A Twist in the Allergy Plot

Well, what a year we’ve had!

Finally, spring has sprung, and especially in Victoria we’re allowed a little more freedom to be out and about. Spring brings with it the joys of fresh energy, birth to new flora and fauna, spring cleaning, crisp mornings, and beautiful sunny days. But with this season also comes the challenge of allergies. I see droves of people who suffer from dreaded allergies every year, but the plot thickens because, for some, allergies are not just triggered in spring! But I’m getting ahead of myself; more about that later.



The Role of Histamine

When I talk to my clients about allergies, I discuss the role of histamine in the body. Histamine plays a role in physiological and pathological processes. It is a biogenic amine, which functions as a tissue hormone, a neurotransmitter, and a messenger substance in the immune system.


Unhelpful histamine effects:

  • Tightness in the chest! Histamine can cause muscle contraction, so cramping or even tightness in the chest is due to the bronchi’s contraction.
  • Red reactions! Histamine can cause dilation of blood vessels and increase their permeability, which is one reason redness can be part of a histamine reaction – have you ever seen someone’s skin change colour after drinking a glass of red wine? That’s the histamine.
  • Everything runs! Histamine causes mucosal secretion! That means the eyes, nose, and saliva tend to run more!!
  • Anxiety, insomnia, blood pressure, and more! Histamine can cause heart arrhythmias and influence blood pressure – it stimulates gastric secretions. It is involved in neurotransmission and can influence anxiety reactions and immune modulation, including inflammatory responses, wound healing, intestinal ischemia, and day-night rhythm, sometimes keeping us wakeful when we don’t want to be!


The four known histamine receptors

There are four known histamine receptors that each causes a different reaction in the body.

H1: Causes allergy with itching, pain, smooth muscle contractions, blood vessels, hives, and flushing. H1 is involved in vomiting and regulation of the sleep-wake cycle.

H2: Are involved in gastric secretions and bowel movements (you knew poo would come into it somewhere), leading to the acceleration of intestinal contents and diarrhea. H2 also leads to acceleration or stronger heartbeat and dilation of the smaller blood vessels.

H3: Plays a role in hunger, thirst, circadian rhythm, body temp, and blood pressure

H4: Are involved in immune responses and, in particular allergic reactions.


Who Knew it Was So Complicated? 

Different antihistamine medications target specific receptors – who knew it was so complicated?

The role of histamine in the body has been a fascination of mine for at least two decades. I have navigated my way around low histamine diets, understanding methylation (switching genes on and off) as a way to detoxify histamines. I have looked into the genetics of polymorphisms MTHFR and diving into the deep complexities of Histamine Intolerance (HIT) and Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD).

These are complex disorders and involve a multi-action approach, including being aware of histamine liberating foods and high histamine nutrients to support methylation and supporting the enzyme Diamine Oxidase, which is involved in metabolism inactivation of histamine.


It’s a Matter of Threshold

I describe each individual’s histamine load as being like a science experiment in the beaker. Each day you are bubbling away on top of the Bunsen burner – and you never know if the mix that day is going to bubble over or be an explosion in the science lab! It is all a matter of threshold.


The Plot Twist

But here is a plot twist I recently discovered, which has shed a whole new light on the complexity of my allergenic clients. Internally we have our own production house of many biogenic amines in the gut, which includes – but is not limited to, histamine.

There are other biogenic amines such as:

  • Tyramine
  • Cadaverine
  • Putrescine

These are even more of a problem to the amine load – causing allergy symptoms when we least expect it! It can be quite frustrating when you control your diet to the letter avoiding histamine foods, controlling your environment as much as possible (mainly staying out of it when you know you are triggered). Without knowing it, you have your factory of amines in your gut – producing amine metabolites and causing allergic responses anyway!


Food Additives

Part of the problem is that these amines are added to our foods to make them taste better. Processed foods, aged foods, and fermented foods contain additives such as amines.

Have you ever been advised to reduce all processed foods and eat more real, fresh, simple foods such as fresh meat, eggs, vegetables, and fruits?

There is a reason why we need to avoid too many processed foods. We can be overfeeding the bacteria that produce these amines in our gut – some problem foods include selected

  • Protein
  • Lactose
  • Fructose
  • Glucose

Added to this list are the high amounts of lactic acid produced from these bacteria, and interestingly, this acidic environment is necessary for the amine to activate.


The All-Important ‘Undo’ Button

Here is the important undo button! Alkalise! There is a reason I’ve been banging on about alkalizing for years. Some foods that help are:

  • Leafy greens
  • Celery
  • Almonds
  • Seeds
  • Cucumber
  • Snow peas
  • Bok choy
  • Asparagus
  • Figs
  • Apricots

But there are many other alkalising foods. You can also help by drinking some herbal teas, green juice and lemon juice. 

Finally, it is essential to know that even some probiotics are amine producers, so I am particular about the probiotics I recommend.

Natural substances such as quercetin, Vitamin C, Magnesium, B6, MSM, zinc, and methionine are essential to help manage histamine. However, don’t overlook your microbiota’s role when addressing allergy symptoms – there is more going on in your gut than your ever imagined – even for a poo queen.


Karlene Georgiadis ND

Upcoming Author of ‘Your Poo Matters’

Biomedical Naturopath