The Biggest Problem with Antihistamines in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance – You May Be Making It Worse!
If you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance, you may have been to several doctors already just like I had. If so, you were likely prescribed antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers.
The standard medical treatments for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance involve trying increasingly stronger medications without much attention given to the underlying root causes or how to address those root causes to allow you to heal.
I saw over 50 practitioners when I was looking for answers for my Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance. I was put on countless medications. These sometimes helped my symptoms…but only for a while.
Other medications gave me horrible side effects that were worse than my initial symptoms. The worst thing was that my Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance kept getting worse over time.
Medications used in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
Medication treatments for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance are complicated. Usually physicians prescribe different combinations of medications over 6 to 18 months. This is to see what will be tolerated and control the symptoms.
Treatment for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance usually starts with antihistamines and can include:
- A combination of H1 (like Benadryl, Atarax, Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec) and H2 blocking antihistamines (like Zantac and Pecid AC)
- Aspirin (although some people have severe reactions to Aspirin)
- Leukotriene blockers like Montelukast (Singulair) and zafirlukast
- Corticosteroids like Prednisone
- IgE blocker Omalizumab
I was put on several of these medications starting at just 12 years old. By age 13, I was on:
- 2 H1 blocking antihistamines: Seldane and Benadryl
- H2 blocking antihistamine: Zantac
- Rescue asthma inhaler: Albuterol
- Asthma Prevention inhaler: Ventolin
- Synthetic Estrogen birth control for painful periods
- Frequent antibiotics for upper respiratory infections
Seldane was later removed from the market due to dangerous side effects. This is a lot of medication for an adult! And it was certainly a lot of medication for a child.
The problem was, things weren’t getting better. They were getting worse.
Why Medications, like Antihistamines and Mast Cell Stabilizers Backfire over time in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
This medication treatment approach only masks symptoms at best. And it nearly always backfires over time. Part of this is because antihistamines cause the body to produce even MORE histamine in the long run.
These antihistamine drugs are only blocking the histamine receptors. They don’t actually reduce histamine.
None of my practitioners knew how to address the root causes of my Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance. Heck, we didn’t even have a name for these things back then. But because of this, in my early 30s, I ended up addicted to Benadryl to be able to sleep. I took it every night for 4 years. It took me 9 months to be able to wean off.
The older generation antihistamines like Benadryl and hydroxyzine have scary side effects like memory loss and early onset of dementia (Shelly L. Gray, et. al, 2015). These effects can happen immediately or even 20 years or more after taking the medication!
The H2 blockers have their own set of problems. These medications lower histamine in the gut. This then blocks the production of stomach acid, which means you can’t properly digest your protein. If you don’t have enough stomach acid, you also can’t kill off viruses, bacteria, mold, and parasites that are inevitably on your food when your food hits your stomach. These problems can lead to malabsorption, nutrient depletion, intestinal infections, low neurotransmitters, and worsened acid reflux.
Then many of the mast cell stabilizing medications have several unpleasant side effects.
Finally, the body can develop a tolerance for these medications, meaning you have to take more and more over time with fewer and fewer results. This is what happened to me with Benadryl.
This is a great way for drug companies to sell more medications, but it is definitely not a way you can regain your heath.
Another problem with these medications is the inactive ingredients. Antihistamines and Mast Cell Stabilizing medications often have artificial colors, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, or titanium dioxide (Worm, 2011) (Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance, 2016). These are major Mast Cell and Histamine Triggers! Why would they even use these ingredients?? I truly don’t know.
Major Issues with the Traditional Medical Approach in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
I’m an admin for one of the largest Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome groups on Facebook. I’m also a member of several of the other Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome groups. I see thousands of posts a week by people trying to manage Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance with medication alone.
It is so hard to see when people post frantic stories of terrible reactions after eating processed foods loaded with sugar, gluten, and other major triggers. Then they are advised to take more medications. The increased medications mask the symptoms for a short time. But the flare happens again. And it is usually worse the next time. And even worse the next time.
I see so many people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance in desperation. It is heartbreaking to see people taking more and more medications only to feel worse and worse.
Let me say, though, I’m not anti-medication. For some people, medications are necessary. Particularly those with life threatening symptoms. In this cases, medications are required while working on the underlying root triggers.
I’ve had to take some medications for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance myself. My Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance were both severe. But I do want you to know the drawbacks.
Related Post: The Best Antihistamine for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
How to Actually Recover with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
Medications will only mask symptoms in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance. Traditional medicine will tell you this is the only way. But that isn’t true at all!
I also want you to know all ways you can actually deal with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome at the root level.
Unfortunately, that kind of information isn’t easily available. Many medical providers never mention how much of a difference diet changes can make and the other steps I talk about on my website. Likely, they just don’t know anything about it.
Many people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance in the Facebook groups aren’t aware of the steps they can take to dramatically change their health. They don’t know that you can reduce dependence on medications that don’t really heal anything.
But there is good news! By working with a Functional Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance specialist, you can recover your health and your life!
Here’s the thing, the “gold standard” in health care is measured by whether your approach can help 60% to 80% of people. But that means 20% to 40% of people fall through the cracks and don’t get help. That isn’t good enough for me.
I guess because I was always in that 20%-40% and always fell through the cracks. In looking for answers for myself, I saw over 50 practitioners and spent well over $150,000 U.S. with nothing working.
I finally realized about 10 years ago that no one out there I could find had a clue about what was happening to my body. I realized I had to become a Functional Health Care Practitioner so I could figure it out for myself.
I could have saved myself so much time and money if I had found someone who understood the Root Causes of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.
What is a Functional Root Cause Approach to Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance?
A Functional Root Cause Approach is about looking at: What is triggering the Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance? What is actually causing these symptoms.
Because here is what you need to know. And this is really important. Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance are not the problems!
I want to say that again. Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance are not your problem. The problem is what is underneath that is TRIGGERING that Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance.
What is underneath Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance? I’ve identified the 7 Most Common Root Causes in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance. These are things like:
- Food Triggers
- Infections (like Lyme and Mold Toxicity)
- Nutrient Imbalances
- Hormone Imbalances
Sign up below to get your FREE REPORT on the 7 most common root causes of MCAS and how they may be affecting you. I’ll send it right to your inbox.
I take a Functional Root Cause Approach in my Mast Cell 360 practice. I’ve been able to get that percentage of helping people up to 95%. Which is really exciting to me! This is because I’m looking at genetics, checking Functional tests, and looking at each person individually. And each protocol is tailored to that single person.
This is the kind of practitioner and approach you are looking for if you suspect you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance.
I do want to say, if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance, this process isn’t for everyone. It is hard work. It requires changing your diet, changing things about your lifestyle, getting Functional tests, and taking supplements.
But people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance who put in the work get good results. They aren’t just masking symptoms. They are getting their lives back.
What if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance and you don’t work on the root triggers?
Some people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance decide to ignore their health. The really unfortunate thing is if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance and you do nothing – this is likely going to be progressive for you and continue to get worse.
People who aren’t willing to put work into their health do need to go the traditional medical route of medications like antihistamines. But you also have to know that these are just masking symptoms. And Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance will still be progressive if you just use pharmaceuticals.
Again, I’m not anti-medication. Some people do need medications. But what I’m saying is that if you want to get better, medications alone won’t do it.
The medications for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance have a lot of side effects. Some of them cause dementia. And people need more and more medications over time. Which I’ve seen hundreds of cases where this snowballed into a nightmare for people.
But managing Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance takes work and requires changes and taking supplements. So, the traditional medicine approach is really the route if you don’t want to do a lot of work and take supplements.
These conventional medicine routes don’t look at the root causes, though.
What to do if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance and you DO want to work on the root triggers?
By using Root Cause analysis and getting the right Functional tests and getting the right genetic data – this is where the real turnaround occurs for people.
When we dig in and do the work to identify the root causes, then address those root causes, support the cofactors, address diet changes – then people can actually heal and improve and get their lives back.
This is the method I use and the method others who are getting good results use in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Histamine Intolerance, and these related conditions like Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Ehler’s Danlos, Autism, etc.
There are too many people suffering with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome without good help who wouldn’t have to suffer if they had the right information and the right steps to get well.
But I see people get better every day. I have a client “Janet” who was house bound 1 ½ years ago because she was so sick. She had tons of food reactions and was really fatigued. She has mouth burning, itching, flushing, and a lot of trouble sleeping.
But after going through the Mast Cell 360 process, she is traveling, driving again, and she’s got her life back. And her symptoms are down to about 10% of what they were. And we’re wrapping up that last 10%. It is really amazing how your body can heal when it just has the right supports that are specific to what your body needs.
I have had Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance my whole life. I know exactly what it is like to not be able to get out of bed or not be able to go for a walk or have to cancel on friends because I’m too sick to go out.
I know exactly what it is like to be told everything is in my head because my regular blood work looked normal. I know what it is like to be down to 15 foods and not know what to eat. I know what it’s like to not be able to eat out or have a meal with family and friends.
I got my life back, though, with the Mast Cell 360 Functional Root Cause Approach I developed. When I got the right functional labs run and looked at my genetics, you could see there was a lot wrong. And this is what gave me the tools and information to know how to heal. It allowed me to get better and allows me to support my clients in getting their lives back too.
This is why I created Mast Cell 360 – to be exactly the kind of practice I wish had existed when I was so sick and seeking someone who could guide me in getting my health and my life back. This is my service to the world – to take everything I learned in the health nightmare I went through and help people get through this faster, easier, and by spending way less money than I had to.
If you are struggling with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance, you don’t have to struggle alone. I invite you to get expert help. You can use the button below to apply for the Mast Cell 360 program.
Just wanted to say how much your article about antihistamines have helped me to stay strong. I’ve been taking antihistamines on and off for 5 years for what seemed to be chronic urticaria with GI issues. I’ve been taking one of these antihistamines for 2 years. It masked most symptoms and my Mast Cell symptoms only occasionally manifested as anxiety. However, every antihistamine I’ve tried stopped working after a period of time and when that happens, all hell breaks loose. Not only does it not work, I get incredibly itchy and my histamine reactions goes wild when I try to stop taking the antihistamines. I realised that, as you said, blocking histamine receptors makes everything worse, I was putting a bandaid on my condition while it was actually getting worse underneath. No doctors seems to understand this and its crazy.
Your post have encouraged me to stay on this painful journey to get my body back to a no-antihistamine state. I’ve been going through absolute hell since the start of the year. Thank you.
Brenda, I am so glad to hear you are staying the course and this is helping.
Thank you for this amazing article. I relate on many levels.
I have been struggling with these issues for many years. I was dealing with a Mold Toxicity, Lyme and Babesia all at the same time. I have had asthma for 30 years. I also have RA, Lupus, Hashimoto’s and MTHFR variations.
I have a very clean diet with relatively no processed food and have not had really serious outbreaks for about a year until I made this mistake of walking through an area with a very little bit of tall grass with bare legs last week. Within 10 minutes I was covered in huge firey welts. Since then I can’t seem to get my allergies under control.
Our pollen count in Southern Oregon has also been extremely high this spring and it is kicking my butt. I am doing all my normal remedies without much relief. High doses of Liposomal Vitamin C, and big doses of quercetin. On occasions I will revert back to the H1 and H2 regimens but it makes me feel terrible.
I know I am missing something in the triggering of this constellation of conditions. At least for the last year I don’t have flares of them all at once. That was almost unbearable.
I’ve had a difficult time keeping a Functional Medicine practitioner for one reason or another here in our area. They seem to start a practice and leave within a year. In fact, I don’t have one right now army all. Sigh.
How do I book a consultation with you?
Please contact the team here https://mastcell360.com/contact/ and let them know you would like information about getting on the waiting list. Thank you so much for reaching out.
I feel like this is what I have! Who can test for this?
The testing for MCAS isn’t very reliable at this time. About 90% of people with MCAS are missed by the testing. 10-17% of the population have MCAS, and over 50% of people with chronic health issues have MCAS. We can get some good clues looking at health history, symptoms, and root triggers. The higher your score from the survey (link below) is above 50, the more likely you have MCAS. Beth’s approach is a root trigger approach and often helps with a variety of issues. You can read more here:
This article is so helpful! And I would love to work with you. How do you feel about immunotherapy/LDA for allergens linked to MCAS? Is it safe?
Also what are you thoughts on low dose naltrexone? Do you use any of these in your practice? I suspect I have mold toxicity and MCAS.
This article is so helpful! One of the causes for HI you mention is hormone imbalance. Being perimenopause, my hormones swing wildly. I do everything to naturally balance my hormones (exercise, eat healthy, nutritional support, low stress etc), however some months, I have 90% of the HI symptoms for 2 weeks. It’s debilitating. I just started the low histamine diet, however, I think that’s just short term to minimize food based histamine response. What about histamine surge from hormones? THANK YOU for all you do!!
Check out our posts on hormones here for some good information about hormones and histamine and MCAS: https://mastcell360.com/reverse-estrogen-dominance-naturally/ and https://mastcell360.com/estrogen-dominance/
Hi, I have either MCAS or histamine intolerance and also a bacterial overgrowth. I see a functional medicine practitioner, but we’ve been unable to treat the bacterial overgrowth, as I react to every supplement which is supposed to help treat it. I’ve been taking antihistamines over the past few months and they didn’t help much, but my histamine issues have got a lot worse now I have stopped taking it and I’m now reacting to everything. I’ve tried oral Sodium Cromoglicate, but I had a bad reaction to it. So I really don’t know how I’m ever going to get better if I can’t treat the bacterial overgrowth. If you have any suggestions, it will be much appreciated. Thank you.
Hi Rachel, We’re sorry to hear you are dealing with histamine intolerance and bacterial overgrowth right now. Here is a link to some of our blogs that may assist you in figuring our your next steps to address the overgrowth: https://mastcell360.com/?s=SIBO. With clients that are highly sensitive and reacting to a lot of foods and supplements, we often recommend starting with our Nervous System Reboot to help calm the mast cells so supplements can be tolerated. You can learn more about the reboot here if that is of interest to you: mastcell360.com/mastcell-reboot
I am in the EXACT same situation as you. I wish I had some advice but just know you’re not alone.