For many of us, living with a histamine intolerance means birthdays, dinners out at restaurants, celebrations and the festive season can be a time of high-anxiety and potential feelings of disdain. Not knowing the ingredients or having control over the types of food served creates the risk of consuming things we know could add to or activate our histamine levels. However, worrying about this is a sure way to not appreciate our time together and our celebrations. So how can we enjoy ourselves at these celebrations, without compromising our health and ensuring how histamine levels stay at a healthy balance?

Histamines are the chemicals that your immune system makes to help rid your body of potential danger (allergens). The word ‘allergies’ covers everything from eczema to hay fever to food or drug allergies. These allergens tend to cause symptoms all over the body. Common allergens include but are not limited to; food, drugs, insect bites, mould, pet hair, pollen and other environmental triggers. Histamines are part of our body’s defence, causing you to itch, sneeze, or tear up in order to expel the allergens from your system. They are there to protect us. However, when our bodies are overloaded with histamines, that’s when things start to go wrong. When our body sees the trigger (pollen, pet hair as a more serious threat than it is in reality, our immune system reacts accordingly, releasing higher levels of histamine to try and eliminate these dangers.

Histamines are stored in our mast cells, and the body sends a signal to these mast cells to release histamines. Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that contains compounds that play a role in immunity. Histamine is one of these compounds, as well as leukotrienes (which also plays a role in allergies), ATP (our primary energy source), inflammatory cytokines and certain enzymes. It is the mast cells’ job to carry these compounds around the bloodstream, releasing its different contents when triggered. If mast cells release these contents all at once, the person will have anaphylaxis which can be life-threatening. Mast cells are found in your skin, blood, gut, lungs, nose and mouth. After the histamines are released from the mast cells, they cause blood flow to the area in which the histamines travelled to, causing inflammation. 

Histamines, therefore, are an essential and natural part of our body’s defence system, so how come there are those of us who are intolerant? First of all, histamine intolerance does not mean we have a sensitivity to histamines, but rather we produce too much of it. Our bodily systems believe us to be nearly constantly under threat, meaning we can have a constant and high release of histamines all the time. Although the symptoms vary depending on the individual, some of the common reactions to high histamine levels are; itchy skin, dry or irritated eyes, hay fever-like symptoms, runny nose, bloating, abdominal discomfort, fatigue, headaches, irregular menstrual cycle, hives, anxiety, acne, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis.

High-histamine foods and alcohol are two of the most common triggers for histamine reactions (aside from pollen and pet hair), which makes the foods we eat a big contributing factor to our health and how we feel. This fact creates difficulty during times of celebration or the festive season and can often be a source of stress for people. 

This blog hopes to share with you a few ways you can still enjoy yourself during these periods, without having to compromise your health. As a naturopath, Charmaine D helps her clients daily suffering from histamine activation and histamine intolerance, and it is her hope through consultation with her, you will feel powerful and in-control of your life and your health, while still participating in things you enjoy.

Histamines are broken down by the Diamine Oxidase enzyme (DAO) which is primarily in the gut, but also in other tissues. This means that when eating foods that activate histamines a higher level of DAO is required in order to be break down the histamines. As the DAO is found in the gut and meant to break down the histamines we consume, the support for this process is as simple as a DAO supplement taken with meals. This provides us with the enzymes we need to break down the histamine in the foods we are consuming at the time, ensuring our body isn’t activated or overloaded with histamines we are unable to break down.

Quercetin and Vitamin C are two other supplements that can be taken to naturally stabilise your mast cells.

Considering the role the gut has to play in nearly all aspects of our health, ensuring our gut microbiome is balanced and healthy is essential to low levels of histamine. Leaky gut syndrome can be contributing to high histamines, and resolving this ailment will prevent further issues from occurring. Charmaine D can create a bespoke program for you, to rebuild your gut lining and prevent further issues due to an imbalance of the gut microbiome. 80% of our immune system lies in the gut as it produces an antibody called IgA which is our body’s first line of defence against alien substances. In order to produce adequate levels of IgA the microbiome of the gut must be balanced.

Ensuring adequate functioning adrenals is another area to look into, as high stress can lead to high levels of the hormone cortisol which can also lead to lower levels of IgA produced. A personal story from my client, with approval to share here with you today, shows the importance of tackling the source of high, persistent stress in managing overall health. After experiencing chronic stress for months on end, her body began to increase in cortisol levels consistently, creating an array of problems. Her histamine levels rose higher than usual, she broke out in eczema which is something she doesn’t typically suffer from, she had thrush and a stye in her right eye, all within a day or two of each other. Her body was so acidic from the cortisol that it caused health issues far beyond what she had suffered. Additionally, her fatigue came back in full swing as her adrenals weren’t able to act properly. With low-working adrenals, her body wasn’t able to heal with issues (eczema, thrush and a stye) that her high cortisol levels had caused. 
This personal note from my client is to showcase the holistic nature of the body and how one issue can lead to a domino effect of other issues.

There are herbal formulations in both liquid and tablet form that can be prescribed for the individual by a naturopath that assist in addressing underlying causes as well as being anti-histamine. This can be taken throughout the day as symptoms arise or consistently to maintain low-levels of histamines, regardless of the pollen or food-induced histamine additions. Unlike pharmaceutical, over the counter anti-histamines, these naturopathic formulations do not burden the body. Additionally, they actually target the cause of the issue, rather than just blocking the symptoms.

Clearing up your diet, ensuring you have adequate nutritional support, will help your body to heal and avoid undue stress on any of your bodily systems. Formulated herbal supplements and tonics can assist this healing and nutritional support and can be created uniquely for you and your needs by Charmaine.

Another avenue is limiting foods you know you are highly sensitive to, while still enjoying other histamine foods. Everyone has different triggers and not all foods affect people the same. A list of classically high histamine foods are; tomato, avocado, all dairy (except ricotta), spinach, strawberries, alcohol, aged cheese, fermented foods, leftovers (especially chicken), preservatives and refined sugar.

It is likely not all of these foods will trigger you to the same intensity, for example if tomato and dairy are high triggers for you, avoid those so you are able to dabble with the other foods. The levels of histamine in our body is accumulative, so ensuring a low-histamine diet leading up to your celebration can also be beneficial.

Continuing with foods, another method could be food substitutions. In order to feast throughout your celebration of festive season, try making some food swaps to eliminate the risk of a reaction. Some of these substitutions could be; Tomatoes → red capsicum, Spinach → kale, Strawberries → blueberries, blackberries, Pears → apples, Milk → coconut milk, Smashed avocado → smashed pumpkin, Yoghurt → coconut yoghurt, Sugar → honey, Coffee → peppermint or herbal tea.

These substitutes may provide you with the ability to eat what you want without any adverse reactions, and often taste even better than the original! Tweaking recipes to suit your needs is a must and knowing substitutions can help you with that process.

If you suffer from allergies, it is likely you have a high toxic burden on the liver. In order for your body to eliminate them, they need to be altered in some way and this alteration usually happens in the liver. If there are too many toxins, then there becomes a build-up, and your body increases its reactivity to things that usually would be harmless. Liver support is also a contributing factor to lowering histamines and can play an important role in your overall histamine levels, as well as many other health benefits such as gut, liver and kidney health.  These can all be discussed with naturopath Charmaine D who can guide you through supporting your liver. Clients who book a consultation with Charmaine gain access to a program created to help support you and your liver health.

Another supplement to consider is Luteolin. Luteolin is found in various foods and medicinal plants worldwide possesses remarkable pharmacological properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-allergic effects. This, paired with quercetin can act as a highly effective, overall histamine balancer. Charmaine has sourced these products in formulations and are available in her clinic.

The microbiome of the skin can also be affected by histamines and create skin issues such as acne, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. Treating skin issues both internally (with supplements and proper food) as well as externally with creams and sprays can ensure a lowering of skin issues caused by histamine levels. Charmaine D’s skincare range is a high-performing, botanically based skincare program formulated with an understanding and belief that plant ingredients are safer, gentler and better for human health than synthetic chemicals. Many of her products can topically aid in the lowering of histamines in the microbiome of the skin and can protect and prevent histamine-reactions on the skin.

Working with Charmaine D as a naturopath and an expert in histamine imbalances, one can be sure that throughout the festive season, birthdays or celebrations, your health can be prioritised while still ensuring a balance of freedom and enjoyment. It is recommended by Charmaine D that you work both before and after the festive season to create a strong foundation and healthy balance, so you can go into the celebrations healthy, and come out healthy too. 

Book a virtual online, or in-clinic 30- minute everyday ailment consultation today and enjoy your festive celebrations with more control. It will be your best $55 investment in yourself.