Most people consider histamine as a compound that causes allergies and hence is ill repute. However, as a matter of fact, histamine is an important chemical that plays a vital role in many processes of the body, including the local immune response.
Histamine actually acts as a neurotransmitter that communicates important information from the body to the brain. When involved in the local immune response to allergens, histamine sets off the process that eliminates those allergens from the body.
This makes us experience common symptoms of allergies like sneezing, runny nose, itching, tearing up, etc. Histamine is required in just the right amount by the body, and an excess of it can cause a lot of issues.
However, it’s surprising to know that there’s a relationship between histamine intolerance and weight gain. But it’s true, excess histamine in the blood can cause a lot of issues, which can be unique to every individual, including body weight gain.
Therefore, in this blog, we’re going to discuss histamine intolerance, its causes, low-histamine foods, as well as how to clear histamine from the body.
Histamine Impact on Appetite and Metabolism
Histamine intolerance, or an excess of histamine in the blood, is a condition that’s associated with low levels of diamine oxidase (DAO) enzymes. This is the primary enzyme that breaks down histamine.
Normally, when the enzyme system is working effectively inside the body, it kicks in when the histamine levels reach a certain limit and breaks down the excess histamine. In the opposite scenario, the body couldn’t break down the excess histamine, which causes a buildup of histamine.
The body’s limit for handling the amount of histamine may vary for each individual. However, once that tolerance level is passed, symptoms such as headaches, hives, nasal congestion, and fatigue are caused.
You might be thinking, why do elevated levels of histamine impact the appetite or metabolism? The reason is that our metabolism is controlled by the brain in a region called the hypothalamus, which is the appetite control center of the brain.
The anti-histamines that we take to treat the elevated levels of histamine block the histamine receptors. When the histamine receptors are blocked, the brain doesn’t get the “I’m full” signal, and the body also doesn’t burn calories efficiently. This leads to overeating, increased appetite, and a slow breakdown of fat, which all cause weight gain.
Besides antihistamines, the other culprit behind histamine-related weight gain is inflammation, which can also serve as the root cause. High levels of histamine are also associated with high levels of inflammation, which in turn leads to weight gain.
An unhealthy or leaky gut could also contribute to less production of the DAO enzyme, leading to histamine intolerance and weight gain.
Learn about the relationship between leaky gut and histamine.
What Causes High Histamine Levels?
- Histamine is produced inside our body by the mast cells and is introduced by the food we eat. This gives rise to two possibilities of histamine excess, either we’re eating some foods that trigger the production of more histamine than required or we’re excessively eating foods high in histamine.
- Besides our diet, the deficiency of DAO enzymes that break down histamine could also be a reason behind histamine intolerance. When our body isn’t able to clear the excess histamine, a build-up of histamine is caused leading to histamine intolerance.
- Some studies have also found that gluten sensitivity and Inflammatory Bowel Disease are also likely to affect DAO enzyme levels.
- Some people could also have genetic mutations that possibly decrease the function or amount of diamine oxidase enzyme.
- Certain drugs like blood pressure drugs as well as alcohol could also contribute to the reduced activity of the DAO enzyme.
Foods That Could Be Help
Making some dietary changes can help you keep your histamine levels in check. First, let’s check some foods with high levels of histamine that could trigger inflammatory reactions.
Foods High in Histamine
- Citrus fruits
- Dairy foods
- Dried fruits
- Aged cheese
- Smoked meat
- Processed foods
- Fermented foods
- Fermented beverages
A low histamine diet is often suggested for anyone with histamine intolerance in order to avoid symptoms and allergies. Here are some low-histamine foods that you can include in your diet and limit the consumption of histamine.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Fresh ACV is considered good for histamine intolerance or mast cell activation syndrome. Avoid using old apple cider vinegar that has been sitting around for more than several weeks, as it may be high in histamine.
Coconut Oil: Make use of coconut oil as it contains low histamine and other amines. You can also include its flesh or milk in your low-histamine diet.
Fresh/frozen Meat: Poach or boil fresh or frozen meat such as veal, beef, turkey, and chicken to maintain low histamine loads. Avoid frying or grilling the meat as it can increase histamine levels.
Fresh/frozen Fish: Some fish species contain low histamine, whereas others contain high histamine. Fish with low levels of histamine include rout, plaice, crap, hake, etc. Make sure to select fresh or frozen fish to control histamine levels to the best.
Ginger: Ginger is considered a good histamine blocker that also supports gut health. You can consume ginger drinks or tea as well as make use of powdered ginger as a spice in your recipes.
Nigella Sativa: For thousands of years, Nigella sativa, commonly known as black seed, has been used to make medicines. Besides supporting immunity, reducing swelling, and fighting cancer, it also reduces allergic reactions by acting as a natural antihistamine. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity effects.
Olive Oil: There are some pieces of evidence that olive oil increases the release of the DAO enzyme that metabolizes excess histamine. Olive oil is low in histamine levels as well as other amines. Olive extracts are also said to act as natural antihistamines by blocking histamine receptors.
Watercress: This leafy green can effectively inhibit 60% of the histamine released in the body by the mast cells. Watercress contains vitamin C, which lowers the levels of histamine and minimizes allergy symptoms.
Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice known for its amazing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is also an amazing low-histamine diet food as it prevents the release of histamine as well as inhibits anaphylactic reactions. You can drink turmeric tea or add this golden spice to your everyday food recipes.
The short answer is yes. Antihistamines are effective in relieving allergy symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itching, watery eyes, and more, but they also increase the risk of gaining weight.
A study in 2010 showed that people who often take the most common over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Zyrtec (cetirizine) and Allegra (fexofenadine), are likely to gain weight or become obese.
This means if you have been putting on weight by taking Allegra and have been asking “does Allegra cause weight gain?” Then you could be right.
This is because antihistamine medications are most commonly H1 receptor antihistamines, such as desloratadine, fexofenadine, and cetirizine. These H1 receptor antihistamines have been studied to stimulate appetite and, in turn, weight gain.
Although most over-the-counter antihistamines are associated with increased appetite, it can’t be said that all antihistamines cause weight gain.
Now, if you would like to ask which antihistamine does not cause weight gain? Then, the answer is that antihistamines like loratadine (Claritin), which don’t cross into the brain, are the ones that don’t cause weight gain. This is because such medications don’t stimulate the appetite center of the brain.
Besides Loratadine, other second-generation antihistamines are also associated with less weight gain in comparison to first-generation antihistamines.
Can Histamine Intolerance Cause Swelling?
Yes, histamine intolerance can cause swelling. The symptoms can be body-wide and may vary from patient to patient. Other common symptoms of histamine excess include:
- Skin rashes
- Nasal congestion
- Joint swelling and pain
Yes, histamine can cause water retention. When the immune system attacks an unwanted invader such as an allergen, inflammation is caused, which is part of the process. Due to the inflammation caused, the body releases histamine.
Further histamine widens the gaps between the capillary walls, which allows white blood cells to reach the site. Sometimes, this can allow fluid to leak into the inflammation site from the capillaries. This causes swelling, which is generally short-term. However, long-term inflammation may result in water retention.
The symptoms of histamine intolerance may vary widely, but the most common symptoms include:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Sinus issues
- Rashes or hives
- Nasal congestion
- PMS or irregular menstrual cycle
No, high histamine doesn’t cause weight loss. In fact, high levels of histamine are associated with increased appetite and weight gain. This is because antihistamines taken as a treatment for histamine intolerance interfere with the histamine receptors.
Prolonged use of antihistamines can block histamine receptors. When the histamine receptors are blocked, this lowers the metabolism and increases appetite, which results in weight gain.
However, histamine in general is linked to promoting weight loss, which shouldn’t be confused with high levels of histamine. High levels of histamine in the body can cause a lot of issues.
If you’re looking to lose weight, it’s important to know that there’s a substantial relationship between gut health and weight loss. Increasing a few specific bacteria types in the gut, such as Akkermansia muciniphila, could help you lose weight and acquire a lean body.
Overall, an excess of histamine isn’t good for us at all, and it’s worse when it can manifest as weight gain. The easiest way to limit or deal with excess histamine is to make some dietary changes.
Opting for a low histamine diet as well as avoiding foods high in histamine content may help relieve symptoms. Also, choosing natural antihistamines as an alternative to over-the-counter antihistamines makes a lot of sense.
Besides this, it’s important to note that an unhealthy gut could also possibly be a cause of histamine intolerance. An unhealthy or leaky gut could also decrease the production of the DAO enzyme, contributing to an excess of histamine in the body. Therefore, understanding the types of guts and taking care of gut health is as important as any other factor.
An easy way to promote overall gut health is with Optimal Gut Health Solution. This supplement will help you promote digestive health, fight inflammation, and heal your leaky gut.