HNMT – Something that makes sense in histamine intolerance!

Every once in a while it's nice when something is easy, right?  Not complex, not abstract…nothing but just straight-forward.  

Despite how it may seem, there are some aspects of histamine intolerance and food sensitivities which are pretty straight-forward.  And today's topic (and next week's, too!) happens to be one of those simpler concepts.  

Using imagination to fight histamine intolerance

Instead of talking tons of biochemistry mumbo-jumbo, let's just talk about sweeping the porch.  Wherever you are, there is a season when a bunch of stuff ends up on your porch (real or imagined).  In the fall it's leaves, in the winter it may be snow or more of those dead leaves, in the spring it's pollen and flowers, and in the summer it's grass clippings.  Or whatever it happens to be for you.  

But you can picture it, right?  A nice, open porch with your favorite chair and the floor gets dirty with stuff blowing in on the breeze.  

So you go, get the broom and start sweeping.  It may be really easy to sweep all of the debris away or it may involve a little more effort - like a snow shovel.  Regardless, you have a tool to help clean up the mess.  

That's the way HNMT or histamine-n-methyltransferase works.  Your body (the porch) accumulates histamine (the leaves or snow or grass clippings) and it has a few tools (the broom) to help clean it all up so you don't have too much histamine…which can cause the symptoms you feel.  

How HNMT works to clear histamine

HNMT is one of those tools that works directly on histamine.  It turns histamine into N-methylhistamine which then requires some coordination with a few other genes to get it all ready to leave your body in urine.  

Did you catch that?  HNMT, just like all of the other enzymes we'll discuss, lives and works in a community of other genes.  This enzyme's job is really pretty straightforward, but it relies on others to help completely clean off the porch (or get your histamine levels to a place where they don't cause symptoms).

Two big things to understand about HNMT:
  1. It is in the "methyltransferase" family of enzymes.  That means it moves a methyl group (think of a biochemical Lego brick) from one compound to another to help the process along.  To do that, HNMT has to have enough methyl groups available to do its job.  When there are not enough methyl groups, regardless of how your HNMT is actually genetically coded, it is going to be slow.  (And the creation of methyl groups - or SAMe - is one of the outcomes of MTHFR working well!  See?  Community!)
  2. It works throughout your body so it helps maintain the balance of histamine (because we do need some!) systemically or in each of your cells and body systems.  This is significant because there is an enzyme, DAO, that just works on histamine in your gut.  If your symptoms are mostly loose stools and belly cramps after certain foods, working on HNMT may not make a huge difference for you.  
OK…here is the one tricky little bit to understand about HNMT.  (Biochemistry Warning!)

As with all of the enzymes, they work in community.  They rely on the enzymes in the next biochemical step and then the next and the next to their jobs.  Otherwise, there is a build-up of one or more compounds along the way.  It isn't enough to simply support HNMT…you have to support the whole community to re-establish balance.  

Up there a bit I mentioned what HNMT does - it turns histamine into N-methylhistamine.  And then the next step, with different enzymes, makes N-methylimidazole acetaldehyde. There's one more step and then out that stuff goes through your kidneys.  Not too crazy, right?

A build up of either of those compounds - N-methylhistamine or N-methylimidazole acetaldehyde - will actually turn down HNMT's activity through inhibitory feedback.  Another gene not working to speed will cause HNMT to slow down, as well.  Talk about peer pressure!

At that point it doesn't matter how much you push HNMT to do its job, it won't…until the stuff downstream gets cleared.  Quite frankly, this kind of situation is when a lot of folks get frustrated.  They start some supplements for HNMT (or other gene or enzyme) and start to feel a little better and then it all gets weird and they start having more symptoms.  It's because they aren't also supporting the rest of the community, especially those downstream enzymes.  

So…what are the downstream enzymes?!  More to come on those soon but next week is all about DAO - the gut enzyme for histamine.  And it is one of my absolute favorites!

Sixty-second Self-care Tip…

Don't forget about some of the other tricks to managing histamine intolerance other than changing up what you eat.  Ultimately, minimizing how much histamine - or how many histamine triggers - you're exposed to is the goal.  Don't forget about environmental allergies and triggers!

If your reactions are over the top, you might consider adding one or more of these to your routine and your histamine intolerance/food sensitivity toolbox…

  • Take a shower, or at least wash your hair and face, before bed.  Pollen and other allergens can stick in your hair and then stimulate histamine all night long!
  • Vacuum and dust your bedroom at least once a week.  The rest of the house may go longer, but keep your bedroom as clean as possible.
  • Change your pillowcase (priority) and bed sheets regularly.
  • Consider a dust allergy mattress spray like this one from Norwex.  Or cover the mattress with an allergy dust cover. 
  • Wash bed pillows and comforters periodically, too!  
  • Keep dogs and cats and other pets off your bed.  And if that's just not going to happen, give them regular baths, as well, to minimize dander spread.  

Does the food sensitivity biochemistry stuff kinda fascinate you?  Want a little more or want to see how it literally all fits together, in one big picture?  Consider joining the waitlist for my 5-week program, Food Sensitivity Code. Coming soon to a computer - and couch - near you!!


60-second self-care, community, DAO, HNMT, MTHFR

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