OK…ready to get a little nerdy? Let's talk about histamine. It's the culprit for all of our food sensitivity symptoms, right?! While it's not really that simple, it certainly feels that way.
Histamine and Mast Cells
Histamine is a chemical messenger naturally made and used by your body for a multitude of things: making stomach acid, creating inflammation (which can be a good thing!), responses to allergens and wounds, and even as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It can affect your heart rate, your blood pressure, sleep and appetite and even smooth muscle contraction. (That last one is why histamine can actually make period cramping so much worse!)
Histamine is stored in mast cells, a type of white blood cell. Mast cells move throughout the body and perform their job of releasing histamine when there is a good reason. Good reasons include allergens, infections and wounds, among others.
In some situations, and increasingly common, those mast cells get stuck in response mode and release more histamine than the body really needs.
While antihistamines can help relieve some of your symptoms by blocking histamine receptors in the gut and the brain and multitudes of other places, I hope you can now see another way of calming food sensitivity reactions - calm down the mast cells!
Why not just use antihistamines?
But if antihistamines work, why not just use them? Anything we take to address a symptom is causing a change in your body. Not necessarily good or bad, just a fact. One of the changes that antihistamines cause in your body is decreasing an enzyme called DAO in your gut. The job of that enzyme is to process and get rid of histamine in the foods you eat.
If you have a lot of gut symptoms related to food allergies or sensitivities, antihistamines can potentially aggravate those symptoms for you. Is it a total deal-breaker for taking an antihistamine? Nope. These are all tools to use as needed.
Alternative to antihistamines
But what if we took advantage of calming down the mast cells so they don't release as much histamine in the first place? Your need for the antihistamines may decrease significantly. (I know mine did!)
To calm down mast cells we use things like resveratrol, quercetin, vitamin C, vitamin D and curcumin. These are all mast cell stabilizers. Instead of allowing mast cells to run around screaming and throwing histamine around like confetti, mast cell stabilizers help them to calmly assess a situation and decide if histamine is really needed. There are prescription mast cell stabilizers out there, too, e.g. cromolyn sodium.
And if you just don't like pills, you could even have a cup of tea - Holy Basil (Tulsi) and Chamomile are lovely mast cell stabilizers. Holy Basil happens to be one of my favorites. It's even great as an iced tea!
Ultimately, none of the stuff we can take to support our body and figure out this food sensitivity puzzle is bad. They don't have an intent. They simply change biochemistry so we end up with different outcomes. If antihistamines just aren't serving you well right now, consider looking into mast cell stabilizers and see how things change!
Sixty-second Self-care Tip…
When was the last time you took a look at all of the supplements you take in a day or a week? Do you remember why you're taking them all? How do they serve you or what do they change?
It gets really easy to just keep taking stuff because you're in a rhythm. But it pays to review your supplements about once a month and make sure you still need them.
Grab a sheet of paper and a pen and everything you're taking. Write down the name, dose and how often you take it on your paper. Then add why you take it. Did someone tell you to take it but you don't know why? Does it completely solve a symptom for you? Or maybe it did when you started it but now you're not sure? Write it all down!
Once you have them all written down, answer this question…if someone told you to stop taking all of your supplements today, which ones would you absolutely refuse to stop? Why? Make sure that why is included in your list.
I hope you're sharing everything you're taking with your healthcare provider (HCP) when you see them. This list will help answer some of the questions for your HCP and help keep you from inadvertently stopping something that is doing good work for you!
Looking for some other ways you can start feeling better with food sensitivities? Request a copy of my FREE resource, 7 Steps to Minimize Histamine Intolerance.