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Histamine + the gut: how it all works.

Updated: May 24, 2023

Over the course of these next few months, we're tackling one topic a month here at Histamine Haven in order to explore more in-depth just how histamine may be impacting you. This month, let's explore how histamine has the potential of affecting your gut.

First things first: histamine are everywhere. They're in the foods you eat, some are made by the microbes that reside in your gut. Some are produced by your body's daily metabolic function. They're also an integral part of your immune system.

They are a very necessary part of your body's biochemistry, see? You eat them, you make them, you have them, you need them, and you use them.

First, the sink analogy

Let's use the analogy of the sink, to help illustrate our point here.

You have a sink; this sink signifies how much histamine your body can hold. Everyone's sink is a bit different in size.

Histamine coming in is the water coming in to the basin. Check to see how your tap is working – is it leaking? A slow leak, or a fast leak? Is it on full blast? Can you even turn off the tap?

Now let's look at the drain at the bottom of your sink. Is it working properly, is it open? Is it plugged? Or is it slow to drain?

Histamine are a part of daily life as a human. Water coming in to the sink is to be expected! But the ability to turn off the tap should also be expected, as should a functioning drain at the bottom of the sink. There should be some wiggle room in there to take in a bit more water, and then move it out in a timely fashion.

See, histamine troubles arise when your sink is full, and starts to overflow.

The overflow happens when the migraines show up; when the acid reflux starts to rear its ugly head. The overflow of water is when your own personal histamine troubles show up – and this is a unique thing for every individual.

Histamine + the Gut – when things are working

One of the ways histamine comes in to your system is through the foods you eat. Some foods are naturally higher in histamine, while others develop histamine the longer they are away from being 'live' or 'fresh', due to bacteria on the surface of the food. In regular circumstances, these should not pose a problem, and are merely a 'trickle' into your sink. Your drain at the bottom is open, and lets all of that drain out. No overflow to be seen here.

Your intestinal lining makes an enzyme called DAO – diamine oxidase, for those keeping track at home. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down histamine coming in through foods. When things are working as they should, and your intestinal lining is in good shape, you can make this enzyme no problem!

You can think of this enzyme, when functioning, like a really efficient drain at the bottom of the sink. You'll not experience an overflow when this is in good shape.

Histamine + the Gut – when things aren't working

Picture this: you sit down to a delicious meal of baked fish, bathed in a tomato and spinach sauce of some sort. There is a spinach salad with a citrus dressing on the side, and ferments of some sort being imbibed. Spoiler alert: all of these foods are high in histamine, or can enhance the dumping of histamine in your body.

Twenty minutes later, you find yourself sitting on the loo, wondering how one could empty their body's gut contents so quickly and still survive to tell the tale.

Or maybe you feel that daily wave of nausea, wondering if this time you'll actually vomit.

Maybe you feel some vague abdominal pain or discomfort, unsure of what's going on.

On some days, a meal like this could also trigger acid reflux for you.

Lack of enzymatic action – could this be the trouble?

For some, this may be the root piece of why histamine are problematic – they may have trouble producing the DAO enzyme. In some people, the ability to produce this important enzyme can lag due to a genetic pre-disposition; for others, it can be due to an imbalance or lack of nutrients needed to formulate the enzyme itself.

This enzyme production relies on a few different things – important nutrients in balance like saturated fats, iron, vitamins C, B6, B12 and A in animal form (retinol) and the balance of zinc + copper. [1]

A hampered ability to make this enzyme, regardless of the reason why, would start to compromise your drain at the bottom of the sink. How's that working for you?

Microbiome imbalance, or dysbiosis could this be the trouble?

There is typically much diversity at the microbiome level. Each strain has the potential of being one of three things: histamine-degrading, meaning it breaks down histamines;, histamine-neutral, meaning it has no impact on your histamine levels; and histamine-producing, meaning it produces histamine.

How is that balance in your microbiota - could they be contributing?

The solution? Work at rebuilding a robust gut lining.

Well, one of the solutions. When it comes to the impact on your gut, histamine related troubles have the potential of seriously impacting your days + the way you move through them.

Working on restoring a robust intestinal lining for some may offer a solution, in order to improve the ability to make the all important DAO enzyme. Working on the nutrient density piece of those ingredients needed to make this important enzyme should also be considered.

Working with a Naturopath, Functional Medicine practitioner or Holistic Nutrition Consultant can also be of service in order to work on balancing the microbiome. For some, pointed therapeutic probiotics can be of service, while others may require a gentler and slower approach, in order to move at a pace that is manageable for the individual + their biochemistry.

When histamine are at play, there is always the indication of inflammation. This inflammatory nature is in part responsible for the excess release of histamine in the body. Doing the work of reducing inflammation will help lower the body's drive to release histamine as well.

Struggling with histamine mediated troubles? It's worth doing some deep digging with a trusted practitioner to figure out what's at the root of the problem. It's different for each individual – which further compounds the complexity of the issue.

One thing is for certain: focusing on supporting robust gut health + diversity at the microbiome level will always be of benefit.


Want to get started on tackling the gut component of histamine issues? Join our online community by clicking here. Loads of printable resources, a Master Class on the Histamine Connection. It's free to join! And the very best place to start.

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