Guest Blog: Tired and Bloated? Let's Talk About Histamines
Written by Nicole Wahoski
What are Histamines?
Histamines play an important role in our bodies when it comes to protecting us from allergens, irritants, and toxins. They act like messengers delivering instructions to cells all over our bodies. When spring time arrives, and our noses become runny, we can thank histamines for delivering instructions to the cells in our sinuses to increase mucus secretion so we can blow the allergens away into a tissue.
Until they are ready to send their signals histamines are held tight by a special kind of white blood cell called mast cells. Mast cells appear in the largest quantities in our lungs, digestive tract and skin but we also have a smaller quantity located in our brain. With each of these sites comes a different set of instructions for histamines to deliver.
Within the digestive system histamines may prompt our body to rev up or slow down the secretion of stomach acids and digestive enzymes contributing to bloating, ulcers, heartburn, and other digestive symptoms. A common signal sent by histamines is for cells to open up allowing our immune system to send helpers into the cell to deal with allergens. When this happens to our intestinal cells long term it can contribute to ‘leaky gut’ – a condition where gut cells become inflamed and gaps form between the cell junctions. This damaged leaky gut state then may contribute to a cascade of other issues such as brain fog, allergic reactions, joint pain and autoimmunity.
Histamines, Mind and Body
Our brains are especially sensitive to histamines messages. When received they have an activating and energizing effect on our nervous system which impacts our sleep-wake cycle. This can keep us up at night and create anxiety and fatigue during the day. This is why some people find that taking an over the counter antihistamine helps them to sleep.
In a perfect world we can encounter allergens and triggers and clear them away effectively. The problem arises when we are exposed to a wide variety of triggers and our bodies cannot process the amount of circulating histamines in a timely manner. Triggers can be both environmental factors such as mold, pollen, dust, or fragrances as well as the food we are eating.
Food related histamine triggers can often be one of two things: a hidden food sensitivity to common allergens like gluten, dairy, corn, eggs, nuts, and soy or consuming foods that contain high levels of natural histamines such as nightshades, fermented foods and drinks, canned and smoked meats or citrus fruits. When speaking of fermented foods and drinks think yogurt, aged cheeses, vinegars, kombuchas and alcohol. Doing an elimination style diet can be a great tool when looking to identify food related reactions.
After histamines have sent their messages and done their duty our body uses key co-factors like vitamin B6, Magnesium, Vitamin C, Copper, and Zinc to manufacture an enzyme called DAO to degrade and clear the histamines away. This clearance system can become overloaded If we are consuming large amounts of high histamine foods along with hidden food and environmental triggers or if we are not consuming adequate nutrients to create this enzyme in the first place.
Fortunately, there are also special foods and herbs that act as natural antihistamines. I’d like to make special note of an antioxidant compound called Quercetin that has been shown to stabilize our mast cells and prevent the release of excess histamines. It should be noted that Quercetin can take some time to build up in the system, but most people will see an improvement of symptoms within 1-3 months.
You can get these vital nutrients through supplementation, but my favourite route is always whole foods.
Foods That Naturally Fight Histamine
Here are a few ways you can improve your histamine response with through dietary choices:
- Add B6 foods like: Bananas, Blueberries, Currants, Carrots, and Yams.
- Eat an apple a day for its Vitamin C and natural Quercetin content. You can also add organic apple peel powder to your smoothies or oatmeal.
- Top your salads or sandwiches with pea shoots. Similar to sprouts, pea shoots offer Quercetin and naturally occurring DAO.
- Consider dark berries for their Quercetin content: blueberries, blackberries, cherries or black currants.
- Choose high protein zinc foods like animal protein, tofu, lentils, or pumpkin seeds.
- Snack on organic cacao and cocoas for their magnesium content.
Depending on the severity of your histamine symptoms you may also support yourself through the supplementation of high quality and absorbable quercetin, magnesium, B6, zinc, and vitamin C while decreasing high histamine foods.
Overcoming Histamine Intolerance
My final note is to make note of the cycles and patterns within your world. If you find yourself with a headache and brain fog around the first melting of snow perhaps it is a mold- based histamine response. If you find yourself up all night after a large pasta dinner with a glass of wine be wary of a histamine-based response. Daily reflection or a food journal can be the key to understanding our bodies response to the environment we live in.
If you are unsure where to start, try reaching out to a trusted nutritionist or doctor to clarify your next best steps. Before starting on any new supplements or diets, I recommend speaking with your personal health provider.
In love and health,
Certified Holistic Nutritionist
About Nicole Wahoski
Nicole is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and grew up riding horses on beautiful Northern Vancouver Island. She is passionate about helping people improve their energy levels and mental health through small sustainable steps. Nicole helps the body get back into balance through use of special diet and lifestyle. She may invite her clients to look closer at their sleep, daily habits and stress levels, understanding that these are the foundations for better health. Nicole has a keen interest in hormonal influences, and helping people of all gender identities and expressions to understand what is needed to get to a place of optimal hormone balance. Nicole offers Holistic Nutrition Consultations and you can reach her via Ponder Nutrition