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What You Need to Know about Polyphenols and Lung Conditions

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

Many lung conditions have been shown to have mast cell involvement. Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (1, 2, read more here) and pulmonary fibrosis (PF - read more here) all have been shown to have mast cell involvement.

Mast cells release chemical mediators that are involved in disease progression. Mast cells are very complex and can release stored chemical mediators (a process known as degranulation) or selectively create and release chemical mediators. In this way they can impact a wide variety of physiological pathways resulting in different pathologies (the way histamine drives symptoms differently from one person to the next, or the way your condition develops specific to you).

It is through this ability to impact different pathologies that mast cell involvement shows up in different lung conditions.

Different Lung Pathologies, One Approach

Once you recognize that mast cells are involved, you can target mast cells specifically with a mast cell stabilizing approach. Stabilizing mast cells means that the release of the chemical mediators is inhibited or slowed down. Slow down the release of chemicals, and you slow down symptom or disease progression.

Mast Cell Stabilization

Polyphenols can stabilize mast cells. Polyphenols are compounds found in plant foods such as vegetables, herbs, spices and fruits. They are what give plant foods their colours and flavours. Think of the intense colour in a blueberry or cherry, or the aromatic flavour of basil or rosemary. That's a tell tale sign of polyphenol-rich compounds in those foods.

While polyphenols may be best known for their antioxidant properties, some of them have mast cell stabilizing properties as well.

Quercetin (3) and luteolin (4) are particularly well researched for their ability to stabilize mast cells. Low histamine foods that contain both compounds include:

  • Apples

  • Blueberries

  • Cabbage

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels sprouts

Make sure to consume these foods regularly. They're all on our HH Shopping List! (Check our resources page to grab that.) To get you started, we have a great YouTube video on how to prepare a simple side dish that has both apples and cabbage.

Eat Polyphenols for Better Lung Health

A polyphenol rich diet is associated with better lung function (5). Polyphenols reduce lung inflammation and help prevent lung injury. Yes, yes! The foods you put on your plate have the potential of being your medicine. What's not to love?

Resveratrol -- yet another type of polyphenol -- has been shown to reduce inflammation in COPD and asthma (6). Low histamine foods with this nutrient include pistachios, blueberries, cranberries, and cacao butter. Consider this an invitation to bring in a greater variety of those low histamine foods to your table!

Polyphenols have been shown to be protective of pulmonary fibrosis in experimental mouse models (7).

Resveratrol, quercetin, mango leaf extract (rich in mangiferin), and grape leaf extract (rich in dihydroquercetin) all reduced inflammation and prevented oxidative damage to lungs. (8) All important polyphenols showing promise in supporting the body in reducing what's driving histamine release!

Apple polyphenols help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in COPD in those with cigarette smoke-induced lung injury (9). It seems that the old adage an apple a day keeps the doctor away has some truth to it.

Additionally, higher intake of quercetin, luteolin and other polyphenols was associated with less chronic cough and breathlessness in COPD (10).

Powerful Polyphenols

Polyphenols add so much more to your meals than delicious flavours, and luscious colours. Their lung-health promoting properties make them a great addition to any meal or snack.

In addition to the foods listed above, here are some of our favourites here at Histamine Haven that will provide you with good amounts of polyphenols. Include them on the regular!

  • Blackberries

  • Cherries

  • Pomegranate

  • Red onion

  • Herbs

  • Turmeric

  • Dried peppermint

  • Moringa

  • Olive oil

  • Pecans & hazelnuts

Where to start? Add chopped fresh herbs, turmeric, and red onion to olive oil and drizzle that mixture onto salads or cooked vegetables. Then sprinkle a few chopped hazelnuts onto your meals.

Choose blackberries, cherries, cranberries or pomegranate wherever you normally have some fruit—a smoothie, as a dessert after dinner. Have any of the fruit listed in this article along with a handful of pecans for an afternoon snack.

Add these to your shopping list today.

The more variety, the better!

Comment below to let us know your favourite way to eat them. You never know - sharing your favourite way to eat these foods can inspire someone else reading this article.


Know that you are struggling with lung issues and wondering if histamine or mast cell is involved? Join us at our next The Histamine Connection class if you're ready to start learning a bit more about how histamine might be contributing to things. It's coming up soon!

It's completely free to join us, and it's all online so anyone can join us from the comfort of home. A replay link is also sent out in case you can't join us live.

Click on the link below to register for our next live Histamine Connection class. We also offer an on-demand version you can watch whenever you please.

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