Have you found yourself blaming the level of pollen, heatwave, type of tree/bush/flower/bee for your hayfever symptoms this year?
Well – there may be a small bit of truth in some of that – but I’d suggest it has more to do with many other things that you may not even have considered.
Let me explain.
What causes hayfever symptoms?
You may be familiar with popping an antihistamine tablet to try to keep hayfever symptoms under control. So you probably see histamine as the evil perpetrator of your hayfever and an undesirable invader. But what is it?
Histamine is a compound released from our mast cells in response to a myriad of perceived threats to our immune system. These 'threats' are as varied as viral infections, dust, pollen, toxins, inflammation, foods and excessive hormones.
However, histamine are present in every tissue in the body. They are a crucial part of our immune response and also help us release stomach acid, essential for digestion of our food. Histamine helps us stay awake, alert and remember things and supports with appropriate blood-clotting. It even supports a healthy libido. So we don’t want to be too anti-histamine!
Like most things in life, problems occur if we have too much of it.
I’ve got a bucket of histamine?
Well not literally but stay with me here. Imagine you have a bucket full of histamine in your body. You want this bucket to stay relatively full so you can use it for all of the useful things I mentioned above.
But – if your bucket overflows, this is when you can experience hayfever symptoms and potentially a whole host of other complaints such as digestive troubles and migraines.
Why does my bucket overflow? Inputs and outputs....
There are a number of factors influencing the fullness of your bucket.
There are things that contribute to more histamine flowing into your bucket – constantly topping it up.
But you also have holes in your bucket – enzymes that breakdown the histamine and help you eliminate it in your poo. The main enzyme that does this is called Diamine Oxidase or ‘DAO’ for short. Lots of things impact on how much DAO your body makes and therefore how big your ‘holes’ are.
So if it’s not the pollen, why is my hayfever worse this year?
I’ve listed some of the main factors influencing the fullness of your bucket here.
Have you experienced changes in these areas that could explain the worsening of your symptoms?
(1) Your diet
Some foods are high in histamine such as fermented foods, smoked fish, mature cheeses and alcohol. Some foods encourage the body to release more histamine such as citrus fruits, chocolate, peanuts, bananas and alcohol. Other foods such as tea and alcohol block DAO and stop it working well.
(2) Your hormones
More females suffer from histamine related symptoms than males. This is likely due to the symbiotic relationship between oestrogen and histamine – when oestrogen rises, so does histamine and vice versa. This is because excess oestrogen not only increases histamine release, it also slows down the production of DAO. In one of nature’s many, sometimes vicious circles, histamine then tells the ovaries to make more oestrogen.
You may notice worsening symptoms around the mid-point of your cycle when oestrogen is at its highest. Or possibly it’s worse during the second half of your cycle overall if your progesterone levels aren’t high enough to balance your oestrogen.
I’ve seen a lot of clients who are peri-menopausal and add an overflowing histamine bucket to the rollercoaster of symptoms unopposed oestrogen peaks bring us.
It’s also very interesting that pregnant women find their hayfever symptoms go away – the placenta makes more than x500 times the amount of DAO usually made by the expectant mum.
(3) Your gut health
Certain types of gut bacteria make histamine, while others encourage mast cells to release more histamine. If you have an imbalance in your gut microbiome more of these bacteria may thrive. Pathogenic bacteria like h-pylori increase inflammation and cause your mast cells to release more histamine.
In addition, a gut that is inflamed or ‘leaky’ (more on this soon) impacts negatively on the production of the enzyme DAO.
If your digestive function is not working well it is also likely that you aren’t absorbing nutrients from the food you eat and may have deficiencies in things such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, iodine and copper which are all required to make DAO.
(4) Your stress levels
Chronic stress creates inflammation throughout your body and encourages the release of more histamine.
(5) Your medications
Some medications such as painkillers, anti-depressants and blood thinners block the production of DAO, leaving more histamine in your bucket.
(6) Your genetics
You may have something called ‘SNPs’ – genetic ‘typo’s if you will – on your histamine receptors or your ability to make DAO. While these do not change, you can up-regulate or down-regulate the impact they have on your wellbeing via your diet and lifestyle.
I don’t get hayfever, should I care about histamine?
So you are lucky enough not to get runny noses, blocked sinuses or sore eyes?
BUT do you suffer from digestive complaints such as less than ideal bowel movements, bloating, or discomfort? Do you suffer with migraines, dizziness, vertigo or skin issues? Perhaps you are struggling with your sleep or are feeling particularly anxious?
Have you found these symptoms have worsened as nature bloomed?
You might just want to explore the impact of histamine overload too.
How can I stop my bucket from overflowing?
Improving gut health, reducing high-histamine foods and understanding the chinks in your genetic profile are key to having a nicely managed bucket.
Reducing stress and looking after your liver and metabolic health is also key. You may need to add in extra support for detoxifying hormones and toxins and address deficiencies in key nutrients.
However you don’t want to embark upon an antihistamine crusade wholeheartedly or without guidance from a nutrition professional. Many foods high in histamine have huge nutritious potential you don’t want to miss out on.
A balanced and personalised approach is crucial. Please get in touch to discuss how I can help you manage your bucket and kick those hayfever symptoms into touch once and for all.