A topic that has been popping up on the forum recently is the issue of histamine in relation to diet and hives. This has been brought up by silvertones, willdev, and a few other members over the past couple of months.
The general idea is that if we avoid foods rich in histamine, it could help to reduce our overall histamine levels over time. The more I think about it and research it, the more interested I become. Could histamine intolerance have an effect on our hives?
What Is Histamine?
Histamine is a chemical naturally found in the body, that is involved with the allergic response. Whenever we get a hives attack, it is because our mast cells are spewing out histamine. This histamine then causes all sorts of symptoms, such as redness, burning, and the itching sensation we all feel.
Histamine (and its precursors), are naturally found in many foods. Some foods contain much higher amounts than others. In a great article by the chronic urticaria society, they list many of the histamine-rich foods. In the article, it also suggests that people with chronic hives avoid these foods as often as possible. The main high-histamine foods are
- preservatives/additives, and more.
Interestingly enough, most of the foods on this list matched up with my own diet. I realized I had been eating some of the foods highest in histamine (salmon, tomatoes, ketchup, etc.).
Histamine and Diet: Histamine Causing Foods
It is a scientific fact that we can acquire histamine through foods. It is also a fact that histamine is a known chemical that causes allergic symptoms. Thus, when we take an “anti-histamine,” we block those histamine receptors. This, in turn, reduces the symptoms associated with histamine release.
So it stands to reason that since histamine is involved with allergies/hives, that by reducing the amount of foods rich in histamine, it could be beneficial in reducing our symptoms. So I have, for the past month or two, reduced and eliminated many of the foods on the list for high histamine. So far this has not been noticeably helpful, and my hives seem about the same.
However, silvertones recently made a post and brought up a hugely interesting point: What about histamine reducing enzymes? Well, it turns out that there may very well be something called histamine intolerance. In other words, your body doesn’t break down histamine very well, and it keeps accumulating.
Histamine Enzyme: Could Histame (DAO) Enzyme Help in Cholinergic Urticaria or Hives?
After researching this a bit more, it does seem logically plausible. If we could reduce histamine levels, we could potentially reduce (although probably not cure) our cholinergic urticaria symptoms. Furthermore, there is a product that contains enzymes that break down the histamine in our foods, or so it says. I can’t verify because I haven’t tried it yet, although I am strongly considering it. Silvertones has already purchased it, but not yet received.
Think of it like a lactose intolerance enzyme. In people with lactose intolerance, they lack the enzyme needed to break down the lactase in the milk. Thus, this doesn’t get properly digested–leading to all sorts of bad symptoms (diarrhea, gas, etc.) as it passed through the intestines. However, when a person with lactose intolerance takes a lactase enzyme, it breaks down the lactase. Thus, it prevents the unwanted symptoms.
In that same way, this diamine oxidase enzyme supposedly breaks down the histamine in the body. This is very intriguing to me. I have often wondered if perhaps we were somehow deficient on some enzyme in our body, which means that some chemical is not being properly synthesized/broken down. If that is true (and we won’t know at this point without proper evidence), then it stands to reason that this chemical buildup could be causing our symptoms. Notice I said “could.” There could be other factors causing cholinergic urticaria for sure. In fact, it may simply be autoimmune, a blood disorder, buildup of some unsynthesized protein, or some other reason. We don’t know at this point.
Anyway, there are other medical conditions in which something similar can happen. For example, in people with Fabry disease, they lack an enzyme in their body (alpha-galactosidase A deficiency) that breaks down globotriaosylceramide. When this builds up over time, it leads to odd symptoms such as a “pins and needle” sensation in the palms and feet, among others.
That is what leads me to believe that it is at least possible that some protein/enzyme/chemical isn’t being properly disposed of (or broken down) by our body. Thus, we accumulate too much of it, and it is somehow interfering with our bodies natural sweating ability.
So could this histame product help break down histamine, which in turn, could potentially help (but perhaps not cure) cholinergic urticaria? The answer is: I Don’t Know. Silvertones has already ordered some, and I am sure he will keep us updated on his experiment. But it is certainly interesting to see if it helps any.
It is always possible that cholinergic urticaria is not related to any build-up of a chemical at all. Perhaps it is entirely autoimmune or something else. But either way, it is certainly interesting to hypothesize that by reducing histamine, it could help reduce our symptoms a bit. I guess time will tell. It worth thinking about at least.
I have also experienced a lot of food intolerance issues over the years, and it is interesting to consider it could all be related somehow.
Other Interesting Histamine Reducing Facts
I have also recently read about some supplements/vitamins that help control/reduce histamine levels. These are:
- Vitamin B6–supposedly helps reduce histamine levels by increasing the DAO compound found naturally in your intestines. This diamine oxidase compound is what actually breaks down the histamine.
- Vitamin C–supposedly also helps aid in the reduction and breakdown of histamine. According to Wikipedia, it said one study reported that taking 2 grams of vitamin C per day resulted in a 38% decrease in histamine in only a week. This is a high dose, so if you are considering taking this I would strongly recommend you talk to a doctor first.
- Histame–again, this supplement is supposed to help break down histamine in food. It alleges that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK use it. It doesn’t mention helping hives (it mostly advertises that it helps in digestion). But perhaps it could help? We will find out soon. But I cannot comment on it personally at this point.
- Histamine Reduction Diet–by avoiding foods that are high in histamine.
- Multi-vitamin–for basic health and to prevent vitamin deficiencies.
I am currently taking all of the above (with the exception of Histame–which I haven’t tried yet). I am hoping this new supplement and diet changes make a difference. I will update over time and let you know. And if you decide to try any of these, remember to talk to a doctor first for safety.
Update on Diet & Hives 5/7/12:
After extensive experiments with my diet (doing allergy elimination diets), I have finally been able to completely get my hives in submission. I do avoid most all “high-histamine” foods, but I also avoid any food that upsets my system. If you want to read more on my diet and experiments, check out my cholinergic urticaria and diet articles. Or, just watch the video below:
If anyone is suffering with hives, I strongly recommend you spend a great deal of time examining your diet.
Also, the person (sivertones) who tried the histame product, said it didn’t seem to work.