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.
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.
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.