Histamine & SIBO

Histamine & SIBO

Too much of anything is never good, and in this case, the culprit is histamine. An intolerance happens when the body has too much histamine built up, and specific reactions begin to occur. There appears to be a close link between SIBO and histamine intolerance, which we discuss in detail throughout this article. If you’d like to know more about SIBO, please read our previous article titled ‘SIBO & food intolerances’.

Let’s begin today by looking at histamine, and it’s function within the body.

Histamine explained

We have specialised immune cells called MAST cells, and they release histamine when we come across an infection, injury or some other insult that may cause harm. When histamine is released, it sets off an inflammatory cascade, designed to bring plentiful white blood cells and other immune products to the site of infection. Ideally, this would quickly deal with the problem; however, issues occur when the body can’t deal with the overload of histamine all at once.

Adding further to this problem is foods that have naturally occurring histamine within them. Eating these foods can add a great deal to a person’s histamine levels. Because histamine occurs naturally in foods, it is impossible to have a diet completely free of it. However, you can certainly avoid foods that are known to have high histamine levels. Here is a list of foods that are high in histamine and best avoided if you suspect you have histamine issues.

  • Fermented foods, all of them contain high histamine levels
  • Vinegar
  • Tinned foods and canned foods contain high histamine levels too
  • Cheese, particularly mature varieties
  • Smoked fish, shellfish and meat
  • chickpeas, soybeans, peanuts, cashews, walnuts
  • Cacao products, including our beloved chocolate
  • Meals that are premade.
  • Snacks containing high salt levels
  • Pre-packaged products that have additives and artificial ingredients

Histamine and your immunity.

Histamine is there to help protect the body and achieve a well functioning immune response; however, an overabundance of it can create dysregulation and over-reactive responses. MAST cells can become weak, releasing an abundant amount of histamine to things like food, animal hair and flower pollens. This brings with it allergy responses such as swelling, itching, watery eyes, rashes and hives. It can also result in swelling of the throat, breathing difficulties and ultimately anaphylaxis.

It’s for this reason that we recommend you seek guidance from your doctor if you do believe your suffering from histamine intolerance.

The development of histamine intolerance.

Like all intolerances, this one can occur over time. In a healthy body, the digestive system breaks down histamine using diamine oxidase (DOA), an enzyme for this very purpose. However, things like inflammatory gut diseases, medications, SIBO, high histamine foods and leaky gut can all down-regulate the action of DOA. Ultimately this allows a build-up of histamine to occur, which enters the bloodstream and affects any and all parts of the body that it can reach. The symptoms are so different for each individual, as various organs or body systems are affected depending on each individuals makeup.

This list includes the most common symptoms of histamine intolerance, but certainly not all of them:

  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Irregular menstruation and other reproductive issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Migraines 
  • Vertigo and nausea
  • Digestive cramping
  • Hives or rashes on the skin
  • Nervous system disruption such as anxiety and insomnia

The highly varied symptoms make histamine intolerance especially hard to pinpoint, and it can be misdiagnosed for years.

How is SIBO and Histamine intolerance connected?

In our post titled ‘SIBO & food intolerance’, we discuss how having SIBO degrades a person’s digestive lining. This in turn allows food particles through into the bloodstream, where they are NOT supposed to be, causing inflammatory reactions and food intolerances to occur. Histamine intolerance can be created via this pathway, as the SIBO develops into leaky gut and foods with a high histamine level then get the opportunity to set off highly inflammatory responses in the body.

SIBO is also a bacterial overgrowth, and some of the bacteria species release their own histamine. This adds further to the problem and can cause severe histamine reactions to occur.

A combination of SIBO, a leaky gut barrier and a diet high in histamine foods all work together to create a high chance of histamine intolerance occurring.

Where to from here?

If you suspect that you have a histamine intolerance that may be caused by a SIBO overgrowth, the first thing to do is enlist the help of a Naturopath or holistic health care provider. They will be able to assess you for SIBO and begin treating the root causes with you. Healing the digestive tract, balancing out the bacteria that reside there, and cleaning up your diet will go a very long way to helping you overcome your histamine intolerance and health issues caused from poor gut health.

While certain foods may be aggravating you now, they are not usually the cause of the problems you’re experiencing. Creating a healthy gut lining and a healthy and robust microbiome will see you in good stead to recover from histamine and other food intolerances that may be plaguing you.


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