If we go back to the illustration of a bathtub to represent histamine intolerance - every possible source of histamine in your body is the faucet and the different genes/enzymes we have discussed are the drain.
Really drilling in, the ALDH family of genes are going to be the final stop in the drain system. If these guys aren't doing their job, many of the histamine clearance steps upstream will get backed up and turn off the system. And then you and I start feeling miserable!
ALDH is a big deal. So how do we support this element of your histamine drain?
Let's start with two definitions because I'm going to use these terms a good bit.
First is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is damage to the inner workings of cells. It is caused by an imbalance of molecules in the body which cause damage to the cell machinery and the enzymes (like ALDH) which clears those damaging molecules. When the guys who cause damage outnumber the guys who keep things safe, we end up with oxidative stress.
Second is aldehydes. This is a very common family of chemical compounds which have a similar biochemical structure…that is what makes them an aldehyde. Formaldehyde is one of the most common and I dare say you've heard of it, too. Different kinds of aldehydes are also found in very ripe fruits, coffee and fermented foods. When your body processes ethanol (alcohol), it creates acetaldehyde. (Which is why alcohol can make your allergies and sensitivities worse!) Aldehydes are, unfortunately, everywhere because of pollution. To get rid of them, your body uses the ALDH family of enzymes.
OK. Let's start to put it all together!
ALDH has a huge job - clear aldehydes from the body. That isn't specific to histamine and food sensitivities, but when your body processes histamine it turns into a type of aldehyde. So histamine ultimately goes through the ALDH family of genes.
Like any of us, ALDH can only work so hard. It doesn't matter how much work we throw at it, the enzyme has a finite capacity. And when someone has a genetic susceptibility in the ALDH family, that capacity may be diminished to start with.
When you have histamine intolerance, allergies or sensitivities, we need to look for all of the ways we can help minimize the workload for ALDH AND also look for ways to help the enzyme work at its capacity.
To find those tricks for ALDH, let's go to the Four Cornerstones of Epigenetics: sleep, stress management, environmental exposures and food choices.
The First Cornerstone of Epigenetics - Sleep
Sleep is considered an antioxidant in and of itself. An antioxidant helps repair oxidative stress - remember that first definition up there? So, if you don't sleep enough your ALDH enzymes have to work that much harder to protect your cells from damaging oxidative stress. Sleep in a duration and quality which serves you well is going to do some of the work for ALDH!
The Second Cornerstone of Epigenetics - Stress Management
There are multiple ways to look at stress in your body. Most of us are really familiar with psychological stress - a hard day at work, a challenging relationship, worrying about a situation. But physiological stress can be just as important and is more often overlooked.
A pretty common chronic infection (a physiological stressor) is a really big stinker for ALDH - and that's Candida. It's a big deal because your body is responding to a chronic infection but also because Candida makes its own acetaldehyde. That little bugger is adding a significant burden to your ALDH genes! Working with a provider knowledgeable in treating Candida may be a really big piece of your histamine solution.
The Third Cornerstone of Epigenetics - Environmental Exposures
For most of us, this is where the largest burden of aldehydes originates. Aldehydes are essentially everywhere in the environment. They are a component of vehicle and industrial emissions, smoking fumes (including e-cigarettes!), perfumes and cosmetics.
There's no way we're going to completely eliminate aldehydes from our world, but the goal is to decrease our exposures today compared to yesterday. What are ways you can avoid some of those items listed above?
Another take on this Cornerstone is to keep in mind we're trying to decrease the overall burden on the ALDH family, so that also means identifying and avoiding your environmental allergens and sensitivities!
The Fourth Cornerstone of Epigenetics - Food Choices
This is where things really get challenging on a good day, right? What to eat?! And now we're adding in additional restrictions. Again, the goal isn't to completely eliminate food items high in aldehydes but to decrease compared to what you had yesterday or last week.
The biggest culprit foods are over-ripe fruits, alcohol, coffee and fermented foods. Another big source of aldehydes is fried foods. It's not the food that's an issue, it's the oil which is full of Omega-6 fatty acids. We need more Omega-3s!
There are so many ways to support the ALDH family of genes which is not only going to support your histamine issues, but also so much more of your overall health and wellness. It pays to get to know aldehydes a little more so you can avoid them.
Sixty-second Self-care Tip…
Any time we walk through the Cornerstones with a particular gene/enzyme, I'm going to encourage you to find 1-2 tweaks you can make to your routine to support that gene.
The trick is as we visit each gene, many of the Cornerstone pieces start to overlap. Look for the changes you can make that will give you the biggest bang for your buck! What overlaps were there for the MAOA enzyme?
Or, if you know a particular thing really bothers you and you find a potential mechanism for the reaction here, do what you can to avoid that thing. Makes sense, right?!
Overwhelmed or feeling stuck with all of this genetic talk? Send me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may have something in the works which will help clear everything up!