underlying inflammation contributing to immune activation- infections, toxins, pathogens and imbalances
Herbs: Nettle, Goldenrod, Milk Thistle, Red Clover, Gingko. Traditional Medicinals Nettle Tea may be beneficial for those just starting out.
Homeopathy: homeopathy is unlike traditional medicine and is hugely dependent on the state of the person and symptoms. (I would NOT advise taking these unless you’re working under the care of a practitioner) However, the remedy Histamines Hydrochloricum is known to help with overall histamine load.
Mast Cell Stabilizers: Because glutamate activates mast cells, many remedies suggested to lower glutamate, also help to stabilize mast cells. Take a look at this post for more suggestions.
- Quercetin- Raw chili peppers, asparagus, kale, berries, plums, peppers, red onions, broccoli, sophora japonica leaf/flowers (does not degrade with heat and also stabilizes mast cells)
- Luteolin- a flavonoid found in celery, carrots, chamomile, parsley, thyme, oregano, sage, basil, peppermint, artichoke, spinach and ground ivy.
- Curcumin- found in turmeric
- Magnesium- is hugely important as sits on the NMDA (glutamate) glutamate receptor, can prevent excitotoxicity, calms the body by establishing a balance between glutamate & GABA, help stabilize mast cells, helps relieve constipation/headaches and so on. We typically use leafy greens, squash/pumpkin seeds, and other whole foods as our source of magnesium.
- Elderberry syrup with local* honey
- DAO Increasing Foods
- Anti-Inflammatory Foods- Turmeric, Ginger, Garlic
Looking For More Information?
I strongly encourage you to take a look at The Low Histamine Chef.