Articles

What do headaches, hives, and hay fever have in common? Histamine intolerance!

Your gut is a hotbed of health. So many of the body’s functions find their origins here … and so do a lot of our health challenges - including histamine intolerance.

It actually makes sense, when you think about it.

The two organs that provide the biggest protection against the outside world are the skin, and the intestinal tract.

A healthy skin keeps out - well, pretty much everything: airborne and waterborne pathogens; and things that cause physical damage (like thorns, or the thin edge of a piece of paper, or tar on the road when you come off your bike too fast).

A healthy gut does the same thing, but its efforts are focused on what we consume - either willingly or unsuspectingly.

Gut Flora: It’s all about balance

The tools a healthy gut uses to protect the body from invasion are many, and they’re supported by an army of healthy gut flora. In a balanced system, healthy gut flora help to maintain the overall health of the body by competing with pathogens for resources (eg: food and space), and by contributing to an environment that is hostile to invaders, by making it more acidic.

When the balance is disturbed, however, the body’s health and immunity are compromised.

What Happens When  You Have Too Little?

As we’ve seen, when there are too few of the good guys, the bad guys proliferate.  Without healthy gut flora to keep pathogens in check, they multiply and conquer all the territory they can. The result is a compromised immunity, weakness, and a tendency to get infections. Without healthy bacteria providing a line of defence, the body can’t protect itself from invaders.

What Happens When You Have Too Much?

Interestingly, too much bacteria can also be a problem. Especially when you have too much of the bad kind, and not enough of the good kind to counter the attack.

When you have a gut flora overload, the body sees benign substances as antigens. It reacts with an allergy-like reaction to common substances, including pollen, food, and harmless airborne substances.

The body releases histamine to fight the substance. Usually, a healthy body can break down the histamine, but in an already compromised system, this often does not happen. Histamine builds up in the body, and eventually histamine intolerance results.

What is Histamine Intolerance?

Now that the entire contents of your refrigerator and pantry cupboard has been declared off-limits, it may be helpful to understand what histamine intolerance is, how it affects you, and what you can do about it.

Last week we looked at how histamine works in your body. [link to article] Today we’re looking at what happens after the histamine has done its job, if your body can’t break it down efficiently.

What are the Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance?

Histamine causes the blood vessels to open (dilate), to promote the flushing of the allergen or toxin from the symptom. The result, however, can causes flushing, rashes, and itching. Because histamine exists in almost all body tissues, it also affects the mucous linings and lead to increase mucous production (think runny nose and coughing during Spring), and bronchoconstriction (the kind of closed-chest sensation so terrifying for asthmatics). The increased mucous production can also cause sinus congestion and headaches.

Thus, the most commons symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Hot flushes
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Closed, tight chest (sometimes even lung spasms)
  • Sinus congestion
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Feelings of anxiety and panic
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps, constipation, and/or diarrhoea

If you’re having any of these symptoms, and you suspect you may have food allergies or histamine intolerance, call Dr Alain Sanua on 011 463 1614, or email him on alains@telkomsa.net. Dr Sanua focuses on balancing gut health in order to balance the overall health of his patients. He specialises in understanding the unique challenges facing each of his patients, finding a solution tailored to their needs. He can help you get to the bottom of your health challenges, too.

 

« back to Articles