9 Insomnia Relief Supplements for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) and Histamine Intolerance
The clock reads 4am. I sigh a gasp of frustration, anger, and pain. Another night of tossing and turning that will leave me exhausted and depressed.
On top of that, a little voice reminds me that not sleeping can make my Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and even Histamine Intolerance worse. The voice says that I’m doing it all wrong.
Have you ever felt anything like this?
This was my life 10 years ago. Luckily though, I now sleep 8-9 hours a night thanks to reducing histamines, Mast Cell 360 Root Cause Analysis, food changes, and targeted supplements. And I wake up refreshed and have energy throughout the day.
In the years I spent searching for insomnia relief, I learned a lot of tips along the way to improve sleep. I want to share these with you so that you can start enjoying restful sleep as soon as possible too. The supplements below really helped me and my clients, and I hope that they can support your sleep as well. Because if you don’t know it yet, sleep is one of the most important factors in recovering from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. Restorative sleep can really help with Histamine Intolerance too.
How are Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Histamine Intolerance, and Insomnia Related?
The mast cells are an important part of the immune system, and there are a large number of mast cells in the brain. Mast cells become over-reactive in those of us with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. These mast cells release inflammatory chemicals, like histamine and cytokines. Histamine also acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. The body naturally releases the most histamine around 3 am. And if your histamine stores are already too high, this 3 am histamine release can wake you up in the middle of the night.
Histamine can even affect serotonin, GABA, and melatonin levels. These are all needed to help you fall asleep. If serotonin, GABA, and melatonin get too low, your sleep can suffer. Learning I had Mast Cell Activation Syndrome helped me understand why I had so much trouble sleeping. If you have insomnia and MCAS, it is probably a big part of your sleep issues too. But don’t worry, there is a lot you can do to fix sleep when you have MCAS.
Is it Normal to Have Sleep Issues with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance?
Many people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance have sleep issues. We’ve already talked about how histamine release can make it hard to sleep. MCAS often causes joint pain, bone pain, and muscle pain. All of which can contribute to insomnia as well because pain makes it harder to sleep. MCAS and chronically high histamine also can contribute to Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis Dysfunction, more commonly called Adrenal Fatigue. When you have HPA Axis Dysfunction/Adrenal Fatigue, sleep cycles get out of whack. This can make you feel tired during the day and wide awake at night.
If you are having trouble sleeping, you aren’t alone. Dr. Afrin, a lead MCAS researcher, says 14%-17% of the general population has MCAS. And a majority of people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance have insomnia. It is very normal to have sleep issues when you have MCAS and Histamine issues. Hang in there, because I’m going to get to some very specific steps you can do to help you fix your sleep. But first…
Don’t Waste Your Money On Supplements Unless You Are Doing This!
I imagine you want to get right to the supplements already. But before we do, I just wanted to say that the majority of people I work with don’t get much help from just supplements alone. The reason is because the wrong foods are a big factor in making Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance worse. Supplements can be extremely helpful and may completely change your sleep this week. But supplements aren’t cheap, and I don’t want you to waste your money. If you aren’t also making the right dietary changes, you will probably keep having sleep problems even with the supplements below. So I’ve created an article called What to Eat (and Not Eat) with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)… Going Beyond Low Histamine Lists to help you with that. This is also a great article if you just have Histamine Intolerance.
Please try the supplements below and definitely let me know how they work for you in the comments. But just a warning, if you are having bone broth, kombucha, wine, cheese, yogurt, leftovers and other high histamine foods – don’t expect to sleep tonight even with taking all these supplements. I know this can sound harsh, but I really wish someone had been as direct with me about food when I was struggling with insomnia. So be sure to read What to Eat (and Not Eat) with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)… Going Beyond Low Histamine Lists before you start taking these supplements.
How Supplements Can Help Your Sleep
There are many issues that can cause problems with sleep. You want to clean up your diet and lower histamine levels first. For some people, sleep issues will be fixed with just these measures. Here are some of the other things that may be affecting your sleep:
- high glutamate levels,
- low serotonin,
- low melatonin,
- hormone imbalances,
- or chronic inflammation.
The great news is that by figuring out what is affecting your sleep, you have the power to fix it. There is so much we can do to heal even with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.
This is where supplements come in. If you have any of these issues, you may get a lot of help from the right supplements. You can try the supplements below and see how they work for you. These supplements are generally pretty safe, and I’ve included any cautions to consider. If you are taking any medications or other supplements, though, be sure to check out interactions here and run these by your Health Care Practitioner.
9 Supplements to take at Night to Directly Support Sleep
- Magnesium is very calming and supports sleep. It is also needed in over 300 chemical reactions in the body. Generally, it is better for people with MCAS to avoid Magnesium Citrate, which is made from fermentation. I recommend the Protocol for Life brand of Magnesium Threonate*. The Threonate form of Magnesium can cross the blood-brain barrier. This makes it more effective for supporting sleep and calm mood*. Too much magnesium can cause loose stools. So if you get loose stools, then back down a little until bowel movements are normal. The recommended amount is 3 capsules. I take it at bedtime. You might also experiment with it 2 hours before bedtime.
- Pine Bark Extract, also called Pycnogenol, is derived from a Mediterranean pine tree. Studies show this type of pine bark extract works as a mast-cell stabilizer and can help reduce inflammation. It also helps increase Vitamin C absorption and reduces pain. It can thin the blood slightly. So avoid this one if you have a bleeding disorder or take blood thinners. If you don’t have a bleeding issue, though, Pine Bark Extract is helpful for sleep. Look for a standardized brand, like Pure Encapsulations Pycnogenol*. The recommended amount is 1 capsule. I use this about 2 hours before bed.
- Olive Leaf Extract is derived from the leaves of olive trees. It has been shown in studies to work as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and able to reduce histamine levels. This one can interfere with Vitamin D absorption. I take it away from Vitamin D, and I don’t take it daily. I only take it when I’ve had a higher histamine exposure, like eating out or traveling. Be careful with this one if you take medications for diabetes or high blood pressure. It can interfere with those medications. I use Designs for Health Olive Leaf Extract* because it is standardized and has better potency than many other brands. The recommended dose is 1 capsule. I take it at bedtime.
- 5HTP is a precursor to serotonin, which is a calming neurotransmitter. 90% of serotonin is made in the gut, and if you have gut issues you might not make enough serotonin. 5HTP can help increase serotonin. Serotonin gets converted to melatonin, which helps with sleep. If you have low serotonin levels, this can help. I prefer sublingual 5HTP over 5HTP capsules. This is because taking 5HTP in capsule form can make the GI tract too relaxed, causing diarrhea and acid reflux. If you are taking SSRI or SNRI medications, talk with your physician before using 5HTP. Seeking Health makes a Sublingual 5-htp Lozenge*. (Watch out for citric acid in other brands.) I use ¼ tablet every 4-5 hours through the day or as needed. I also take ¼ tablet near bedtime.
- Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycles. If you are low in melatonin, it is helpful to figure out why. Serotonin is a pre-cursor to melatonin. If serotonin is low, increasing serotonin levels can be more effective than supplementing melatonin directly. So try 5HTP first, in this case. If you have normal serotonin levels and low melatonin, then supplementing melatonin may be more helpful. You want to take this about 2 hours before bedtime. Melatonin is a hormone. So it is important to use a pharmaceutical grade melatonin supplement. This is to be sure each capsule has the amount of melatonin stated on the label. I recommend Pure Encapsulations Melatonin*. I personally take 3mg of melatonin 2 hours before bedtime. You may need more or less, but be careful not to take more than 10mg.
- L-theanine is an amino acid that is found in green tea. The supplement is often calming for many people, especially those with high glutamates. It works by increasing GABA, a calming neurotransmitter in the body. Unfortunately for those of us with MCAS, green tea is fermented and can raise histamine levels. It is usually better for us to take L-theanine as a supplement instead. One caveat is that L-theanine is a methyl donor, so you’ll want to be cautious with it if you are overmethylated. I use Pure Encapsulations L-theanine*. I take one capsule in the morning and one capsule two hours before bedtime.
- CBD Oil is an extract of hemp plants. It does not create any mood or mind-altering effects. Hemp derived CBD oil is legally available in all 50 states in the US. CBD Oil can help support healthy sleep cycles and support recovery from exercise-induced inflammation*. It also supports calm mood and management of normal, everyday stresses.* There are many poor quality versions of CBD Oil on the market, especially the cheaper ones. CW Hemp makes excellent Organic CBD Oils. I use 6-10 drops of the stronger concentration CW Hemp CBD Oil Original formula at bedtime. Sometimes I use a couple drops in the morning for extra daytime support. If you are new to CBD oil, I recommend you start with the lower concentration CBD Oil first – CW Hemp 7mg. You can use the coupon code MASTCELL for 10% off, good for up to 5 products, until 8/1/2020.
- Magnolia Bark extract comes from the bark of the Magnolia Tree. The extract is also called Honokiol or Relora. It is an excellent mast cell stabilizer. It is also an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It can help with sleep by increasing GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Magnolia Bark can also help with reducing stress chemicals in the body. Studies have also shown that Magnolia Bark can help with anxiety and depression by increasing serotonin. Magnolia bark can slightly thin the blood, so if you use blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder, check with your physician before you use Magnolia Bark. Because Magnolia Bark supports the Central Nervous System, check with your physician if you are taking benzodiazepines. Otherwise, Magnolia Bark may be very helpful for your sleep. Pure Encapsulations Relora* is a reliable and affordable Magnolia Bark supplement. I take 1 capsule 2 hours before bed.
- GABA, the calming neurotransmitter mentioned above, can also be taken directly as a supplement. GABA doesn’t usually cross the blood-brain barrier, which is why many reports say GABA supplementation doesn’t work. However, those of us with MCAS often have a leaky blood-brain barrier. The one silver lining to that might be that GABA supplementation can work for us. Two important tips: 1. Too much GABA can backfire, so keep levels below 500-750 mg. 2. GABA is very heat sensitive, so you want to get a reliable brand and be sure it didn’t sit in a hot warehouse. I prefer to support GABA indirectly first with L-theanine and Honokiol. If those don’t do the trick or you can’t take them, GABA can be taken an hour or two before bedtime. I like Pure Encapsulations GABA*. I take 1 capsule 2 hours before bedtime. If you feel groggy when you wake up, you may need only ¼ to ½ capsule.
How to Incorporate These Supplements into Your Life
Most people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance get some insomnia relief with a combination of some of these supplements. Some get complete resolution of their symptoms. Others get some improvement, but will still need more support. I recommend trying new supplements like these on a weekend first when you don’t have to go anywhere. That way if something bothers you, it will have a chance to wear off before you have to be at your best.
Also with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, always start new supplements low and slow. I suggest trying new supplements with just a sprinkle. Open the capsule and put a sprinkle of the supplement in water. That way, if you react to something, it will be less of a reaction than if you try a whole capsule. This is also important if you just have Histamine Intolerance.
Just try 1 change every 3-4 days so that if something does bother you, you’ll know what caused it. This includes supplements, foods, travel, etc. Don’t change more than one thing at a time or you’ll get confused about what might be helping or making things worse.
I recommend trying things in this order:
- Magnesium – Try Magnesium first because it is inexpensive and is essential in so many processes in the body. This is likely the most essential supplement from the list to try.
- 5htp – After a few days try the sublingual 5-htp, since it also supports melatonin.
- Melatonin – After that, melatonin would be a good bet.
- Magnolia Bark Extract – If you still need more support, then try the Magnolia Bark extract.
- L-theanine– After that, you can try the L-theanine. But remember that if you are an overmethylator, it might make you anxious. So again, just try one thing at a time.
- GABA – If you are still needing more support, then you could try GABA.
- Pycnogenol, CBD Oil, Olive Leaf Extract – any of these could be tried next, based on what your body needs.
The amounts listed above are what I personally use. You may need more or less.This is not intended as medical advice, but as a starting point for a conversation to have with your Healthcare Provider.
If you try these supplements and you are still struggling to sleep, it’s probably because you aren’t taking into consideration your root factors underlying Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance. I know that can be hard to hear. But this is what I specialize in.
If you are still struggling, don’t stress. I’m here to help. You can book a Case Review, including your “Mast Cell 360 Root Cause Analysis”. We will explore your root causes related to Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and/or Histamine Intolerance together. Supplements work best when they are personalized for your specific root causes. I can help you learn what your root causes are through analyzing genetics, symptoms, labs, and lifestyle factors.
Important Tip: Be sure to buy supplements from reputable brands and distributors. I do not generally recommend buying heat-sensitive supplements on Amazon. Their supplements sit in hot warehouses. This can degrade the quality of the active ingredients, making it a waste of money. There have also been numerous accounts of counterfeit supplements on Amazon. These suppliers sometimes add dangerous ingredients to the capsules. On rare occasion, I will list a supplement link to Amazon for supplements that are heat stable and have better pricing on Amazon.
I provide recommendations above on specific, reputable brands from reputable suppliers. I look for brands that do not have fillers known to cause mast cell problems, such as citric acid. I also compare brand prices to provide recommendations at the best value.
The tips above are for informational purposes only and are not a prescription. Anyone with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance can react to any ingredients. Please be sure to discuss supplement recommendations and dosing with your Healthcare Provider.
What to Do If You Are Still Having Trouble Sleeping
If you are going to take supplements to help you with sleep, it is important to figure out what the root causes of your sleep issues are. There are so many factors that can affect sleep. I really wanted to focus on some things you could start working on today to help improve your sleep. So give these supplements a try and see how you do.
For some people, though, fixing sleep quality in the long run means working on the root issues underlying your MCAS/Histamine Intolerance and sleep issues. Working with a Functional Naturopath or Functional Medicine Doctor can really help you determine whether nutritional imbalances and genetic factors may be contributing to your sleep issues. This can allow you to target the supplementation you need. When you can narrow down the supplements your individual body needs, it is much more effective and less expensive in the long run than taking a shotgun approach.
The root causes to sleep problems in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance can include any combination of:
- High Histamine Levels
- Neurotransmitter Imbalances
- Hormone Imbalances
- Methylation Imbalances
- Genetic Factors
- Leaky Gut Issues
- Chronic Inflammation
- Leaky Blood Brain Barrier
- High Ammonia
- Airway Issues
I know it can seem overwhelming to figure this all out on your own. I spent over a decade learning how to fix my own sleep issues. I made tons of mistakes, and I spent many, many nights completely miserable. But I also learned a lot along the way that I can share with you.
You deserve to have restful, peaceful sleep every night. It is so important for your healing process. Good sleep is one of the most important things when you are healing from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance. When I was working on fixing my sleep issues, I always wanted someone there who could guide me. This is why I’ve dedicated my life to helping people like you with MCAS and Histamine issues.
If you are still struggling with your sleep, schedule your Case Review and Mast Cell 360 Root Cause Analysis with me today. Together, we will:
- Review your health history and any labs run in the last year.
- Discuss the common root factors underlying sleep issues in MCAS/Histamine Intolerance that may be affecting you.
- Identify which one (or ones) are most likely the key for you.
- Decide whether genetic testing or lab tests may be helpful for you.
- Arrange to get the correct test or tests done.
- Plan a follow-up session to develop your healing plan and start you on the next steps.
*Full disclosure: Some links in this website are affiliate links, which means I may make a very small commission if you purchase through the link. It never costs you any more to purchase through the links, and I try to find the best deals I can. I only recommend products that I love and use personally or use in my practice. Any commissions help support the newsletter, website, and ongoing research so I can continue to offer you free tips, recipes, and info. Thank you for your support!,