What is Histamine Intolerance and How Can You Address It What to Know if You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance

What is Histamine Intolerance and How Can You Address It? What to Know if You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance are two separate conditions. But in the Mast Cell 360 practice, I often see them together.

We recently covered the basics of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. You can check out that post again here:

Mast Cells and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome 101: What to Know if You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

This post will be Histamine Intolerance 101.

Here’s what I’ll cover:

  • What is Histamine Intolerance?
  • Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance
  • Sources of Histamine: Food Sources and Body Production
  • Ways the Body Breaks Down Histamine
  • How Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance Are Related
  • My Top Tips for Reducing Histamine levels

So, let’s get started!

What is Histamine Intolerance? What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Wondering Mast Cell 360

So, what exactly is Histamine Intolerance? You might think it’s like any other food intolerance, right? Like gluten intolerance or dairy intolerance.

And yes! Histamine is a compound that your body can lose its ability to break down.

This means histamine can actually build up in your body.

And that’s when you can get Histamine Intolerance. Histamine Intolerance happens when you have too much histamine in your body.

It might help to think of Histamine Intolerance like a sink with a drain.

Water flows when you turn on the faucet of your sink. That’s the histamine coming into your body.

And the histamine degrading enzymes are the drain in the sink.

As long as the drain can keep up with the flow of water from the faucet, the sink never fills up.  Meaning your histamine levels won’t overflow and become a problem.

As long as enzymes in the body keep breaking down histamine, you likely won’t have any problems.

It’s a different story if the drain is clogged. Think of it this way. If the water is flowing from the faucet but the sink isn’t draining, the sink will eventually overflow.

So if you keep intaking/producing histamine, but you aren’t breaking it down, histamine levels build up. And that causes problems.

Histamine Intolerance is when your body can’t break down histamine fast enough. Then your histamine levels build up.

And if histamine builds up to a level beyond what the body can handle… that’s when you can get Histamine Intolerance.

A lot of symptoms can result from histamine intolerance. That’s up next.

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance – What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

It’s important you know that this blog post is for informational and educational purposes. It’s not meant to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone. Always be sure to work with your healthcare practitioner.

Symptoms occur when there is an overflow of histamine. Here are some common symptoms of Histamine Intolerance:

  • Itching or Hives
  • Rashes
  • Flushing
  • Acid Reflux/Heartburn
  • Asthma
  • Congestion
  • Postnasal drip
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Period pains
  • Sleep problems
  • Heart palpitations
  • Low blood pressure

This is just a short list of some of the more common symptoms.

A long list of severe symptoms could be a sign that you are dealing with more than just Histamine Intolerance, though. You might be dealing with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

Take a look at the list below. Are you dealing with these things, too? If so, you might be dealing with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome as well.

  • Chemical sensitivities (perfume, laundry detergent aisle, gasoline, etc.)
  • Light and sound sensitivities
  • Reacting to food as soon as it’s in your mouth
  • Anaphylactic reactions
  • Rage episodes
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Mold Toxicity
  • Mouth burning
  • Ear pain, congestion, or tinnitus
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Memory issues/trouble finding words
  • Prone to infections
  • Lengthy healing time

…and many more.

Remember, Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation are two separate conditions.

But in the Mast Cell 360 practice, I often see them together. And they can impact one another.

Let’s look at that next.

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance: How Are They Related? For Those with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome MCAS Beth O'Hara Genetics

First, let’s look more at what happens with mast cells. Mast cells are very important immune cells in your body. They are like your front line defender and sensor cells keeping your body safe from threats.

Your mast cells respond to all kinds of different triggers.

These triggers can be things like:   

  • Mold and Mycotoxins
  • Candida
  • chemicals
  • bacteria or viruses
  • neurotransmitters
  • hormones
  • chemicals from a different cell

And they can respond by releasing chemicals called mediators. One type of mediator is histamine. But there are hundreds of other mediators, too.

You can learn more about some of these other mediators in the post on cytokines here: Cytokines, Mast Cells, and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome: What to know if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

So, like we covered before, Histamine Intolerance happens when you have a problem just with breaking down histamine. This happens when there is more histamine in your body than your body can get rid of.

You can have just Histamine Intolerance and not Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

But what if histamine isn’t the problem? Can you just have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome?

Yes, you can just have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome without Histamine Intolerance. This would be possible if you don’t have problems getting rid of histamine. For example, if you’re still making good histamine degrading enzymes like diamine oxidase (DAO) and others.

If that’s the case, you could have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome but not Histamine Intolerance.

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome happens when you react to any number of the other mediators. This may include histamine. It may not.

What if you have trouble with histamine and other mast cell mediators? Then it’s likely you would have both Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.

This is what I see most often in the Mast Cell 360 practice. That’s because both Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance can be caused by things like mold toxicity and chronic bacterial infections like Lyme.

There are also lots of other contributors to both Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

Gut problems can be a big contributor. Hormone imbalances and low nutrients can be contributors as well.

However, mold toxicity is the #1 root factor in the vast majority of people we see at Mast Cell 360. Mold toxicity can be like a wrecking ball to the body.

This is because mold toxicity can cause both Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance. As well as all kinds of immune system, hormone, and gut problems.

If you want to learn more about Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, here’s the link to the blog post again for you: Mast Cell Activation 101.

But next, we’ll continue to explore Histamine Intolerance.

Are some of the symptoms associated with histamine intolerance familiar to you? If so, you might be wondering how histamine is getting into your body in the first place.

Let’s look at a couple sources of histamine: food and the body itself.

Sources of Histamine: Food Sources and Production in the Body -- What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Fermented Foods Mast Cell 360

Histamine can build up in the body in a few major ways:

  1. You’re eating too much histamine
  2. Your body is making too much histamine
  3. Your body isn’t breaking down histamine fast enough

Let’s start with eating too much histamine.

When you think of histamine in foods, you might think of things that are aged or fermented. Foods in this category include:

  • pickles
  • sauerkraut
  • wine
  • aged cheese
  • processed meats

Other foods can be high histamine, too. Even foods you might consider “healthy” can be high histamine. For example: tomatoes, eggplant, and green beans are high histamine.

AND there are still other foods that are technically low histamine but can be histamine-releasing! Some examples are citrus fruits, strawberries, and walnuts.

I’ve put together a food list for you. It shows which of the more common foods are high histamine (or histamine-releasing) and which are low histamine.

It also shows foods high in histamine-lowering nutrients. Those are great to emphasize.

The list could be a great resource for you to print out or refer to when you are meal-planning. Click here for the Histamine Foods List.

These two blog posts may also be helpful as you’re getting started:

So, you’ve seen that food is one factor that can raise your histamine levels.

And your body makes its own histamine, too.

We touched on this in the previous section. You’ll remember that mast cells release mediators when triggered. And one of those mediators is histamine.

Histamine can also be produced by another type of white blood cell. These are called basophils. And they also release mediators when triggered.

These mediators often play an important role in the body. They help fight off infection, for example. And support sleeping and waking cycles. They also help your body repair when you get injured.

So the mast cells and their mediators, like histamine, aren’t bad at all. They’re very important!

But there can be problems when your body doesn’t break down histamine.

We talked about how histamine intolerance occurs when there is this build up of histamine in the body. And that it builds up when the body isn’t breaking it down efficiently.

But why wouldn’t your body break down histamine fast enough?

We’ll talk about that next.

Ways the Body Breaks Down Histamine – What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Your body has tens of thousands of different kinds of enzymes. And these enzymes help make all kinds of important things happen.

You’ve probably heard of digestive enzymes. These enzymes help break down your food. So they are important in digestion.

And you have other, very specific enzymes in your body for breaking down histamine.

These are the 2 major enzymes the body breaks down histamine:

  1. Diamine Oxidase (DAO) – This enzyme is made in your gut. Specifically in your small intestine.

Enzymes often depend on certain nutrients or minerals to make them work properly. These are called cofactors. In order for your gut to make DAO,  you need to have enough vitamin B6.

Here is a DAO, that may work for you. 

Stay tuned for our custom DAO formula for those with mast cell and histamine concerns to be available soon! This formula will be targeted specifically for our Mast Cell 360 community.

If you’re deficient in B6, you aren’t going to be able to make the DAO you need.

Of course, that means that DAO isn’t there to help break down histamine. So, the histamine builds up.

Also, if there is a lot of gut inflammation, it’s very hard for your body to make DAO.

So, DAO breaks down histamine in the gut. Then, another enzyme breaks histamine down in other parts of your body. It’s called HNMT.

2. Histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT) – This enzyme breaks down histamine in your body outside of your gut.

HNMT breaks down histamine made by cells like mast cells. 

Also, when there is more histamine in your gut than DAO can break down, it escapes the gut into your bloodstream. HNMT works to break down histamine escaping from your gut as well.

HNMT has an important cofactor needed to make it work. You might have heard of it. It’s called SAMe.

SAMe is short for S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine. If you can’t make SAMe, then it doesn’t matter how much HNMT enzyme you have in your body. The HNMT won’t be able to work to break down your histamine.

SAMe is made during a process that happens in your body called methylation.

Methylation has gotten a lot of attention online. But be careful!! Most people I work with can’t support methylation early on. Especially if they are dealing with mold toxicity.

Here are a few potential causes that can lead to Histamine Intolerance:

  • You have gut inflammation – then you could have trouble making DAO
  • You have low B6 – then you could have trouble activating DAO
  • You have methylation issues – then you could have trouble activating HNMT
  • You have mold toxicity – you could have trouble with all of the above
  • You have significant genetic variants on the related genes

So what can you do if you have Histamine Intolerance? I’ve got that for you next.

My Top Tips on How to Reduce Histamine Levels in the Body – What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Top Tips Mast Cell 360

It’s important you know that this blog post is for informational and educational purposes. It’s not meant to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone. Always be sure to work with your healthcare practitioner.

Let’s get right to it! Here are my top tips on how to reduce histamine levels:           

  1. Reduce high histamine foodsTry a Low Histamine Diet for 6 weeks.
  2. Add Nervous System supports – This can help significantly to calm overproduction from mast cells. In fact, I’ve found that it’s at least 50% of the healing process for people struggling with these things.

Which is why this is step #1 in the Mast Cell 360 process.

If you have a sensitive system, addressing the nervous system can really help you tolerate the things you need to take to get better.

You can learn more here:

3. Support your Mast Cells and Histamine Levels – this is step #2 in the Mast Cell 360 process. You can do this through Mast Cell Supporting supplements. I’ve covered my tops ones and tons of tips in this class:

You can also try a DAO supplement to support breakdown of histamine in the gut.

4. Address root causes Mold toxicity, Lyme and coinfections, stress, and gut inflammation can be factors which inhibit DAO production. If you have mold toxicity, you’ll usually want to address this before anything else.

I hope this is helpful for you if you’ve been struggling with either Histamine Intolerance or Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

Recovering your health is definitely not an overnight fix. But, as you start supporting your body in these different ways, things should start to get easier.

I encourage you to enjoy small wins along the way. As you pay attention to improvements, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.

*Some links in this website are affiliate links, which means Mast Cell 360 may make a very small commission if you purchase through the link. It never costs you any more to purchase through the links, and we try to find the best deals we can. We only recommend products that we love and use personally or use in the Mast Cell 360 practice. Any commissions help support the newsletter, website, and ongoing research so Mast Cell 360 can continue to offer you free tips, recipes, and info. Thank you for your support!

References for Histamine Intolerance 101 – What to know when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

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Afrin, L. B. (2014). The presentation, diagnosis and treatment of mast cell activation syndrome. Current Allergy & Clinical Immunology, 27(3), 146-160.​

Afrin, L. B. (2016). Never Bet Against Occam: Mast Cell Activation Disease and the Modern Epidemics of Chronic Illness and Medical Complexity. Bethesda: Sisters Media.​

da Silva EZ, Jamur MC, Oliver C. Mast cell function: a new vision of an old cell. (2014). The Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry: Official Journal of the Histochemistry Society, 62(10), 698-738. DOI: 10.1369/0022155414545334.

Costiniti, V., Spera, I., Menabò, R., Palmieri, E. M., Menga, A., Scarcia, P., Porcelli, V., Gissi, R., Castegna, A., & Canton, M. (2018). Monoamine oxidase-dependent histamine catabolism accounts for post-ischemic cardiac redox imbalance and injury. Biochimica et biophysica acta. Molecular basis of disease, 1864(9 Pt B), 3050–3059. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbadis.2018.06.018

Heidari, A. et al. Mutations in the histamine N-methyltransferase gene, HNMT, are associated with nonsyndromic autosomal recessive intellectual disability, Human Molecular Genetics, Volume 24, Issue 20, 15 October 2015, Pages 5697–5710, https://doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddv286

Maintz, L,. & Novak, N. (2007). Histamine and histamine intolerance. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5), 1185-1196. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1185

Martner-Hewes, P. M., Hunt, I. F., Murphy, N. J., Swendseid, M. E., & Settlage, R. H. (1986). Vitamin B-6 nutriture and plasma diamine oxidase activity in pregnant Hispanic teenagers. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 44(6), 907–913. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/44.6.907

Metcalfe D. D. (2008). Mast cells and mastocytosis. Blood, 112(4), 946–956. https://doi.org/10.1182/blood-2007-11-078097

Moon, T. C., Befus, A. D., & Kulka, M. (2014). Mast cell mediators: their differential release and the secretory pathways involved. Frontiers in immunology, 5, 569. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2014.00569

Spoerl, D., Nigolian, H., Czarnetzki, C., & Harr, T. (2017). Reclassifying Anaphylaxis to Neuromuscular Blocking Agents Based on the Presumed Patho-Mechanism: IgE-Mediated, Pharmacological Adverse Reaction or “Innate Hypersensitivity”?. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(6), 1223. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18061223

Stone, K. D., Prussin, C., & Metcalfe, D. D. (2010). IgE, mast cells, basophils, and eosinophils. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 125(2 Suppl 2), S73–S80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2009.11.017

Theoharides, Theoharis C. “Critical role of mast cells in inflammatory diseases and the effect of acute stress.”  Journal of Neuroimmunology. 2004. 1-12.

Wernersson, S., & Pejler, G. (2014). Mast cell secretory granules: armed for battle. Nature reviews. Immunology, 14(7), 478–494. https://doi.org/10.1038/nri3690

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