Histamine Issues on the Up

Most of us have heard of antihistamine medication and think of it being used for histamine issues that manifest as hay fever and insect bites.

But did you know that one of the best-selling pharmacy medicines for sleep problems is an antihistamine? It’s sold to help sleep by reducing the histamine level in your brain.

Scientists have known for a long time that we have histamine-releasing cells throughout the body.  Your inner skin, the mucus membranes that line your gut, your lungs, your bladder, and your nasal passages are full of histamine-releasing mast cells.  Your outer skin, your dermis, is full of these mast cells too.

But it’s not just mast cells that release histamine.  We now understand that histamine plays an important role in our nervous system as an excitatory neurotransmitter.  In balance, it has an important role to play. It keeps us alert and awake.  But in excess can cause histamine issues and may exacerbate problems such as migraine, sleep disturbance, and even neurological complaints such as Parkinson’s disease.

Keeping histamine in check

As a stimulating and excitatory chemical, it is important that we keep histamine in check and working for us and not against us.

Mast cells are an important part of our immune system.  They help to protect our bodies by guarding the boundary between us and the outside world.  If you are exposed to a nasty irritant, your body releases histamine. You then produce secretions and literally wash the irritant out of your mucus membranes, or you will scratch the irritant from your skin.

This is exactly what histamine was designed for, to flush it out. Job done.

But life is not so simple anymore.  Histamine issues are on the increase as our inner and outer world has become much more complex.

Related problems

Synthetic chemicals, processed foods, chronic stress, and perpetual stimulation are wreaking havoc on immunity and digestion. As a result, we’re seeing an increase in allergy, inflammation, and histamine-mediated conditions.

In the UK we’re seeing a 5% increase year on year in the presentation of allergic conditions.  And emerging problems with new conditions such as Long Covid are showing histamine involvement as part of the clinical picture, too.

Instead of histamine being a protective friend, it has become an inflammatory foe and is turning against us.  So much so that histamine intolerance itself is now recognised as a condition in its own right.

Addressing issues

All is not lost, however. We can take steps to address histamine issues.  Your body may be able to produce and release histamine, but it can also break it down and eliminate it.

Measures such as reducing high histamine foods, improving your gut microbiome, correcting nutritional imbalances, and addressing chronic stress can all have a positive impact on reducing excess histamine release that leads to histamine issues.

There are also several interesting botanicals including schisandra, reishi mushroom, black seed oil and pine bark extract with proven positive effects that you can incorporate into an allergy and histamine treatment protocol.

Work with nature

Taking time to explore natural ways to manage histamine, allergies and intolerances may give you more insight into how to effectively manage your allergies and histamine issues.  Better still, consult a naturopathic-minded nutritional therapist or medical herbalist. That way you will benefit from working with someone who has the skillset to prescribe appropriate nutritional and natural remedies.

Moving away from nature in the first place has contributed significantly to increasing allergy levels and associated immune dysfunction in our modern world.  So, instead of simply popping an antihistamine tablet, perhaps it’s time to treat nature with nature instead.

Time for us to work with and not against.

 

 

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10 healthy eating tips for better gut health and immunity

One of the secrets to better immunity is to look after your gut. A huge percentage of your immune system is in your digestive system and it’s part of your first line of defence.

Eat live foods in your diet such as bioyoghurts, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and other fermented foods.  Your gut flora needs the right nourishment to survive and eating natural fibres are important fuel for your gut bacteria.  Eat plenty of healthy root veg, wholegrains, nuts and seeds and avoid chemical additives and artificial sweeteners to keep your healthy bacteria in tip top fighting condition.

Eat plenty of sulfur-rich foods such as onions, garlic, leeks and shallots. Not only will these help to boost glutathione, which is a potent anti-oxidant that supports healthy liver function, but they also have an expectorant and antiseptic effect in the lungs, especially garlic, which we all know can affect our breath.  It does that because the volatile compounds are excreted through the lung tissue and as it passes through the lungs it works as a potent antiseptic, helping to fight infection.

Cook with plenty of aromatic herbs such thyme, sage, marjoram and oregano. These “pot” herbs not only taste great but they are also incredibly antiseptic.  Sage is used Medical Herbalists to treat sore throats, oregano to treat fungal infections and thyme to treat respiratory infections.  Adding them into your cooking will give your dishes that extra immune edge as well as tasting great.

Drink herbal teas made with caraway, aniseed and fennel.  These are great digestive herbs and help reduce bloating and cramping, but they also have another important medicinal effect, they stimulate the cilia of the lungs to keep mucus moving.  Mucus is there to shift out toxins, viruses and bacteria and the cilia play an essential role in lung health.  Keeping them primed with these three aromatics might just help keep your lungs cleaner and more resilient.

Use black cumin seed in your diet to help reduce inflammation. Nigella Sativa seeds contain a pungent aromatic oil called thymoquinone which can be harnessed in a number of inflammatory conditions, including lung problems.  Supplements of black seed oil are prescribed by Medical Herbalists in a number of conditions including COPD and asthma.  You can add black cumin seeds to your cooking, using them in curries or spicy dishes, throw some into your bread or add into a smoothie to harness some of the health benefits.

Eat plenty of mushrooms and even better sit them on your windowsill for a few hours to help them release extra vitamin D, which science shows has many benefits for our immune systems. There are an array of medicinal mushroom supplements available in health food shops, but even communal garden button mushrooms can boost immunity.  Mushrooms contain beta glutans, which help to boost our innate immune response and also help keep our microbiome in good shape.  So add a few mushrooms into your favourite dishes and if you can get them try some shitake, oyster or enoki mushrooms for a bit of variety.

Boost your vitamin C intake by adding fresh berries into your diet. Colourful berries contain anti-oxidants which support our immune system by helping to reduce inflammation.  The best berry of all is elderberry, which you will either need to harvest yourself in the autumn or take as a liquid extract.  Elderberries have been shown to reduce viral replication by inhibiting the ability of viruses to adhere to and penetrate cell walls in the body, thus shortening the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections.

Give your zinc levels a top up. Zinc is an essential nutrient for immune health and deficiency of this essential mineral can leave you more susceptible to disease and illness.  Your body needs zinc to activate fighter cells in your immune system so it’s an important nutrient to get in adequate quantities.  Include pumpkin seeds in your diet to give you a healthy boost, with the added benefit that they will also give you essential fatty acids and dietary fibre.

Eat plenty of healthy fats in your diet. Whether you choose fish, nuts, seeds or eggs make sure and boost your healthy omegas.  Sea buckthorn berries are a rich source of beta carotenes and essential fatty acids and are a natural source of omega 7 which is important for the health of the mucus membranes.  If we lack good fats, we tend to dehydrate and dryness of the skin and mucus membranes makes us more susceptible to infection.  Keep moist and keep those mucus membranes in tip top health.

Drink plenty of clean, fresh fluids to stay well hydrated. We all know what happens to our plants if they don’t drink enough, they lose their vitality and become more susceptible to diseases.  The same thing happens in our bodies if we don’t take on enough fluids.  There’s nothing wrong with tea or coffee, both can be good for you in moderation, especially if they are organic and plastic free! But add in some green tea, herbal teas and diluted fresh fruit and vegetable juices to boost up trace minerals and antioxidants.