Histamine Intolerance: When Allergies Get Out of Hand

In this day and age, the food we eat and the lifestyles we lead don’t always leave us feeling so great. Headaches, constipation, lethargy, gas, bloating, etc. are things we’ve all experienced at some point. But nailing down the exact cause of our symptoms can be a real challenge—oftentimes they can signify anything from daily wear and tear to a more serious medical issue. So how do you know which one it is?

The first step towards finding the answer is usually to start the Paleo diet, which keeps from us eating the foods that tend to lead to the annoying symptoms listed above. Many people will find their quality of life transformed after being on the Paleo diet for an appropriate length of time. But if you’ve given the Paleo diet a try and your symptoms remain, it might be time to look at some other explanations for that persistent feeling of illness. One of those explanations is histamine intolerance.

Before I talk about histamine intolerance, I want to say a bit about what histamines are and the purpose they serve. Histamines are chemicals that we come into contact with in a few different ways. The first and most common way is when the body itself releases histamines. This happens any time an allergen triggers the immune system. Once released, the histamines leave us with runny noses, rashes, itchy throats, and the other typical allergy symptoms most of us know all too well. We also come into contact with histamines when 1) we eat foods containing them and 2) certain bacteria in our guts produce them. 

To keep histamine production under control, our bodies produce an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO). DAO breaks down these histamines, subduing the allergic reaction. But some people have a deficiency of DAO, which means histamines are allowed to build up inside the body over time. Histamine buildup can lead to a variety of symptoms including migraines, digestive upset (constipation/diarrhea), nausea, and low blood pressure, in addition to all the other allergy symptoms listed above. In other words, you may have what feels like an allergic reaction but in the absence of any allergen at all. We call this histamine intolerance. 


Histamine intolerance, unfortunately, is often hard to diagnose because most of these symptoms (runny nose, headache, constipation, etc.) are nothing out of the ordinary. However there is at least one give-away to the histamine intolerant—they always respond poorly to foods that contain high levels of histamines. Although your body produces them as well, our biggest histamine source tends to be the food we eat. In reality, its not the food that contains the histamines—it’s the bacteria living on the food. Anything aged or fermented will contain a lot of these histamine-producing bacteria—think yogurt, aged cheese, cured meat, alcohol, vinegar, fish and seafood, mushrooms, dried fruit, and more. Sometimes even leftovers contain enough bacteria to cause problems. 

However, a person’s reaction to specific foods can very widely. For example, someone might be able to eat fish from one store without a problem, but suffer terribly after eating fish from another grocery store or restaurant.  There are also foods that don’t actually contain histamines themselves, but rather cause our bodies to produce more histamines, like spinach, citrus fruit, pineapple, pork, shellfish, chocolate, and nuts. Individual sensitivities to these foods often vary greatly, but most of the time people are primarily affected by only the very high-histamine foods, which like I said, includes anything aged or fermented.

The best way to diagnose histamine intolerance is to follow a customized histamine-elimination diet for four weeks. After that time, the patient should reintroduce the eliminated foods to see if there is any noticeable difference in well-being. A food journal and the guidance of a medical practitioner can be valuable tools in diagnosing histamine intolerance. If you want to know more about what foods should be avoided in a histamine-elimination diet, please see the following link: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/5/1185/T3.expansion.html

If you believe high-histamine foods might be behind your symptoms, there are a couple things you can do to feel healthy again. In addition to avoiding the foods containing the most histamine, you’ll want to make sure your meat is as fresh as possible or frozen as soon as possible after slaughter. It’s also important to pay attention to your gut health. Like I said earlier, some of the bacteria in our guts produce histamines. If the bacteria population in our guts becomes imbalanced (due to taking antibiotics, eating the wrong foods, etc.), then histamine buildup can become a problem. Taking particular probiotics, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can help suppress this histamine release. Other helpful supplements are Vitamin B6, copper, and Vitamin C. These nutrients encourage a healthy population of DOA, which again, eliminates histamines. 

At this point in time, scientists are unsure just how much of the population is histamine intolerant. If you’re having allergy symptoms accompanied by digestive upset, headaches, low blood pressure, etc. for no apparent reason, you might be one of those affected. Luckily, simply giving your diet a little more attention can often alleviate the symptoms of histamine intolerance. The best way to find out more is to contact your healthcare practitioner about crafting a histamine-elimination diet and reintroduction to see the difference for yourself. 

Dining with IBS: An Uncomfortable Date Indeed

For those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), eating out can be a jungle expedition, fraught with danger, unexpected twists, and improvised back up strategies. The sufferer calls ahead to ensure there are suitable food options, ingests caustic medications with potential side effects that range from extreme constipation to heart attack, and drives a separate car that can serve as a getaway vehicle. At the restaurant they must nonchalantly nudge the dining party towards a table near a bathroom, and pounce on the seat with easiest entry and exit path. During the meal they must be vigilantly self-aware, constantly assessing their evolving physical state as the food digests. Only when the meal is over and the bill is paid can an IBS sufferer breathe a sigh of relief. A leisurely dining experience is never so simple for a person with IBS.

IBS is not restricted to digestive discomfort- it affects the way we live. The stress of IBS can lead to physical and emotional debilitation. However, we do not have to passively accept IBS or merely numb the symptoms. It is possible to combat IBS at its root and completely eradicate it from our lives. This month’s blogs will offer a simple 3-step solution for dealing with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

IBS Eradication Step #3: Find Solutions that Work for You

Discover what foods serve as our triggers.


RAST blood examinations (short for radioallergosorbent test) which tests for acute immune reactions to food, combined with an ELISA Blood Test, which examines the body's latent reaction to 96 potential food allergens, provide a comprehensive picture of IBS triggers.


Exclude the trigger food from our diet.  

Though it sounds surprisingly simple, removing trigger foods can lead to radical improvements in our well-being. Once we discover and remove the root of the cause, the symptoms will dissipate.


Nourish stressed systems with supplements and enzymes. 

There are a variety of supplements and enzymes to heal a compromised digestive tract. Speak to your health practitioner about what options are best for you.

Out of the Digestive Jungle

Dining out does not have to be a dangerous trip into unpredictable territory. When we educate ourselves about IBS and make appropriate lifestyle changes, we can regain control of our lives. True health and wellness is within your reach.

IBS Eradication Step #2: Critical Analysis of Current Medical “Cures”

What Do Some Medical Doctors Say about the Cause and Cures of IBS? While some medical doctors concede that IBS is affected by diet, most do not test for food allergies. They allege that the true cause is unknown, and the best course of action is to numb symptoms with prescribed medication.

Is there a Second Opinion? Yes. Thankfully, some doctors realize the direct correlation between diet and IBS. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, says that “more than 50% of IBS patients were found sensitized to some food or inhalant.”

Why is there a discrepancy in opinion about IBS causes and cures? Michael Pollan, investigative journalist and author of the new book Food Rules explains that “there's a lot of money in the Western diet...The healthcare industry makes more money treating chronic diseases (which account for three quarters of the $2 trillion plus we spend each year on heath care in this country) than preventing them.” (Pollan, 2009, p. xiv) It is more profitable to prescribe medications to patients than to remove the cause of their illness.

It is important to think critically about our health. Once we see the sociopolitical factors that surround our healthcare system we can understand how to advocate for our own well-being. Stay tuned for IBS Eradication Step #3: Find Solutions that Work for You.

IBS Eradication Step #1: Understand the Cause

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)? IBS is a continuum of chronic abdominal pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhea.

How does IBS develop? Around 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract. Its primary role is to “ok” or “attack” a food we ingest. When our immune system doesn't like something we've ingested, it uses inflammation and excess mucus as ammunition. This inflammation leads to IBS, among other dietary disorders. The triggers of IBS are food allergies.

What are Food Allergies? An allergy is the immune systems response to a protein usually found in a food, such as peanuts, eggs, wheat or milk that it perceives as a foreign body. Most food allergies are acquired, not inherited. Some people develop sensitivities due to repeated exposure especially in large quantities, and others react to pesticides and herbicides combining with the natural chemicals in food. Whatever the cause, the result is the same- a compromised immune system and discomfort.

Once we understand what causes IBS can we begin to heal. Stay tuned for IBS Eradication Step #2: Critical Analysis of Current Medical “Cures.”

Enzyme Nutrition: You're not what you eat, but what you absorb.

I. Changing the Question
II. The Cause of Symptoms, Pain & Discomfort
III. Enzyme Nutrition Can Heal
IV. The Importance of Digestion
V. Warning Signs of a Compromised Digestive System
VI. The Role of Enzymes in Digestion
VII. Enzyme Therapy: Assessing your Path Towards Healing
VIII. Take Command of your Health
IX. Links to Helpful Information
X. A Call to Action

I. Changing the Question
To live healthy lives, we need to change the question from, “How can we most effectively manage symptoms and pain?” to “How can we help our body heal?”

II. The Cause of Symptoms, Pain & Discomfort
When our body's tissue systems are under stress for an extended period of time, they are unable to absorb nutrients they need to support the ongoing needs of our life. This stress comes in many forms. There is the stress of everyday life; mechanical stress caused by an accident, sports injury, or repetitive stress injury; and biochemical stress caused by medications, poor nutrition or the environment.  Regardless of its source, the effects of stress are always the same. Without sufficient nutrients, our systems cannot function properly and begin to break down. Once the body begins to deteriorate, it needs a kick start in order to heal. Enzyme nutrition can provide us with the momentum to resolve symptoms and reach true vitality.

III. Enzyme Nutrition Can Heal
The healthiest diet imaginable is useless if your body cannot absorb food's essential nutrients. We eat not only because food tastes delicious, but also to sustain our body's 35 trillion cells.  The saying “you are what you eat” is not true - “you are what you absorb” is much more accurate.

Enzyme Nutrition is the process through which we can restore our ability to fully absorb the food we eat. It provides three basic steps to healing:
1.    Help identify and remove sources of stress.
2.    Nourish stressed organs and tissues.
3.    Assist the body in flushing out accumulated waste.
If we can do these three things the body will heal itself.

IV. The Importance of Digestion
The digestive system plays two essential roles in our bodies:
1.    Ingesting, digesting, absorbing, transporting, utilizing, and eliminating food.
2.    70% of the body’s immune system lives directly in your digestive system and it is the first line of defense against all diseases.

V. Warning Signs of a Compromised Digestive System
1. Allergies (both food and environmental)
2. Arthritis
3. Asthma
4. Bronchitis
5. Constipation or Diarrhea
6. Fibromyalgia
7. Gastro-intestinal Disorders (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, IBS)
8. High blood pressure
9. High cholesterol
10. Frequent headaches and migraines
11. Sinus problems
12. Skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne
13. Stomach problems (gastritis, ulcers, acid reflux)
14. Unresolved Muscular and Skeletal Pain
15. Chronic Fatigue
16. Gradual weight change
17. Depression, anxiety

VI. The Role of Enzymes in Digestion
Enzymes are extremely important for aiding failing tissue systems after repeated stress for the following reasons:
1.    Enzymes coordinate almost all biochemical processes in an organism, plant or animal.
2.    Enzymes are catalysts for chemical reactions within the cells.
3.    Enzymes function as key elements of pre-digestion in the mouth and digestion in the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and colon.

VII. Enzyme Therapy: Assessing Your Path towards Healing
Through appropriate assessment tools we can discover your enzyme deficiencies; detect biochemical, emotional and mechanical stressors; and identify the most effective detoxification methods. At Ann Arbor Holistic Health we use three assessment tools for a comprehensive assessment of the body's deficiencies: Signs and Symptoms Survey, 12-hour-fasting Nutritional Stress Test and Loomis 24-hour urinalysis. At a follow-up appointment, we present a complete “statement of findings,” explain the results, and suggest the appropriate Enzyme Therapy to address the conditions revealed.

1. Signs and Symptoms Survey
This subjective gauge gathers a wide range of information about your health, habits, and history. The survey covers medical history, diet, your immune system, your state of mind, and digestion information.
2. 12-hour-fasting Nutritional Stress Test
This thorough physical assessment examines over thirty stress points which identify nutritional deficiencies in the various tissues systems of the body.
3. Loomis 24-hour urinalysis
Unlike other urinalyses that are based on a single random sampling, the Loomis 24-hour urinalysis tests all the urine produced in one full day. Since the general composition of urine fluctuates constantly, this testing method provides a more comprehensive appraisal of overall digestive health and absorptive functions. The test is helpful in predicting our future digestive health if deficiencies are not addressed appropriately. The urinalysis analyzes:: pH, Specific Gravity compared to volume, Chlorides, Calcium, Vitamin C, Indican, Sediment, and Abnormal Solutes.

VIII. Take Command of Your Health
Eating a balanced diet is just the beginning of the path to digestive health. Many obstacles exist, but with careful observation and objective scientific tests we can unravel practical and straight-forward solutions. The body is a resilient and wise instrument that can achieve true vibrancy with care and awareness. Enzyme Nutrition is an essential step in your journey of healing.