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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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Mental health during lockdown e

GABA For Mental Health During Lockdown

What is GABA and how can you increase it to support your mental health during lockdown? GABA is short for gamma-aminobutyric acid.

It’s a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that we produce naturally in the body. We find it in the nervous system, particularly in the brain. It inhibits excitability and slows function without having a sedative effect, so it helps to reduce anxiety, stress and feelings of fear. It may help to improve sleep, too.

There are natural ways that you can boost it to improve mental health during lockdown. Eating certain foods, taking specific supplements or medicinal herbs and exercising or practising meditation can all help to increase GABA.

Amino acids

Eating a balanced diet, rich in whole foods, healthy fats and clean proteins, is a cornerstone of good health and should provide all the nutrients you need to produce GABA.

Make sure you get plenty of these two amino acids – glutamine and taurine. Also check that you’re getting adequate levels of vitamin B6 and magnesium.  It may be beneficial to boost these two key nutrients with a supplement to support your mental health during lockdown. They’re particularly helpful if you’re under chronic stress, not eating well or if you are a woman who suffers from pre-menstrual exacerbation of anxiety and tension.

Healthy diet and lifestyle

My key treatment focus in my herbal clinic is not only to encourage a healthier diet and lifestyle but also to prescribe tailor-made herbal medicines, targeting individual needs.

I usually do this after unpacking a detailed case history. But sometimes there’s no need for depth in order to achieve fast and effective results. That’s especially true if you’re desperate to feel better.

I prescribe several herbs for anxiety that are known to boost GABA levels. These include valerian, ashwagandha and lemon balm. The great thing is that they’re available to buy over the counter. That’s great if you don’t have access to a medical herbalist to prescribe for you. Or you may want to start taking something until you get professional help for your mental health during lockdown.

L Theanine supplement

L Theanine is another great supplement that’s available over the counter in health food shops. This amino acid is extracted from green tea or black tea and has been shown to effectively reduce anxiety.

Studies suggest L Theanine increases serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, so it works on several pathways to support your mental health. It works quickly to boot. I have found personally that there’s a noticeable effect within about half an hour of taking it as a supplement.

If you’re suffering from anxiety, feeling fearful and in need of some mental calm, you might want to put the kettle on and have a cup of tea. Then look up other ways you can boost your GABA levels to support your mental health during lockdown.  Having a cuppa is a good starting point to get you feeling back in control.

Find out more about supporting your mental health by listening to this interview for UK Health Radio now on YouTube.

How to identify a good herbalist

For an in-depth approach, it’s always better to work with a medical herbalist. To make sure you find somebody suitably qualified, look for the letters MNIMH after their name. That signifies gold standard training.

If you don’t have a practitioner to support your mental health during lockdown, rest assured there is a whole natural products industry out there. Some great ethical producers are manufacturing some well-formulated products.

But please do shop with a reputable independent health food store. They have the training and the proven effective remedies you can trust. They also need your support in these challenging times.

Keren Brynes MacLean MNIMH, Medical Herbalist