Natural Treatment for Histamine Intolerance
I have never seen Quinten, a two-year-old with multiple problems. The parents called me from across the country because the grandmother was my patient. They had taken Quinten to several different doctors, but were unable to find out what was causing so many problems. They hated to see their little child suffer so much, and they knew something was wrong, but they weren’t getting any answers.
From the beginning, sleep was always an issue. The mom said she hasn’t slept a full night in two years because Quinten didn’t sleep very much, staying awake in spite of all their efforts, waking up frequently, and not able to get back to sleep and not taking naps during the day. Also, rashes would just appear all over, especially diaper rashes with every bowel movement. As a baby, Quinten was not quiet, being constantly awake and hyperactive – and keeping mom and dad from getting any rest at all. The doctors had no idea what could be going on, prescribing all sorts of treatments for the symptoms, including steroids and sedatives, but nothing changed. They decided they really needed help when their pediatrician told them not to worry when Hunter was having black stools, tested positive for blood, and was sent to a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy to look inside the stomach and find the source of bleeding.
As I listened to the story, I heard that little voice of Providence tell me that the problem was histamine. I had never heard of babies having problems with histamine, but as I thought about it, it made sense. Histamine is a neurotransmitter, a very small molecule made from Histidine, an amino acid. It is found everywhere!
Histamine is the most versatile neurotransmitter in nature. It is found in every type of organism from bacteria to humans. On top of the histamine we produce in our bodies, many plants use histamine so it’s in our food supply. Moreover, the effects on the body are protean – causing anything from a runny nose to schizophrenia. The following is a list of possible effects from too much of this chemical. (By the way, too little histamine has another list this long with different problems.)
Effects of High Levels of Histamine
- Sudden drops in blood pressure causing orthostatic hypotension, POTS, palpitations, anaphylaxis
- Allergy: Increased swelling, Runny nose, Sneezing, Watery eyes, Urticaria – allergic rash
- Pain – Low levels cause itching, High levels cause hypersensitivity to pain – fibromyalgia
- Insomnia – prevents sleep
- Stomach acid – ulcers, GERD, IBS
- Bowel regulation – diarrhea
- Inflammation – causes cytokine production – arthritis, any inflammatory condition
- Regulation of body temperature – “thyroid” imbalance
- Maintain hormone balance – Adrenal, steroid, and peptide hormones
- Regulate appetite – causes satiety and weight loss
- Asthma – direct effect on bronchoconstriction
- Urinary frequency – interstitial cystitis
- Decreased acetylcholine – low cognition, memory deficits, dementia, delirium
- Increased Norepinephrine and adrenaline – OCD, anxiety, hypertension, POTS, insulin resistance
- Decreased dopamine – hallucinations
- Increased serotonin – Clotting, nausea, IBS
Some may have only one symptom, while others will have multiple symptoms from too much histamine. The symptoms will vary in place and time in the same person. Rashes can show up anywhere, and go away, showing up somewhere else. Any of the symptoms can go away for any length of time, or another symptom may show up.
In Quinten’s case, the key component was bleeding ulcers – it is never “okay” for a two-year-old to have a bleeding ulcer. To me, that’s an emergency – not just to stop the bleeding, but to find out why.
It turns out, there are two enzymes that break down histamine in food and in the body:
- Diamine oxidase or DAO
- And histamine N-methyltransferase, or HNMT.
These rapidly break down histamine to prevent build-up. When the body releases histamine, it only lasts for seconds and is then broken-down. DAO is primarily in the intestines and blood. HNMT is primarily in the brain, kidneys, liver, and respiratory tract. Symptoms may vary depending on which enzyme is not functioning, and where the histamine is being made.